SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Just as Bay Area schools have been refining their responses to the coronavirus outbreak, local youth sports leagues have told their players, coaches and parents that the game-day experience, including on-field celebrations, will be changing because of the virus spread.

NorCal Premier Soccer has issued new guidelines for the hundreds of soccer matches held every weekend in communities across Northern California. While much of the directives mirror the recommended guidelines from the California Department of Public Health for limiting the spread of respiratory viruses, others are particular to players on the field.

Youth soccer players in Pleasanton (Carlos Castañeda/CBS)

The NorCal Board of Directors said in a message to its players and coaches that it recommends, “No handshakes, high fives, fist pumps, chest bumps, huddles, group celebrations, etc.” at any games or practices.

NorCal also recommends “No pre- or post-game handshakes between players, coaches & officials,” but that teams can show good sportsmanship by clapping or cheering for the opposing team.

Water and drink bottles should not be shared and clubs have been told to stop the practice of providing large water or sports drink jugs for communal usage. All players & teams were also  advised to carry & use hand sanitizer.

Coaches are now discouraged from signing the game card, where the score and match details are listed, at the end of matches, with referees only signing after a verbal acknowledgement from coaches.

The Cal North Referee Administration has advised referees to avoid bumping fists or elbows with players and coaches and to avoid spitting on the ground as a player may slide through it. Refs are also being asked to wipe down the handles of flags with sanitizer or wash with soap and water.

Higher level sports leagues have taken varied approaches to addressing the coronavirus risk.

Ahead of the NCAA and NIT basketball tournaments, the National College Players Association is calling for precautions that include cancelling all auxiliary events that put players in contact with crowds such as meet-and-greets, as well as “there should be a serious discussion about holding competitions without an audience present.”

On the professional level, the San Jose Earthquakes said the organization is coordinating with local agencies, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), league officials and its upcoming opponent Minnesota United FC “to ensure proper measures are taken to protect our community” at the season opener Saturday at Earthquakes Stadium.

The San Jose Sharks said the team would evaluate further upcoming events at SAP Center in the coming days, and the arena would be getting additional cleaning measures at the arena following games and events.

The USA Today reported that multiple NBA team executives have considered playing behind closed doors as a last-resort contingency plan. Such measures have already been enacted in other countries, such as Italy, where the government has mandated that all sporting events, including Serie A soccer games, be held without fans.

 

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