Club vs High School Soccer: The New Normal

Kelsey Hamilton, Staff Writer

Before COVID, cheering and shouting could often be heard a couple of blocks away from a sports field. This spring, the fields went quiet and still due to COVID, though they are finally coming back to life as clubs and high school soccer alike “return-to-play” under regulations. Each sport is classified as low, medium, or high risk. Whether a sport, like soccer, can return to play depends on the risk level for the sporting activity alongside the transmission rate of COVID in the county. Soccer is a medium risk level sport and has begun the return-to-play process. However, the guidelines vary between club soccer and high school soccer.

High school soccer is governed by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), which works alongside the governor, while the clubs are following the governor’s return-to-play guidelines. The WIAA guidelines are stricter than the guidelines that the clubs are following. This is because clubs only have to worry about 20 girls, whereas the high schools have to worry about the whole school.

“We have to keep in mind that we’re dealing with 900 people,” explained Andy Hendricks, history teacher and head of program for girls’ soccer: “Schools are a potential super spreader…if it enters our community, we have to worry about it spreading through the population.”

Clubs are now allowed to have contact in smaller groups during practices, including being able to scrimmage within their little groups of four or five, otherwise known as a pod. High school sports are just now approaching the ability to do small amounts of contact within their pods for a limited amount of time.

Another difference between the two organizations is that high school players are required to wear masks at all times, on the field and off the field, while club players are required to arrive with their masks on but can then take them off for practice. High schools have a very strict process for allowing athletes to get out on the field and start playing.

“You come in and you have your health screen all filled out and the coach checks it off. You wear your mask throughout the entire practice,” explained Kate Diefendorf, a sophomore on the Seattle Prep soccer team.

Passing in soccer was recently allowed by the WIAA, but clubs have been passing since practices resumed in June. Club soccer has tournaments in other states and travels all around the country, but high school soccer stays local, “One of the ironies is we’re more conservative than the clubs will be,” noted Hendricks, yet the guidelines are stricter for high school soccer.

“We are very fortunate that our school is allowing us to train together and I’m glad we’re finding some normalcy in this chaotic world,” said Diefendorf.

While there are differences between the speed at which both organizations are progressing, small steps of progress are slowly being made toward the ultimate goal of getting back to playing games. “I’m more hopeful now than I was in September,” stated Hendricks