Photo by Pete Guion of UltiPhotos
Whether you run a small pickup group or regular team practices, at some point over the coming weeks to months your local authority will permit you to return to some form of practice. As a leader in your community you know you have a duty of care, and so you're probably already considering how, when that time comes, you can act to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus among your players.
We are currently discussing this issue of returning to play in our Social Distance Training Tips group on Facebook. This is free to all ultimate players. Please join us and contribute to the conversation!
The intention of this conversation this week
Various groups will be providing guidance on when it is safe to think about resuming training. Look to your Local and National Government, your Olympic and National Sports-governing bodies, and your local association, for guidance on that decision. The point in time when you can return to play will vary across communities around the world; this is not a guide on how to know when that time is.
This is a set of suggestions on how you can adapt your first sessions back to allow for play whilst still reducing the amount of contact you would normally have had.
We hope this will spark some ideas and healthy debate. And as always, we encourage you to follow your local government regulations.
As a global community our goal is to slow the spread of the virus. The moment we have contact with anyone or anything outside of our quarantined homes, we move up the scale of risk, but risk is a spectrum not a switch.
We all already understand this on some level - we choose to play Ultimate knowing that in all sports injuries may occur and we adopt techniques to minimize this risk. Some of those are about our own personal risk of injury, e.g. we wear appropriate footwear so we don't slip up. But many aren't directly for us, they're for those around us, e.g. we remove jewelry/watches to avoid hurting others, we follow rules that encourage us to be careful around moments of inter-player contact. We make those changes because we know that safe communities are happy ones, and that the small personal cost (to remove a watch, to pull out of a play) is worth it for the large gain of being part of that community.
In many ways the risk associated with Coronavirus is similar. Where it is different is the breath of impact and what the risk looks like. An injury is often immediately obvious and its impact is limited to the player(s) involved. Whereas a Covid-19 spreading-event won't be immediately obvious (because those who have it may be contagious before they present symptoms) and the impact will extend beyond those immediately involved to anyone in the household of those who contract it.
In short, your players are already familiar with making personal changes to reduce risk both to themselves and those around them. They are absolutely ready to make another adjustment to reduce the risk from Coronavirus. But because this risk has potential for high impact, and because it is almost unseen, that adjustment will need to be actively led, by you, the community leaders.
Risk varies with distance, time, and indoor/outdoor environment: more distance + less time = lower risk. For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll work with the commonly used suggestion of maintaining at least 2m of distance between yourself and everyone else.
Imagine each player has a bubble 1.5m in a radius around them, ie 3m across. So your bubble is a little wider than your outstretched arms. A contact is an event where another person enters your bubble, ie you could touch them with your outstretched arm.
We want to reduce the number of contacts we have with others. There are two primary ways we can do that
The simplest way to play with a disc whilst maintaining space from each other is to play one of the other Disc Sports (which is what I've been doing in my lockdown time). Favor...
Alternatively, we can change how we currently play Ultimate to encourage more space per player. A simple first step would be to use larger fields or fewer players per field. But making more space does not guarantee that people will spread out - try playing 3-on-3 on a 7-a-side pitch and it's very likely that you'll play a lot of the time only a few metres apart! So, let's add some rules that specifically encourage players to stay further apart...
By far the largest factor in your radius with this disease is your breath.
The next factor is what you touch. The disc is the main 'shared contact surface' between teammates. You and your group likely have multiple discs. Make a decision at the start to pile up 'clean' discs. Use only one at a time. After 5 minutes, put the current disc into a 'dirty' disc pile, and move onto the next clean one. Dirty discs are cleaned at the end. (or partway through if you have alcohol cleaner available).
It is better for society as a whole if we each have 10 contacts with one person than 1 contact with 10 people. (less nodes on your social graph). With that in mind, we can imagine a game where the bubbles of paired folks are allowed to overlap, whilst maintaining distance from everyone else's bubble...
What other ideas do you have? Post them in the comments!
Think about what players are likely to do between points or when they are not playing. How can we help them keep more space between themselves?
A few ideas:
As leaders, we set the tone for what our ultimate players can expect when they come to play at an event that we’re in charge of. And for what we expect from them. Even if you just bring cones to pick up, you have some authority - and responsibility - and you can expect that people will look to you for some guidance.
You may change your ultimate frisbee policies depending on local conditions. It’s better to over-communicate about your policies, whatever they are. Otherwise, the human tendency will be to gradually become less vigilant and compliant.
Remember, we are not aiming to scare folks off by talking about this risk; rather we are bringing the risk to the surface since the virus itself cannot be seen. By communicating clearly we are enabling participants to make decisions based on:
We wish you and your friends good health and a good time this summer and fall.
For more tips on training and improving your ultimate frisbee game while social distance measures are in place, visit us at Social Distance Training Tips!