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20 Oct 2020 4,410

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: We’re here for the coach

Latest information for coaches on the current coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Updated 20 October 2020.

With coronavirus-related restrictions for sport and physical activity still in place, we’ve compiled some of the information applicable to personal trainers and coaches across the UK, with relevant links to further information.

The below is cited from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s (DCMS) ‘Guidance for the public on the phased return of outdoor sport and recreation in England’ and applies to COVID Alert Level 1 (Medium). If you’re in an area in COVID Alert Level 2 (High) or 3 (Very High), check local restrictions.

See Sport England’s summary of what each tier means for sport and physical activity and consult their FAQs for further information on what the restrictions mean for coaches. 

  • ‘Organised sporting or other fitness related activities are allowed (including personal training or coaching) to continue in groups of more than 6 (apart from people aged 18 and over playing indoor team sports, who must adhere to the ‘rule of six’, see below). This can be in any place, indoors or outdoors, other than a ‘private dwelling’ - a term which includes most outdoor space such as a garden.
  • ‘When participating in organised sport, you must not mingle in groups of more than 6 before and after the activity. If an organiser is not able to ensure that no mingling takes place between sub-groups of no more than 6 (including when arriving at or leaving activity or in any breaks or socialising) then such events should not take place. Attendees must avoid social interaction with anyone outside the group they are with, even if they see other people they know, at all times during their visit.
  • ‘To ensure safe practices, personal trainers/coaches should consider limiting the number of classes which they teach to minimise exposure and transmission between groups.
  • ‘Any sports coaches or trainers undertaking 1-1 sessions should ensure they are complying with relevant National Governing Body Safeguarding Policies and Procedures and conduct a thorough risk assessment before engaging in any sessions. This should include particular consideration for under 18s and vulnerable adults.'

Further information from the Government’s ‘Return to recreational team sport framework’ guidance (which applies to COVID Alert Level 1 (Medium):

  • ‘Organised indoor team sport is no longer exempt from the rule of 6. This means that organised indoor team sport should only take place in groups of up to 6 people (unless an exemption or easement applies). There is an exemption for indoor sport for people with disabilities, so this can continue in any number as long as undertaken in line with published COVID-secure guidance.
  • ‘Other organised indoor sport, including indoor exercise classes, can continue to take place with larger numbers present, provided that participants are in separate and distinct groups of up to 6 people (or larger discrete groups from the same household or support bubble) which do not mix with other groups. If separate groups are likely to mix, these indoor activities should not go ahead.
  • ‘Organised outdoor team sport, outdoor exercise classes and outdoor licensed physical activity are still exempt from the rule of 6, and can happen in any number as long as undertaken in line with published COVID-secure guidance.
  • ‘All supervised activities for under-18s, including indoor and outdoor sports and exercise groups, are exempt (provided relevant guidance is followed and risk assessments carried out). Social interaction before and after playing any sport should be limited and only take place in separate and distinct groups consisting of up to 6 people (or larger discrete groups from the same household or support bubble).'

NB You are advised to check whether local restrictions are in place in your area that could supersede the above advice. Consult the local restrictions pages for more information.

Cited from the Northern Irish Government’s ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance: what the restrictions mean for you’:

'Following an increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, additional restrictions have been introduced for people living in Northern Ireland.

  • 'Indoor sport and outdoor organised contact sport involving household mixing is not permitted, other than at elite level.
  • 'Elite training and competition can continue, both indoors and outdoors.
  • 'Gyms, leisure centres, swimming pools and private sports clubs may remain open for individual training only.
  • 'Fitness and exercise classes are not permitted.
  • 'While individual swimming is permitted, swimming in a club setting is not allowed.
  • 'Personal one-to-one training is allowed, subject to no contact.
  • 'Outdoor non-contact sport is permitted, however a limit of 15 applies. Appropriate mitigations must be in place.'

Additional clarification regarding the updated regulations can be found in ‘The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (Amendment No. 9) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020’  

'Restrictions on sporting events

'5. (1) A person shall not organise, operate or participate in an indoor or outdoor sporting event.

'(2) Sub-paragraph (1) shall not prohibit or prevent a person from organising, operating or participating in—

'(a) an indoor sporting event if all participants are elite athletes;

'(b) an indoor sporting event if the participants are one individual and one coach or trainer and there is no contact between participants who are not members of the same household;

'(c) an outdoor sporting event, provided all participants are elite athletes; or

'(d) an outdoor sporting event if there is no contact between participants who are not members of the same household, provided that the gathering consists of no more than 15 persons.'

