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THE ARIZONA REGION PANDEMIC POLICY - PARENT QUESTIONS ANSWERED

By Az Volleyball Mom, 02/21/21, 11:45AM MST

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Goal #1 is to get the teams on the courts safely while mitigating the spread of the virus.

As we roll into 2021, we are hearing from parents who are wanting to know when the Region's mask and spectator policies will return to pre-pandemic standards.

While several Regions around the U.S. are not allowed to host any tournaments, we are very fortunate to find ways to keep teams safely on the court in Arizona - while working to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Arizona Region of USA Volleyball Commissioner Harold Cranswick addresses each and every question in our February 2021 update.

"NO ONE likes to wear masks or sit in the parking lot or at home during an event. It is an unprecedented situation that no one could have foreseen..."

THE HISTORY LEADING TO 2021 PANDEMIC POLICY WITHIN THE ARIZONA REGION

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States last spring, the Arizona Region, along with USA Volleyball, was forced to cancel the remainder of the 2019-2020 season – including all of the Junior National Championship events. 

During the summer of 2020, the Arizona Region Board of Directors worked with the Junior Boys Committee, the Junior Girls Committee and facility owners to see what the Region could do to hold the 2020-2021 season and avoid another canceled season. With the continuation of the pandemic, a number of changes were implemented in order to provide safe, competitive volleyball opportunities for juniors and adults.

In order to hold the 2020-2021 season, the Arizona Region was forced to consider the following:

1.    Availability of Facilities
The Arizona Region has traditionally used a number of both private and public facilities to hold tournaments every weekend from the end of December through the end of May and often into the month of June. Public and private schools were no longer an option as most were not open in the fall. The only facilities available to the Region were privately owned facilities.

2.    Use of Private Facilities
With all of the restrictions imposed on business owners due to the pandemic, owners of private facilities were forced to do everything possible to keep their doors open so they could generate revenue.  The restrictions included wearing masks indoors and reducing occupancy in their buildings.  Without the Arizona Region events, the owners of the private facilities would stand to lose significant money and possibly be forced to close their doors permanently.  The facility owners have made it very clear they are being watched by the city, county and the state and expected to maintain operations that are in compliance with the COVID restrictions implemented by each of these governmental entities. In order to avoid being shut down, there are certain restrictions they must comply with if they are to keep their doors open. Some owners would have preferred to host Arizona Region events without any spectators at all while others were less restrictive in their thoughts. 
After discussing with them that the teams needed a few parents to be there in the event of injury or other situations that would take the coach from doing their job, owners were willing to compromise and allow 3 spectators per team.

3.    Wearing Masks to Minimize the Spread of COVID-19
Initially, the Arizona Region Board mandated masks to be worn by everyone but the players on the court. In December, the Board of Directors voted to change the policy to include players on the court. The rationale for the decision was focused on the health and safety of all Arizona Region players and their families, coaches, officials and Region Staff as the cases in Arizona were rising quickly.

FEBRUARY 2021 - WHERE WE ARE NOW
AZ Region Commissioner Harold Cranswick has put together an abbreviated list of the reasons why the Region changed its policy to require all players to wear masks - even during play. 

  • The Region is doing its best to follow the advice of the CDC, the State of Arizona Guidelines and of medical specialists (epidemiologists). Protocols must change with changing conditions and, ultimately, those conditions are temporary.  There are multiple opinions and conflicting reports on both sides of the issue making the decision to create protocol that we could support difficult at best.
  • In December, when the decision was made, the number of cases in Arizona were rising drastically and the hospitals were almost at capacity. The rise continued through January and fortunately is coming down.
  • There are new and even more transmissible forms of the virus coming into play.
  • The Region is doing its best to be consistent across all of the facilities that are used so players, parents and coaches can understand what is required of them no matter where they are scheduled to play.
  • By implementing these protocols, the Region is providing our members with an opportunity to play. That is not the case in other Regions like Columbia Empire, Puget Sound, Great Lakes and many others where they still are not playing volleyball. Minus a few, the vast majority of Regions that are playing are also requiring masks on the court. The ability of the teams to continue to play in Arizona is dependent on everyone taking responsibility to wear their masks properly, social distance and take this seriously.
  • It’s not just about the players. In many cases, the same Site Directors and officials work every tournament. We must protect their health because without them, the Region could not operate. There are also spillover costs to consider.

