A look into how local sporting clubs are returning to the field after lockdown.
This year has been a very tough one for all grassroots sporting clubs in Victoria.
From physical distancing, to lockdowns and now into ‘COVID normal’, the local sporting club (be it football, soccer, cricket, tennis and many more) continues to face challenges in keeping participants and supporters COVIDSafe.
So what does implementing a COVIDSafe plan look like for local clubs? In this article, we look at:
- How cricket is going as one of the first community sports to return post-lockdown in Victoria
- How their experience can help other sports adapt as they slowly return in COVID normal.
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Making the best of lockdown
Brendan Doyle, President of the Sunbury Cricket Club, said the club had made the best of the lockdown before heading back to a COVIDSafe training format recently.
During lockdown, players created an online group to track their physical activity, given they couldn’t train together.
“A Strava club account was created and members encouraged to join. Each Friday we would post peoples’ results on Facebook, and congratulate individuals on their performances,” Brendan explained.
“Understanding we cater for all levels of players, all different styles of exercise were rewarded (walking, bike riding, home workouts, etc). We then introduced a competition that the person that did the most in each exercise group won an award.”
It was an opportunity for the club’s players to stay socially connected, but also to stay active through some virtual activities.
“We also offered an exercise class via Zoom once a week. One of our senior players ran the meetings and would announce the night prior what exercises would be on the agenda,” Brendan said.
A new-look way of training
Returning to the local cricket nets and oval was always going to look different emerging from lockdown, particularly with restrictions on gatherings in outdoor spaces.
Initially, training could only be held in groups of 10 and for cricket this was particularly challenging. There are 11 players per team, and many local clubs have 4 or more adult teams (plus their junior programs) to run training sessions for over the course of a week.
Sunbury divided their players into groups of 10 (in line with restrictions at the time), with 3 groups per session and 2 sessions over the course of a training night. This was the routine for 4 nights per week to ensure all players (both seniors and juniors) got the chance to train.
Brendan said there were sweeping changes to the way training was run.
“Players would come along to their designated session, scan a QR code for our contact tracing, sanitise their hands and then begin their training session,” he said.
“It was important that we educated our players about their obligations in terms of hygiene, with signage throughout toilets, clubrooms and training areas, as well as supplying face masks.”
Managing fatigue and making it fun
Due to the limits on player numbers sessions needed to be modified.
But the club made the best of a limited situation, with players able to hone different skills in smaller groups.
“Our players have really benefitted from one-on-one fielding training in their groups, which has been a positive,” Brendan said.
But small groups also mean having to manage fatigue and ensure that everyone gets a chance to do as much as possible.
“With fewer players than normal in a session, it means we have had bowlers getting fatigued a bit quicker than normal due to having to bowl more,” he said.
“Rotations on drills means that sometimes players might miss out on being able to have a bat, so if your teams are training in small groups it’s all about making sure you can give everyone as much of a go as possible.
“Particularly for juniors who might just be starting to play cricket, you want those kids to get a taste of all the skills required and get some enjoyment from training.”
Tips for grassroots sporting clubs preparing to resume in ‘COVID normal’ from Sunbury Cricket Club
- Train as many COVID Safety Officers in your club as possible and ensure the workload is spread evenly among these volunteers. For cricket clubs, Cricket Victoria recommends training a COVID Safety Officer for each team within the club.
- Do some practice-runs of your club’s COVID plan for training and matches to find and resolve potential issues before having to implement in a real situation. Make use of the free signage featuring important coronavirus safety information available on the Victorian Government website to put up around your club’s facilities.
- Coaches should monitor the workload of players to ensure everyone gets the chance to practice different skills in a session. If someone misses out on doing something (like batting at a cricket training session), make it a priority for them at the next session, and tell them you’ll do so!
More information on returning to local sport during coronavirus, visit the VicSport website.