Common questions regarding the applications of the recent regulations can be found in Sport Northern Ireland’s ‘Guidance for sports regarding new COVID-19 restrictions’.

NB You are advised to check whether local restrictions are in place in your area that could supersede the above advice. Consult the local restrictions pages for more information.

The below is cited from the Scottish Government’s ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on sport and leisure facilities’:

‘Temporary restrictions that apply to sport and leisure from Saturday 10th October within the central belt area are:

  • Contact sport for people aged 18 and over will be suspended for the next 2 weeks with an exception for professional sport.
  • ‘Indoor group exercises will not be allowed, although current rules will remain in place for under 18s.'

Note from sportscotland on the above: Personal training is allowed as long as it is within current household and physical distancing guidelines as per points 22 to 24 in the Indoor Sport & Leisure Activity – local measures of the ‘Phase 3: return to sport and physical activity’ guidelines:

'22. Adult group activity for the purposes of this guidance is activity, involving adults, from more than 2 households / 6 members of those households who take part in an activity.

'23. Recreational activity, such as gym use, 1:1 personal training, swimming, ice skating and indoor snow sports activity where physical distancing can be maintained is permitted.

'24. Coaches can take multiple sessions per day, but each session should not include more than one other household if adults are involved (maximum of 6 people in total).'

Further information from the Scottish Government’s ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 3: staying safe and protecting others (Sports, culture and leisure activities) - not applicable to the Central Belt:

  • ‘You may meet outdoors with members of one other household, up to a maximum group size of 6, for informal exercise or activity.
  • 'Children aged under 12 do not need to follow these rules.
  • ‘You should also consult the safety guidance for each individual activity before taking part. This can be found on the sportscotland website.
  • ‘When taking part in activity outside, where possible, avoid touching surfaces with your hands, sharing equipment and touching your mouth and face.
  • ‘When participating in training or coaching, where possible, avoid touching surfaces and sharing equipment and touching your mouth and face.
  • ‘Sports organisations will need to refer to guidance produced by their Scottish Governing Body of Sport and ensure they operate as per the guidance. Sports clubs will need to have a named Covid Officer who must complete documented risk assessments and ensure all appropriate mitigations are put in place by the sports organisation before any outdoor activity is undertaken.
  • ‘This will include strict hygiene measures and the ability to contact trace participants.
  • ‘They will also need to ensure all coaches, including any volunteers, are aware of and understand their responsibilities under the guidance and any related public health guidance.
  • ‘Children aged 11 and under are permitted to play organised contact sport both indoors and outdoors.
  • ‘Young people (aged 12 and over) and adults are permitted to play organised contact sport outdoors only. In indoor facilities, only non-contact sport and activity is permitted.
  • ‘Where contact sport is permitted, sports can use a ‘field bubble’ where physical contact is allowed on the field of play when the activity is taking place. Out the ‘field bubble’, people should abide by the guidance on physical distancing as outlined above.'

NB You are advised to check whether local restrictions are in place in your area that could supersede the above advice. Consult the local restrictions pages for more information.

A circuit breaker lockdown will be introduced from Friday, 23 October until Monday, 9 November.

The main updates regarding exercise and outdoor activity to be aware of can be found in the Welsh Government’s ‘Coronavirus circuit break: frequently asked questions. Essentially, people won’t be allowed to meet up with anyone indoors or outdoors that they don’t live with.

Notably, ‘fixtures involving professional sportspeople are allowed to continue behind closed doors. All participants, such as players, officials, coaches, and broadcasters, are there in a working capacity’.   

What you should be aware of post 9 November (correct at the time of posting):

The main updates to be aware of can be found on Sport Wales’ ‘taking part in sport and exercise in wales’ guidance. Additional guidance is still being sort from the Welsh Government on children crossing county boundaries for sport.

The below is cited from the Welsh Government’s ‘Coronavirus regulations: frequently asked questions’:

