By William Kobertz
FRAMINGHAM – Framingham United Soccer Club (FUSC) is one of the largest youth sports organizations in Massachusetts that provided affordable soccer to over 1000 Framingham kids every fall and spring since 1975 until
First, Covid-19 caused a cataclysmic accounting nightmare in the spring of 2020: the registration software was not configured to handle 100’s of refunds, credits, or accept donations. Our two treasurers wrote over 300 checks, 100’s of families faithfully accepted a credit for the fall, and FUSC received over $6K in donations to maintain Merchant Road Fields and to keep our organization afloat.
In the summer, Massachusetts entered Phase 3, but soccer’s bubble was initially burst because the sport was classified as “high risk”. To lower soccer’s risk, Mass Youth Soccer came up with some unusual game modifications: no intentional upper body contact, no slide tackles, no throw-ins, no headers or
walls in addition to the obvious behavioral changes (e.g. high fives, handshakes, etc.) to limit contact and the spread of Covid-19.
In addition, everyone at a game or practice would have to wear a facial covering, including the players while playing. The kids would be limited to one guardian spectator, 6ft distancing of parents and players on the two sidelines, and vats of hand sanitizer were required at every field complex. In addition, there were no porta-potties, shared pinnies or goalie gear.
Although this was sufficient to lower soccer to “moderate” risk and permit the playing of soccer games, the FUSC Board of Directors was concerned that these modifications were not enough to protect the kids of Framingham or minimize the spread of Covid-19.
Therefore, FUSC put forth several additional safety measures for the 2020 Fall Season.
For the first time in 45 years, FUSC would not participate in the Boston Area Youth Soccer Travel League because we did not want to expose our children to other towns that might not diligently adhere to the rules modifications, best practices, guidelines, and Covid-19 reporting requirements.
For the teams that would normally travel, we reduced their practices to once a week and opted for small-sided, intra-squad games each Saturday, shrinking their potential Covid-19 bubble and making it easier for the volunteer coach to record both practice and game attendance, which was required to receive permission from the Framingham Board of Health to play sports this fall.
When Framingham High School sports were cancelled the last week of August because of the City’s now chronic red Covid-19 status, FUSC provided small-sided soccer programming for 100 9th – 12th grade boys and girls, playing the games on Sundays just in case the Generation Z High School kids had similar misguided invincibility notions that we did as teenagers back in the 20th century.
So did our tiny bubbles work? Or is FUSC spreading Covid-19?
As I mentioned above, at least 1/70th of the City is involved in FUSC. Over the last six weeks, approximately 500 Framingham residents have
tested positive for Covid-19; thus, FUSC should have been notified of at least seven cases, yet we have had only three individuals test positive for Covid-19. Moreover, no community spread has been connected to FUSC soccer to date.
Given the data, the only thing viral with soccer is a required email published by the Framingham Source that FUSC immediately sends out to any family when their child may have had “close contact” with a person that tested positive for Covid-19.
As the long time Registrar and now FUSC President, I am very proud of our Board of Directors that had the foresight to conceive of in-town PreK through High School fall soccer programming that would minimize the spread of Covid-19 while allowing our youth to enjoy the sport they love with the friends they miss.
But in reality, it is been our players, parents, coaches, referees, and volunteers that have been compliant with both the Mass Youth Soccer’s Best Practices and Guidelines and the Framingham Board of Health that has prevented community spread and enabled our children to play soccer in a fun and safe environment despite the pandemic.
Physically distance; socially connect!
William R. Kobertz is the FUSC President and Registrar. he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org