Liberty Hill Youth Soccer begins season with pandemic plan in place

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By Scott Akanewich

One thing the global coronavirus pandemic can’t do is quell the world’s game – even right here in central Texas.

The Liberty Hill Youth Soccer Association is currently accepting registration for the fall 2020 season and although initial participation is down, the league is steadfast in its resolve in moving forward, said LSYHA President Josh Jacobi.

“We’re playing in a completely new and foreign atmosphere,” said Jacobi. “Registration numbers are down, but not as much as we expected. Typically in the fall, we have less families signing up as we’re head-to-head with other sports and back to school. With the pandemic, we were expecting lower numbers, but have been surprised by the turnout. Our number one goal, by a mile is safety. We didn’t want to have a season just to have youth sports – we wanted to make sure we can get kids out playing the beautiful game in a safe and responsible manner.”

With that in mind, the league has an extensive plan in place to ensure safety for all involved, he said.

“Our emergency action plan is lengthy and complex. But, it gives guidance for spectators, players, coaches and referees,” said Jacobi. “Temperature checks before each game and practice will be done at home –  parents and players will self-report and equipment is not to be shared. Communal equipment will be sanitized between all events. Game days will be longer as we will have less fields in order to allow room for social distancing and time between each game to clear out. We’ve also implemented a lengthy contact tracing plan, which is dependent on everyone following protocol, but will be able to quickly identify areas of risk if we do have a positive test.”

Jacobi added the powers-that-be at the league have worked with a sense of urgency all summer in order to ensure the league can indeed go ahead with its usual season, he said.

“Typically during the summer, our board is off. Maybe we might volunteer an hour per week with the exception of our field coordinator,” said Jacobi. “But, this summer has been constant from May when registration started to our first practices the week of Aug. 10. We had to register players while not knowing if or how the season would happen, we had to create an emergency action plan, appoint safety coordinators and wait for parent organizations to give advice. But, we hope once the players take the field and are having fun and feeling safe, it will all be worth it.”

LHYSA offers leagues for girls and boys ranging in age from under-4 to under-19 in either recreational or more competitive settings depending on the player’s needs, he said.

“Our recreational teams work in two divisions. Division 4 is the under-4 through under-10. These teams only play within Liberty Hill Soccer,” said Jacobi. “For Division 4, we want to continue teaching skills on and off the field and giving the kids in our community an opportunity to learn teamwork, competition and responsibility. Division 3 is recreational as well – these teams travel and we have a back-to-back defending Capital Area Youth Soccer Organization champion in the under-12 girls’ team.”

For players wishing to show a more serious side, LHYSA provides an academy program that is geared to guide those whose desire it is to pursue higher-level competition and instruction.

“Our academy introduces kids to more advanced skills and paid certified coaches,” he said. “We’re fielding four select teams – two girls’ and two boys’ – this year and hope to compete at each level.  Select teams have advanced skills training multiple days per week with paid and certified coaches.  They will travel and participate in tournaments multiple times per year – it gives those wanting to advance their skills at a high level an opportunity for more competition.”

However, aside from all the safety protocols and competition levels, LHYSA remains committed to providing an environment in which local youth can learn valuable life lessons – something he has firsthand knowledge of, said Jacobi.

“There are so many benefits to youth sports, and soccer in particular,” he said. “The longest-lasting lesson or skill I remember taking away from youth soccer was teamwork and the importance of physical exercise. I hope kids lacing up for LHYSA can appreciate the value of physical exercise in a safe and competitive outlet while learning how to work together as a team – both will have lifelong benefits.”

More information about the league and how to join can be found at www.libertyhillsoccer.org.

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