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Planning a return to Community Football in 2020

While the AFL and the government nut out a safe and practical return to community football across Australia, Football club Committees are considering a range of topics on how best to deal with an ongoing health risk to all members of the clubs. Apart from actually training or playing, there will be a preparation phase to consider and members and volunteers will need to be involved.

Water Bottles

At a guess, it would seem obvious that each player will need to bring there own water bottles to all forms of football. Being this is new territory for players and Coaching staff, some thought of exactly how this will work during a game evokes intrigue. When a goal is scored, water runners (usually up to 4 per team) have about 30 seconds to get water out to players as quick as possible, that is with just a couple of water bottles at their disposal, before once again retreating to the boundary before the next ball up.

If shared water bottles are out, this author is intrigued on what new rules of play will allow the players to get a drink, if water bottles are not to be shared. Will there be water runners?

Then of course there is the refilling of water bottles during a game, will each team need its own gatorade / water bucket with a volunteer water manager just to turn on the tap while the player holds the bottle? Obviously there will be outlines on the process, however this is only one issue relating to the return of play.

Change Rooms

With teams preparing for games, the use of change rooms is a place for Coaches and teams to get ready before play. While the first game of the day is usually around 8am on a weekend, the process usually allows the following game of teams to enter the change rooms once a game is underway. When the game being played comes to an end, the next game / teams run out to the field while the now previous game teams, head back to the rooms to get changed.

Then we have the next game teams waiting to get into the rooms and so on for the rest of the days fixtures. Heading back to change rooms at half time could be dead in the water with strict requirements put in place

Given social distancing laws, and the restrictions that will be in place over hygiene, the current whispers suggest that change rooms could have their own restrictions in place. Toilets will be another area of focus in all parts of a football clubs facility. It would appear that cleaning may be required before and after each team enters and leaves the change rooms. From a cost perspective, hiring cleaners to operate in 2 to 4 rooms depending on how many ovals are at each venue, would be expensive for clubs. A band of volunteers would be the best option, if this is the case on change rooms and that's if we are actually allowed to use the change rooms at all?

Did someone say Volunteer ?

Volunteers are hard to find in normal circumstances. Plenty of parents like to suggest what needs to be done around clubs but when it comes to them offering their time, the gap between getting it done and "nothing to see here" is often the biggest problem in all community sport.

All clubs have volunteers that help as team managers, runners, water runners, Goal umpires, ground marshals, time keepers, score board attendants, who brings the fruit & lollies etc, but trying to find members to help in the canteen or to attend a club working bee is a different story. Now we are potentially looking for a "Army of Volunteer cleaners" given the pandemic restrictions that one would think will be in place.

Umpire Change rooms, Canteens, score boards, setting up fields for modified games, goal umpire flags and the footballs we use will all need some attention if a successful return to play is put in place. Now more than ever clubs will be looking for more involvement from volunteers to help keep the kids on the park. When the call out comes, please consider helping out so we can all enjoy the footy.

Food for thought......

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