By making everyone wear a mask, the Region is doing its best to provide volleyball and reduce the chances of players or coaches transmitting the virus to third parties such as family members.

Signing a waiver doesn’t do anything for unsuspecting third parties.

  • In meetings with Commissioners from other USA Volleyball Regions, various lawyers, including our own, have indicated that Regions can mandate masks for all participants. Without supposing to offer medical advice, those players who have serious medical issues related to wearing a mask during play might wish to consider limiting their participation to practices until the mask policy is changed.
  • The policy requiring participants to wear masks on the court is not unique to the Arizona Region. Many Regions and large tournaments throughout USA Volleyball are also requiring participants to wear masks on the court. In addition, the AIA, the PAC 12 women’s volleyball programs and all indoor fitness centers require participants to wear masks during training and competition.

The Region has consistently told our members that their safety is priority #1 and important considerations are:

  • no one knows the long-term effects on those who contract the virus (and particularly young people)    a.    
  • the Region has no way of knowing who players were in contact with prior to or after an event
  • the Region doesn’t want to be put in a position where we have to explain to parents why we exposed their sons/daughters to the virus when we repeatedly said the safety of our members is our overriding concern
  • the majority of our membership realizes and approves of our efforts or, at the very least, is not resisting our efforts knowing they are temporary and this is the way to be able to play for now.

WHEN WILL THE AZ REGION RELAX ITS PANDEMIC PROTOCOL?

The decisions described above will remain in effect until such time as the Arizona Region Board of Directors determines that the masks and reduced spectator restrictions can be reduced or lifted all together. The Region is regularly monitoring what the CDC, state, county and city governments advise. This is a very difficult time for everyone involved.

We understand NO ONE likes to wear masks or sit in the parking lot or at home during an event. It is an unprecedented situation that no one could have foreseen so the Region continues to ask for patience and understanding during this time. Most importantly, stay safe and healthy!


"We understand NO ONE likes to wear masks or sit in the parking lot or at home during an event. It is an unprecedented situation that no one could have foreseen so the Region continues to ask for patience and understanding during this time."


AZ REGION PANDEMIC POLICY UPDATE - JANUARY 12, 2021

Following the Open Division seeding tournament, we found we had a lot of people who did not want to comply with the new mask policy. As much as it is disliked, it is the only way we are going to be able to continue to play club volleyball until this spike or spread of COVID-19 lessens.

This is not a joke; Mesh and see-through masks are not proper masks to be worn. They do not protect the health of those around them.

The Arizona Region of USA Volleyball Board of Directors revised the mask policy as such:

A mask must be worn so that it covers the nose and mouth. Following a strenuous or lengthy rally a brief recovery period may take place. The player may pull out the bottom of the mask to take in additional air. Complete removal, tucking the mask under the nose or chin at any time is a violation. Once the players are recovered and all masks are properly worn, the referee may beckon for serve. Failure to comply by the beckon of the serve, may result in a team delay. Sufficient recovery time is at the discretion of the 1st Referee. However, any effort or tactic to further postpone resumption of play constitutes a team delay.

During time-outs and in the huddle, prior to and following the match, the player may take in additional air by pulling out the bottom part of the mask only. Complete removal or tucking the mask under the nose or chin is a violation. The coach's mask shall remain in place at all times.

Any violations of the mask policy during the match will be recorded on the score sheet and called to the attention of the site director when it is turned in.

Player and Coach Non-compliance - with the First Referee (R1) having ultimate authority and final say in the matter

Any Player or Coach that is out of compliance with the AZ Region mask policy:

a. The individual will be given one warning (Yellow Card) by the R1

b. If the individual is found to be out of compliance a 2nd time, the individual will be expelled from the match.

c. If the individual is found to be out of compliance in a subsequent match, the individual will be disqualified for the rest of the day.

