The COVID-19 crisis may have brought the Stoughton Area Youth Soccer Association’s games to a standstill, but coaches are providing a safe environment for players to hone their skills this fall.

Players from SAYSA, from U8 up to grade 8, practice two to three times a week. On Tuesday, Oct. 5, around 15 players attended a U9/10 soccer training session at Pleasant View Park in Stoughton.

Players are required to have their temperature taken before they arrive. Coaches give each player a self-monitoring health check, and record the results. A series of cones that are spaced more than six feet apart are set up that signal the check-in spot.

Fees were reduced because SAYSA teams were not going to be playing games. U9/U10 coach Erik Foltz said that for him, it’s about promoting an active lifestyle, while still giving them a place to socialize with others.

“We all have to be cognizant of this situation and we also have to teach the kids how to work within these restraints,” he said. “My son says the best thing about soccer is he gets to see his friends and not in a Zoom.”

Practices began at the start of September once COVID-19 guidelines from the state, the Wisconsin Youth Soccer Association and SAYSA were finalized. The fall soccer practices run until the end of October. Face masks are encouraged, but not required.

SAYSA teams are not traveling or playing games this fall, and most teams are having non-contact practices.

“At this age we are focusing on individual skills like being comfortable on the ball,” Foltz said. “If you are comfortable on the ball, it will translate to the game.”

Coaches have grids painted on the field so players can work on soccer drills in small groups of five or less. Players are prohibited from making contact or stealing possession of the ball, Foltz added, as the coaches are trying to be mindful of giving students space from one another.

Foltz said coaches allow children to take some skills they learn in practice to small competitive events similar to a game, but in a socially distanced fashion.

“We try to make it (soccer) as real-life as possible without getting people right up to one another,” he said.