Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club has been enjoying their “new normal.” Kids and their coaches are on the fields enjoying the outdoors and the sports they love.
SoccerNation checked in Director of Coaching, David Belfort, to learn more about what’s happening out in Arizona.
Shutdowns began March 11th
SN: How long were club operations shut down because of COVID-19?
Belfort: Our club was first impacted with shutdowns on March 11. Our boys teams were scheduled to go to the Las Vegas Players Showcase. We also had ECNL Girls players that were going to Vegas for the Southwest Conference Selection Program. When the shutdown happened, I originally thought it was going to be for a week or two. We started with club wide webinars to keep our players engaged. We progressed to live training sessions online and virtual team meetings. Guest speakers and webinars were also arranged to help keep our players engaged.
Back on the fields mid-May, no contact, socially distanced
Belfort: It was definitely tough as we did our best to continue to stay connected to our players, coaches, and membership. We were able to start getting back on fields in the middle of May. We had tryouts which started with no contact and limited numbers. We were in this phase for four weeks. Then, we were able to then progress into having limited contact.
“We now have the ability to have games against other clubs and play in tournaments”
Belfort: After having limited contact, we were then able to progress into having intra-club scrimmages. Those scrimmages lasted a month. We now have the ability to have games against other clubs and play in tournaments, but there are still some restrictions with spectators.
SN: Is your club back to normal operations now, or are you still modified to comply with local health orders?
Belfort: We are in what I would like to call the “new normal.” Some of the new normal includes players needing to wear masks once the arrive onsite to the complex and walk to their training area. Also, players need to be socially distanced as they arrive. They need to bring their own water and equipment as well. Coaches need to wear masks during training. When the coach addresses the team, players need to be spaced apart. Nobody can share water. Team breaks cannot involve physical contact at anytime during training. No handshakes, high fives, or any unneeded contact.
Competitive Games as of August, Intra-squad and a “Scrimmage Fest”
SN: Are teams able to scrimmage and play in competitive games?
Belfort: Yes. The month of August we held a series of intra club scrimmages that went really well. We had our players ref games and the experience was extremely enjoyable for all of those involved. Our teams participated in the Arizona Soccer Association “play in” games and scrimmage fest. Over Labor Day we will be sending a number of teams to the Phoenix Rising Cup.
“Refreshed energy and passion”
SN: What has the reaction been to the kids and teams getting back onto the fields with their friends and coaches?
Belfort: You can see a refreshed energy and passion of the game in players and coaches. This pandemic definitely put into perspective for a lot of people how fortunate we are to be able to play and coach the sport we love.
SN: What safety measure does has the club enacted to ensure the safety and health of players, coaches, and families?
Belfort: During the pandemic our Directors and Board worked hand to make sure that we navigated and progressed in a responsible way for our players, coaches, and membership. Club President Geoff Borger and Club Vice President Gretchen Thompson deserve a lot of credit and thanks. They spent countless hours on the phone with me working through scenarios to make sure we were thoughtful and compliant with all of our decisions.
Help from local health care workers to develop club-wide re-opening protocols
Belfort: We were very fortunate to be able to call upon one of our past board members, Mary Rinsem, to step in and be our COVID point person. Rinsem serves as a school nurse at one of the local public schools and was part of the reopening of schools committee. We developed club-wide protocols, processes and an action plan with a variety of scenarios based on guidance from the CDC and governing organizations.
Using the pandemic challenges to evolve and improve
SN: Anything else you’d like to add? You have a tournament coming up, don’t you?
Belfort: We feel very confident with the direction that Arizona Arsenal Soccer Club is going. The pandemic forced us to continue to evolve. There were a lot of technology strategies and processes that were developed during this time that will continue to be implemented for player development, coach education and the overall success of our club. We are very excited to be offering our Arsenal Challenge October 9-11 and would love to welcome clubs and teams from areas outside of Arizona that may not be able to play in their local markets.
Arsenal Challenge: Oct 9-11
Coaches and managers can learn more about the Arsenal Challenge at the tournament website HERE. Age groups will be U7-U19. Be sure you let your league administrators know that you will be participating, so your league schedule won’t conflict.
Stay healthy. Stay fit and safe. We will see you on the fields everywhere soon!
all photos by Rudy Sanchez — thank you!