Spectator Non-Compliance - with the Site Director having ultimate authority and final say in the matter

Any spectator who is out of compliance with the AZ Region Mask Policy:

a. The spectator will be given one warning during the entire day

b. If the spectator is found to be out of compliance a 2nd time, the spectator will be asked to leave the facility by the Site Director. The spectator will not be allowed back in the facility during the rest of the event.

The Arizona Region of USA Volleyball is making every effort to allow teams to play... and to do so safely.

We understand there are varying beliefs about the use of masks to stop the spread. However, until the CDC and the health departments say differently, we need to enforce a mask policy. We are being watched. Those who refuse or mock the policy will find us unable to continue to play because of their actions.

SPECTATORS AT TOURNAMENTS

The Arizona Region of USA Volleyball works with our participating facilities to allow 3 spectators per team into each facility.

As the coronavirus numbers rise in Arizona, the facilities may decide they need to change this allowance.

In order for us to keep teams playing, we have to be mindful of what each facility needs to remain open.

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED

We have been asked the following questions about spectators and team camps.

  • Do chaperones or other adults listed on the roster count toward our 3 spectators? The answer is yes. We are counting only required personnel to be entered with the team - including a Head Coach, an Assistant Coach and the players. Chaperones, team reps and directors are not "required" roster positions. Please understand this is an occupancy and safety issue. It is not meant to keep you out.
  • We have a player who has medical issues and needs a parent with them in the facility. Does this person count as one of our 3 spectators? The answer is yes. If the player has a medical issue, maybe that person should not be playing this season - during this pandemic. The team could use one of their wristbands for this parent. But this puts undo pressure on the rest of the team parents who would also like a turn to go inside.
  • Can the team camps have access to power or bring generators to the facilities so they can watch from the team camp? The answer is no. No electrical outlets will be available to the team camps.

TEAM CAMPS AND FOOD

We would like the size of the team camps to be reduced as social distancing is difficult in small areas. Teams should not share food. Each person should bring their own food for their own consumption during the time they are there.

RESTROOMS

Designated spectators are the only non-required personnel of a team who are allowed inside the facility - even to use the restroom. Unfortunately, parents use this excuse to get in and then don't come out. We can't allow this.

UNAUTHORIZED WRISTBANDS

During the boys season, we had some parents use unauthorized wristbands to enter the facility. Please make sure your teams are aware of their designated spectators and allow only those in the building. If we have to impose sanctions, we will to protect the occupancy rate and the safety of the buildings.

We are all in this together and we have to work together to make this year the best we can under the circumstances. No one wants this; We want to go back to watching our kids play and having fun. The athletes need this mentally. Please work together to help the sites, the site directors and the teams run tournaments smoothly.


AZ REGION PANDEMIC POLICY UPDATE - JANUARY 8, 2021

January 2021 ushers in an addition to our COVID-19 Mitigation protocol. The AZ Region is now asking everyone present at region games - including players in the game - to wear a mask.

The primary reason for the additional mask rule is twofold.

Since Thanksgiving, Arizona has been seeing a spike in coronavirus cases which is currently higher than almost any other place in the U.S. A new and incredibly easily transmitted variant of COVID-19 is now in the states, as well.  

To ignore either or both of those pieces of information would mean our Board of Directors are not serious with our ongoing message of keeping the health and safety of our members as a top priority.  

We've put together an abbreviated list of the reasons why the AZ Region has changed its policy to now require all players to wear masks - even during play.

1.            The Region is doing its best to follow the advice of the CDC, the State of Arizona Guidelines and of medical specialists (epidemiologists).  Protocols must change with changing conditions and, ultimately, those conditions are temporary.

2.            The most recent news indicates there is a record number of positive cases in Arizona and hospitals are almost at capacity.

3.            There is a new and even more transmissible form the virus coming into play.

4.            The Region is doing its best to be consistent across all of the facilities that we use so players, parents and coaches don’t have to be concerned about the variations depending on where they are scheduled to play. 

