Hundreds of athletes coming to Chesterfield for field hockey tournament during pandemic

Sports

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – Even as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Chesterfield, hundreds of athletes and their families from all over the county are coming to the county this weekend for the annual Shooting Star Field Hockey Tournament.

150 teams, made up of athletes aged 10 to 18, will play from Nov. 27-29. Some players are traveling from as far west as Texas.

Ainslee Lamb, vice president of field hockey with 3Step Sports, filled 8News in on the precautions they are taking. Teams will play on 12 outdoor fields, which are spread across 100 acres.

“We have put in place a very firm policy that if your parents, players, your clubs are not adhering to our expectations, you will forfeit the game you’re involved in,” Lamb said. “And if there’s continued disrespect for the conditions and for the governor mandates, we will remove them from the tournament.”

To follow Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent executive order limiting gatherings to 25 people, only one spectator per athlete will be allowed to watch a game at one time. Lamb noted that the executive order applies to each field, not to the facility as a whole. She also said teams, tournament staff and coaches are not included in that number.

In addition, face coverings are required by everyone except for athletes during play, a one-way foot traffic flow is in place, team benches and water stations have been removed, all athletes, coaches and family members must submit a daily health check and no high fives or handshakes between players will be permitted.

Athletes must also take a COVID-19 test before coming, only if it is required by their home state’s travel restrictions.

Lamb said she is working closely with Chesterfield County to ensure the tournament is run safely. Parks and Recreation Director Bob Smet said this is the eighth large sporting event held at the Sportsplex since the pandemic began.

“The only restriction, really, that is new for us is the 25 spectator per field limit,” Smet said. “All of the other protective measures have been in place since we resumed place in August of this year.”

The county and the tournament are bringing in extra staff to monitor the social distancing at each field.

However, some parents and community members are still concerned by the large number of people coming into Midlothian.

“They’re out here with the pandemic trying to get a handle on it, and so why would whoever authorize it, authorize something like that?” said Eugenia Lawson, who lives a mile from River City Sportsplex.

Lamb said it is important that the event still goes on for the teams and players who choose to attend. She added that it is a big opportunity for athletes to get film and get scouted.

“I have learned just not to judge people. There are so many variables with their decision making, they might have an elderly person at home, they might have somebody compromised at home. It doesn’t matter anymore. You just respect the decisions that people make, but what I also have to respect is the decision of 150 clubs who do want to be here,” said Lamb.

Dr. Alexander Samuel, director of the Chesterfield Health District, said events such as this tournament can carry risks of spreading COVID-19, despite being allowed under current executive orders.

“When we learn about events like these, we reach out to the organizers, make them aware of the risks  and provide guidance directing them toward compliance with the executive orders,” Samuel said.   

If someone involved with the tournament were to test positive, Lamb says they have contact information for the participants that can be used if needed for contact tracing by the state.

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