NVVA is the organizer and sponsor of the Loudoun Youth Volleyball league, which has provided over 20,000 athletes with a chance to start their volleyball aspirations. There are usually more than 1,300 players in the fall league but this year the league was condensed in size due to COVID-19 with 650 athletes. The logistics during COVID-19 was a big challenge but NVVA employed a combination of procedures and training, as well as buy in from the coaches and parents to implement a plan to keep the athletes safe.
When it came to strategizing how they were going to run the youth volleyball program the NVVA staff had several considerations to take into account but at the end of the day they all revolved around keeping their athletes, coaches, and staff safer during the pandemic.
NVVA’s ‘Return to Play’ Plan that was submitted to the local county gave the club right of entry into the school system when almost all programs were not allowed in.
There were a lot of details that went into the planning but the main components are:
- Coach Training on safety procedures
- Parent education on what to expect and how the changes benefit them even if it meant not being able to watch
- Providing solutions for live streaming
- Sanitation procedures and facility staffing
- Athlete tracking for Health and Injury
- Established protocols and mitigation procedures for when a COVID report came in
NVVA decided early on that the standards would be centered around the local and state guidelines and executive orders and they communicated that standard early and often to everyone involved in the program. Every procedure and guideline was created based on information resourced from one or all of those entities (CDC, State Governor, State Dept. of Health, and County guidelines). This kept the procedures relevant and they were able to pivot the procedures when changes were made by any one of those governing bodies. View the policy here.
The key to the club’s success in preventing widespread infection involved a solid COVID communication and mitigation plan that was implemented consistently and quickly when needed. The staff worked to align the parents with their plan through educating them on the importance of health monitoring and early reporting (via an online form).
-All athletes and coaches submit a pre-screening health form prior to admittance to a practice or tournament site.
-All athletes, coaches, volunteers, and staff submit to temperature checks prior to entering a tournament site.
-All volunteers submit a COVID waiver form and a facility liability waiver form prior to entering a tournament site.
-The parent of any athlete experiencing symptoms or having known exposure to a positive COVID-19 case submit the online health and wellness form immediately upon knowing. (This piece was the key to controlling outbreaks!)
Once the staff were made aware of a potential COVID contact they immediately collected the exposure timeline from the parent and developed a plan based on the CDC as well as the state health department to have the athlete on hold from team interaction and potentially the team and coach.
Clear and direct communication to parents was also important. Showing that they had a procedure and also staying ‘calm’ kept incidences from turning into panic situations for parents.
There were no spectators allowed BUT parent volunteers were used around the court to clean the balls after each play ended.
NVVA based their communication in this simple way:
*A club has to approach it with safety first and set that expectation with coaches and parents
*A coach has to approach with some creativity when planning and running practice
*A parent has to approach the season with the idea that this is a community effort and their diligence in monitoring is key!
Out of 650 athletes plus the coaches and volunteers, NVVA had 3 cases where they had to put a team on hold for 10-14 days.
About the Author
Tia Storey specializes in sports management with a focus on logistics and operations. Her professional career as an IT Project Manager with an emphasis in financial strategic planning and software configuration, along with her passion for volleyball, led her to her current full time position as Director of Operations at Northern Virginia Volleyball Association. Her involvement in volleyball started out as a player and progressed into all facets of supporting the sport such as a national level scorer, a regional level referee, a tournament director, and a club director.
As part of her 25 years of experience in the volleyball community she has coached multiple age groups at the junior level, adult teams competing at the National level, and most recently the US Marine Corps sitting volleyball team that competed at the 2019 Wounded Warrior Games.
She can be reached at email@example.com to discuss experiences and lessons learned.