How one junior football team has got ahead of the curve to prepare for the return of grassroots sport
Premier League football might be back on our TV screens, but what’s the future looking like for grassroots action?
Thought to be one of the first junior football teams to return to training in Lancashire post-lockdown, Brinscall Village Junior Football Club are cautiously leading the way back to some form of normality for their 300+ players.
Due to coronavirus, the club were forced to suspend training sessions for their five to 18 year olds in March and have been eager to return to action ever since.
Club chairman Mark Oldham explains how it’s taken weeks of preparation to ensure the safety of the players, coaches and even parents watching on from the sidelines.
“The FA released guidance on June 12 which stated that we could train in groups of six and have multiple sessions taking place simultaneously as long as we maintained social distancing at all times,” he said.
“We then produced guidance documents for players, parents and coaches so each demographic knew their role before, during and after each training session.
“We also shortened training sessions to 50 minutes so we now have the ability to clear one group before the next group arrives.
“We purchased gloves, hand sanitiser and disinfectant for use during our training sessions and added gloves and face masks to our first-aid kits for use in an emergency.”
The club have left no stone unturned, even going to the lengths of painting socially distant spectator boxes for parents beside its pitches.
“The club committee have been having regular meetings via Zoom and had already started to anticipate some sort of restart,” the club chairman added.
“This has really helped with how quickly we could take the FA guidance and put it into practice.
“The first sessions took place on June 22, just 10 days after we were given the green light.
“The most challenging part of the restart was putting together the documentation and then distributing it throughout the club. We then had to seek and gain consent from any parents and carers prior to their child returning to train with us.
“We've had the luxury of 12 weeks to prepare our pitches and they are now in the best condition ever.
“We are fortunate to have our award-winning groundsman Mark Bolton on hand to ensure the playing surfaces are fit for any club.”
It’s not just the health and wellbeing of the children that has taken a hit during lock, they’ve also missed out on vital social interaction with their friends.
“The period of lockdown has been especially difficult with regards to the social diaries of all our children,” Mark said.
“We know that football is the most important thing in most of our lives, so missing out on our twice weekly fix has been tough.
“On top of this, they've also been unable to socialise with their mates and so these sessions are the first time that many of our players have seen their friends since March.
“It was also quite evident from our first few sessions that the fitness and sharpness of some of our players isn't quite where it needs to be. Our coaches will no doubt be keen to improve this.
“One thing that has been really evident this week is the smiles on the faces as they are having loads of fun together with the added benefit of getting away from those Xbox's for an hour or two.”
With lockdown measures gradually being eased, it’s been a major boost for the club to get back to some sort of normality.
“We have all had to adapt to the new ways that Covid-19 has thrust upon us,” Mark said.
“So far we have all adapted well and we will improve further as the days go by, with our number one priority being to keep everyone safe.”