Surrey United soccer players practice at Cloverdale Athletic Park last week. (Photo: facebook.com/surreyunitedsoccer)

YOUTH SPORTS

‘The spirit’s back’ at Surrey parks as soccer and baseball players return to practice

‘They’re not scrimmaging yet, they’re working on their skills,’ says soccer club rep

Surrey-area athletes have put on their cleats for a return to local fields.

Minor soccer and baseball are among minor sports back in action with limited interaction, following a three-month shutdown of activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The spirit’s back in the park, so that’s good to see,” Surrey United technical director Jeff Clarke said about the soccer club’s return to practice at Cloverdale Athletic Park, as of Wednesday, June 17.

Some 1,200 players on 50 teams are involved in skills sessions at the park, he said.

“Last week was a little awkward with everything, to make it perfect, but every day it’s gotten a little easier,” Clarke explained. “It’s just about being orderly and cognizant of spacial distance and not being in certain areas. They’re not scrimmaging yet, they’re working on their skills, and a lot of the drills are the exact same. The only change might be that with the lineups, the players are spaced out more, things like that. There are some rules to follow.”

• RELATED STORY: Sports groups can book Surrey’s outdoor facilities again.

On the diamond, local organizations are set to play ball in an equally limited way.

“It’s only the single-season teams right now, because we cancelled our spring season,” Mike Dance, president of Cloverdale Minor Baseball Association, said Tuesday (June 23). “We have to get some hand sanitizer to teams, some administrative work to do before getting on the field, but we’re getting close. Hopefully we’ll have some of the players on the field again this week.”

• RELATED STORY, from June 1: Surrey sports groups grapple with refunds, registration, restrictions and more.

Right now, only a few dozen of the association’s players are returning to practice, Dance said.

“We’re hoping to expand on those numbers as we move forward, but because the spring season had run its course and had to be cancelled, we’re going to open registration for some more divisions and hopefully more players will want to come out,” Dance said.

New rules include efforts to encourage physical distancing in all areas of the baseball diamond.

“Things like team meetings on the field aren’t happening, and no handshakes and high-fives, all that sort of stuff is not allowed,” Dance explained.

Coaches must be more organized with practice plans, too, he said, “because only 10 players and two coaches can be on the field at the same time. Some teams, they have to set up almost two different practices with two groups of kids, and we’re hoping that gets expanded. It’s such a fluid situation, and things are changing day to day, and we’re supposed to hear more about the province’s Phase 3 plans later this week, so it all might change again.

“Some people are having discussions about games, but we’re not,” Dance added. “We are practicing and doing skills development as part of our safety plan right now.”

(Story continues below)

Clarke said soccer sessions at CAP have gone “extremely well so far” for players, parents and coaches.

Looking ahead, he said the next “checkpoint” for minor soccer could be Labour Day.

“We’re looking to BC Soccer and viaSport for guidance,” Clarke noted. “The players are just excited to be back, because it’s such a big part of their lives. The next stage could involve in-team scrimmages, in-club scrimmages, and we’ve heard about buddy clubs, neighbouring clubs, to possibly limit travel for game play down the road. There are a couple things in the conversation but ultimately safety has to dictate everything. We’ve got off to a good start here, and the health officials we’ve had come out have been quite complimentary, so hopefully this is a step in the right direction.”

• READ ALSO: ‘There’s no playbook for this’: Surrey sports organizations await approval to return to play.

Elsewhere, Guildford Athletic Club planned to restart soccer sessions on Monday (June 22).

“We are back!” the club tweeted. “Time to get back on the pitch and hone your skills. Please remember only registered players with filled out Return to Play Agreements are permitted at sessions.”

Also Monday, Whalley Chiefs were to start playing baseball again. “Chiefs get the green light permit from Surrey Parks, anxious to get back on the grass,” the club tweeted.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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