As an athletic director or field owner, chances are you’re getting a lot of questions from concerned parents and students about the safety of your fields.
You’re also handling an influx of new safety and sanitation procedures, trying to boost morale for disappointed students, and looking for cost-effective solutions for a sports season that will be anything but normal.
Coronavirus safety is a complex and ever-evolving issue, and we know how time-consuming it can be to stay on top of the latest news and research. With that in mind, we’ve compiled helpful information to help you safely get students and athletes back on the field this year.
Things To Consider
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that community members stay home if they have any symptoms of the coronavirus, including a sore throat, difficulty breathing, or a fever.
They also suggest maintaining a distance of 6-feet from each other at all times, wearing face masks, frequently washing hands, and regularly sanitizing high-touch surfaces, like doorknobs and railings (1). In addition to those basic safety guidelines, the resources below offer creative solutions for often-overlooked aspects of back-to-school sporting events.
Sanitize Synthetic Turf
We now know that the coronavirus is largely transmitted from person-to-person contact — and from water droplets that are released into the air when an infected person sneezes, coughs, laughs, talks, etc.
Surface contact is a lesser cause of transmission. However, the coronavirus does survive on surfaces for a limited amount of time — and it lasts longer on some surfaces or materials than others. Current research shows that the coronavirus can live up to 72 hours on plastic — like that used on many artificial turf fields.
If your field is outdoors, then you’re at an advantage because the UV light from the sun has been shown to kill the coronavirus!
A June 2020 article by Forbes reports, “When researchers at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center exposed SARS-CoV-2 in simulated saliva to artificial sunlight (equivalent to a sunny day), 90% of viruses were inactivated within seven minutes. This result suggests that Coronavirus is less able to survive under the sun's rays and that your risk of exposure is significantly lower in outdoor environments.” (3)
That being said, it’s best not to assume the sun is killing the virus on your field, especially if there’s heavy traffic on it. Many athletic directors are still choosing to sanitize their fields, particularly indoor fields, as an extra safety measure and to help alleviate the fear of contracting the virus. (Especially if anyone who has spent time on the field has tested positive for the coronavirus.)
Keep in mind that any sanitization treatment applied for your synthetic turf should kill existing viruses but will not prevent future contamination.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a list of approved detergents and soaps, here. In previous research conducted on a similar virus, MRSA, a rate of 8 gallons of a liquid detergent per 140 gallons of water sprayed over an entire field followed by brooming was shown to be effective. (4). While this is a helpful starting point, it’s worth noting that the coronavirus is a novel virus and we’re still learning proper sanitation techniques.
Unfortunately, some disinfectants can harm the fibers in your synthetic turf and cause the glue that holds the fibers to the backing to break down, which could potentially void your warranty. Before you disinfect your synthetic turf, contact your warranty holder to get help walking through the best options for your unique situation.
Sanitize Hard Surfaces
Prior to an individual or group entering a facility, many schools are requiring that all hard surfaces be sanitized, including all equipment, doorknobs, railings, etc. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) advises against using shared drinking stations, like drinking fountains or water troughs; however, you may want to continue sanitizing those stations (if they’re publicly available) to account for the occasional student who will bend rules and use them anyway. (5)
Many coaches and athletic directors are encouraging students and athletes to perform individual drills that build strength and stamina without requiring close contact between teammates.
The NFHS asks that this distance is taken one step further by discouraging individuals to share equipment, like balls, bats, and helmets. If it’s not feasible for your athletes to practice individually and/or use their own equipment, then teams can split into small pods that consistently work together. This limits exposure to members within the same pod.
Because the coronavirus can survive for limited times on surfaces, it’s also recommended that students and athletes keep their bags and personal belongings six-feet apart, rather than piling them all together on the same bench or in the same corner.
Let’s not forget parents and spectators when it comes to honoring six-feet distance, too. Some schools are limiting spectators, while others are hanging signs or using stickers to clearly outline where spectators can sit on the benches while maintaining safe distances.
Extra Sanitizer and Masks
It’s highly recommended that hand sanitizer be available during all sporting events and practices. To avoid all the students touching the same sanitizer container, coaches could put one person in charge of dispensing sanitizer at the end of practice, and that person would immediately wash their hands with hot, soapy water when they were finished.
If your budget allows, then it would also be thoughtful to include extra masks for any students or athletes who accidentally forgot their own mask or whose mask broke or was lost during the day.
Be A Role Model
Whether or not you know it, your students and athletes look up to you as a role model. If you wear a mask, keep safe social distance, and maintain a positive attitude, then you’ll truly lead by example.
Lend Emotional Support
Kids love sports and extracurricular activities, so it’s only natural that they’re disappointed about this year’s unpredictable schedule and extra rules. This year more than ever, you may be called upon to offer emotional support, listen to children’s complaints, and praise their accomplishments both on and off the field.
We’re In This Together
If there’s anything we can do to aid in your school’s success, please let us know. Reach out to the USGreentech team. We’re rooting for you and we’re right alongside you developing a winning game plan for the future of athletics.