5.            By implementing these protocols, the Region is at least providing our members with an opportunity to play.  That is not true in other Regions like Puget Sound, Great Lakes and others where they aren’t allowed to play at all.

6.            It’s not just about the players.  There are negative externalities to consider.  By making everyone wear a mask, the Region is doing its best to provide volleyball and reduce the chances of players or coaches transmitting the virus to family members when they return home.  Signing a waiver doesn’t do anything for unsuspecting third parties.

7.             The Region has consistently told our members that their safety is priority #1 and important considerations are:
               a.            no one knows the long term effects on those who contract the virus (and particularly young people)
               b.            the Region has no way of knowing who players come in contact with prior to or after an event
               c.            the Region doesn’t want to be put in a position where we have to explain to parents why we exposed their daughters to the virus when:
                              i.             we repeatedly said the safety of our members is our overriding concern
                              ii.            the majority of our membership realizes and approves of our efforts or, at the very least, is not resisting our efforts knowing they are temporary.

GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES TO STAY IN BUSINESS

You may be wondering why cities would be weighing in on how we’re doing.

Arizona’s city and state governments are in control of occupancy levels at local gyms and facilities. Not the region.

In fact, not a single facility has been cleared for 100% occupancy to date.

We're actually very grateful to be able to allow 3 spectators per team as we were originally told we would not be able to allow ANY spectators.

SEPTEMBER 2020 - COVID POLICY EXPLAINER

The Arizona Region of USA Volleyball has a spectator policy stating, “A maximum of 3 (three) spectators per team will be allowed per tournament’” if allowed and depending on the facility’s occupancy guidelines.

The policy was approved in September 2020 at the beginning of the Junior Boys’ tournaments and has been working. The cities of Tempe and Chandler tell us we’re doing a “good job” with managing COVID protocols at the boys’ tourneys and we’ll be evaluating this policy as often as possible and throughout the girls’ club season.

The facilities want to stay in business. And we want to help them stay in business so the kids can continue to play volleyball.

In addition to spectator guidelines, the Arizona Region has COVID waivers, check-in procedures, temperature checks, etc. You can find more information here.

PARENTS PLAY A MAJOR ROLE IN CLUB VOLLEYBALL

We completely understand why parents don’t like these restrictions. We understand this is a hurdle for families traveling from far away. We understand the additional frustration that comes along with losing our freedoms during this pandemic.

The policies are not meant to keep parents away. In fact, it's just the opposite. We are wanting for parents to help us keep the kids active. Parents and guardians are the ones doing the leg work of making sure their kids are coming to practices and games healthy and ready to play without further spreading the virus.

We know how difficult it was for families to find out we had to cancel tournaments and end the last season early. We don't want to make these difficult decisions again.

It is our responsibility at the region to keep down the spread of the virus. Period. The consequences of not abiding by government regulations mean the loss of club volleyball for all kids. So, we’re working diligently behind the scenes to make sure the kids can play. We’ll have to keep these policies in place until we’re told otherwise.

CLUB VOLLEYBALL VS. HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL

One final clarification. Club volleyball and high school volleyball have two completely different set of circumstances regarding spectator policies.

A high school volleyball match has one court and two teams competing in a gym. Bleachers are available with lots of room for spectators to socially distance themselves. A club volleyball tournament, on the other hand, has anywhere from two to six courts in one gym. Bleachers typically are not available and courts are in close proximity to each other. These two scenarios are not comparable.

Also note, school districts work and operate sports in conjunction with their local health districts and the AIA to host high school volleyball matches.

We at the Arizona Region, which oversees club volleyball, must work directly with gym facility owners and schools. The facility owners are working with the local and state governments to maintain their ability to remain open.

THANK YOU FOR HELPING US KEEP THE TEAMS HEALTHY

We are incredibly appreciative of the parents, clubs, coaches, and officials who follow the guidelines. Our only goal throughout all of this is to keep our teams healthy so they can continue to play.

Feel free to contact us at the Arizona Region anytime. We're always looking for volunteers and great ideas!