This week marks our 12th week in lockdown, with 9 of these weeks being spent in full lockdown. As we approach phase two on our return to the ‘new normal’, we have implemented our ‘Covid Comeback’.

This week marks our 12th week in lockdown, with 9 of these weeks being spent in full lockdown. As we approach phase two on our return to the ‘new normal’, we have implemented our ‘Covid Comeback’.

Like many other charities, social enterprises, businesses, self-employed – we have had to adapt our ways of working, communicating and collaborating.

However, there has been an underlying familiarity of this pandemic for many of the players that we support. Almost all of our players are affected by; homelessness, social deprivation or mental health issues – diagnosed or otherwise. This lockdown is familiar to the struggles that many of our players have faced daily throughout their lives. From being cut off from society, financial worries and low self-esteem brought on by lack of purpose and absence of socialising. Many of these factors are something that each of us have now felt on more than one occasion during this lockdown.

Street Soccer sessions aim to provide purpose, structure, a reason to get up in the morning and the opportunity to socialise and plan for a future. Not to mention the physical and mental health benefits of exercise. The absence of our sessions and suffering the effects of isolation again is bringing back old memories for some of our players. As a result, many of our players are beginning to regress and revert back to old coping mechanisms that aren’t in their best interests.

With the announcement of the beginning Phase One of easing the lockdown on 28th May, we put into place a plan that would enable us to give our players the opportunity to engage with our programmes, and staff to combat the negative impacts of the lockdown. As we are still in progressing out of the lockdown we have to continuously review every aspect of our programmes to ensure that we meet the Government guidelines and adhere to the physical distancing that remains in place.

Our coaches have had to adapt to new practices and protocols, and have taken our cues from the Scottish Government publication Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 1: staying at home and away from others (physical distancing), our current response is outlined below;

  • PPE – We have provided coaches and players with hand sanitiser and also ensure face coverings are used when travelling to and from sessions.
  • Numbers – We have restricted the numbers at any session to 8 players and 2 coaches, the players are invited to attend individually by coaches.
  • Groups – Players remain in the same group of 8 for each session to further reduce any risk of passing the virus on
  • Rules – We have created a new set of rules and guidelines for the player invited to the session, this is sent to them along with their invitation and when they arrive we give them a paper copy and take their picture as evidence they have received and agreed to the rules.
  • Equipment – We ordered new equipment for the coaches in order for them to introduce new drills and games that meet the physical distancing guidelines such as Head Tennis nets, additional goals and cones. Only the coaches are allowed to handle equipment.
  • Session Plans – We have designed new session plans that meet the physical distancing guidelines with no contact games allowed at this stage.
  • Facilities – In order to minimise  travelling for players we have planned sessions in parks local to the players. We chose public parks as they are open spaces with limited surfaces to touch – and no changing facilities.
  • Monitoring – We now use WhatsApp groups for each session, so that if a player develops COVID symptoms, they can advise the coach and others in the group in order that they can cancel the group session and isolate.

For those who are unable to attend we are still continuing to provide personal support through; making phone calls, organising Zoom calls, delivering food packages and online fitness sessions and quizzes. We continue with our work to help our players an others in the local community and are delivering around 1400 elements of support each week. The free helpline is continuing to run for any player who needs support and we will continue to run our Street Soccer Lives.

We are finding that our players are enjoying being back on the pitch,  getting exercise and social interaction. The format is working well but we will continue to monitor government guidance and review our approach as Scotland’s response to the pandemic continues.

We have a huge gratitude towards our partners, supporters and individuals who have reached out and offered their support and help during this extremely challenging time for all.