Planning key to junior club’s success during Covid-19, believes chairman

The chairman at one of Ely’s leading junior football clubs believes planning has been essential when handling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ely City Crusaders boast around 300 children and 40 coaches, and barring the most recent lockdown, have been holding adapted 45-minute training sessions since July.

Carl Lockwood, club chairman, is one of those coaches and takes charge of the under 10s team.

“We worked it out where every team had an hour slot but only trained for 45 minutes, so that gave 15 minutes for those teams to get out of the car park to allow the other teams to come in because otherwise, you’d have a mass gathering in the car park,” he said.

“It’s almost like we’ve had to control the parents as well as the children. It was a logistical nightmare.”

Before training could take place, risk assessments needed to be carried out and ensuring that all children could train depending on the number of coaches available.

Players were also given their own ball, water bottle and hand sanitiser to limit any risk, some of the measures that Carl thinks have been difficult to adapt to.

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“We needed to get our risk assessments in place and that took a week or two to organise; all the timings, making sure there was one coach per five children, so we had to ask all the coaches to help each other,” he said.

“If you had your session well-thought out, it was doable, but tough.”

During lockdown, Carl has been running Zoom meetings with his under 10s squad, as well as skill challenges in a bid to keep the players occupied.

MORE: Football parents explain importance to allow kids to play again amid Covid-19 pandemic

“It’s very important we keep the boys going,” Carl said.

“We had a text from a parent who felt his boy was getting lethargic, and he could tell by his mood and unhappiness. The first day he went training, he said he was like a completely different boy.”

Crusaders, who play in the Cambridgeshire mini soccer and district colts leagues, have received positive feedback from parents and county FA officials on their Covid-secure measures since training resumed.

Most players have returned to action and with no positive case reported at the club, this is perhaps testament to how well it has prepared for the return to football.

“I know the league have come to watch one or two of our games and they were very happy with how we were handling the Covid situation,” Carl added.

“I think our measures help, but I think most of the Ely area have been very good at keeping to the guidelines.”