  • ‘Sport, leisure and recreation facilities can remain open, as long as they can maintain all the safety requirements to protect people from the risk of contracting coronavirus. Gyms and leisure centres have to put measures in place to ensure social distancing, good hygiene, the wearing of face coverings (where appropriate), and a gathering of people exercising or playing sport together must not exceed 30 people. They may also need to stop certain activities where people are in close contact because the risk of spreading the virus in the area is higher.  
  • ‘Restrictions for indoor meetings of more than 6 people don’t apply to sports facilities. Playing sport or exercising is a reasonable excuse to gather in a group of up to 30 people.
  • ‘Exercise classes are able to run (even with more than 6 people), but class sizes should be as kept as small as possible, having regard to the size of the room and 2m physical distancing. We expect all reasonable measures to be taken to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus. This means physical distancing and limiting face to face interaction, and improved hygiene (cleaning and sharing of equipment, hand washing and respiratory hygiene etc.) As a result, some classes may not be able to resume at present.
  • ‘As gyms and leisure centres are indoor public places, you will need to wear a face covering when you go there and you will need to keep it on depending on what you are doing. If you are preparing to exercise, changing or undertaking any activity that isn’t strenuous, especially when in close contact with other people, you will need to wear a face covering.
  • ‘However, there may be circumstances where the layout of the premises and the nature of the exercise you are doing mean that it would not be reasonable to expect you to wear a face covering. The World Health Organisation advises against wearing a face covering when exercising as sweat can make a face covering become wet more quickly, making it difficult to breathe and promoting the growth of microorganisms. It advises the important preventive measure during exercise is to maintain physical distance from others.
  • ‘As part of the measures the operator of the gym or leisure centre will need to put in place to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus, they will need to consider when wearing a face covering would not be appropriate and what mitigating action may be needed. They will be expected to give you further information about the systems put in place and what you will be expected to do.
  • ‘Staff working in areas of indoor premises which are open to the public are also required by law to wear face coverings while they are in those areas, subject to the same exceptions which apply to customers.'

Further information from the Welsh Government’s ‘Sport, recreation and leisure: guidance for a phased return’:

  • ‘The Welsh Coronavirus restrictions regulations have required everyone to work from home where possible; where that is not possible, employers must take all reasonable measures to comply with the  physical distancing measures required in the workplace. In a professional sporting context, this means that training and play for our professional sportspeople can continue, provided the clubs – as employers – can take all reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing in the workplace, whether that’s at a training ground or at a stadium.
  • ‘Since 22 June, the regulations have allowed some elite athletes, such as Olympic and Paralympic Games hopefuls, and podium potential for Commonwealth Games, to resume their training programmes. Sport Wales has been working with Commonwealth Games Wales and the NGBs to identify groups of athletes who are able to resume structured training and have access to appropriate facilities to properly prepare for the time when sporting competition resumes. There remains strict protocols in place to allow those athletes to train and prepare safely, without compromising their own health and the health and safety of others. The athletes are allowed to:
    • travel for training in Wales and across the UK
    • train in groups and to train with coaches who are not part of their household/extended household
    • access facilities (for example swimming pools, boxing gyms, weight-lifting gyms, squash courts) for the purposes of undertaking training  
  • ‘We would advise sports, clubs and facilities to consider whether and how they might return to training and / or play on this basis (e.g. maintaining distancing, preventing or limiting actual contact, eliminating or minimising use of shared equipment). Clubs, coaches and trainers or instructors should also prepare risk assessments and consider the guidance below for Sports, Clubs and Facilities, consulting with their local indoor facility owners and providers when preparing for the resumption of their sports.
  • ‘Social distancing during breaks and post-game: All participants must remain socially distanced during breaks in play with spaced areas for equipment and refreshment storage for each individual including officials and substitutes. Coaching staff and substitutes, should, for example, spread out and avoid sharing a dug out or bench if social distancing cannot be observed.'

NB You are advised to check whether local restrictions are in place in your area that could supersede the above advice. Consult the local restrictions pages for more information.

General information for all coaches

We suggest that coaches, who continue to coach, as well as follow the guidance laid out above, stick to the key points below:

  • The coach and their participants remain two metres (six feet) away from each other (and others in the vicinity) at all times.
    • You are at higher risk of being directly exposed to respiratory droplets released by someone talking or coughing when you are within two metres of someone and have face-to-face contact with them. You can lower the risk of infection if you stay side-to-side rather than facing people. 
  • There is no physical contact between the coach and their participants, eg handshakes, ‘high-fives’, etc.
  • Good hand hygiene is observed, ie hands are washed before and after the coaching activity; and hand sanitiser gel is used at intervals during the coaching activity.
  • The coach should ensure that participants avoid sharing the same equipment. Additionally, kit and equipment should be changed, washed and sanitised regularly.
  • Coaches and participants should avoid touching their faces.
  • Coaches, who have participants under the age of 18 or who are deemed to be a vulnerable adult, should seek consent from a parent/guardian or other responsible adult, as well as arrange appropriate drop-off and pick-up strategies, and ensure their participants have clearly defined equipment and kit to avoid contamination with others. 
  • Coaches whose participants have been shielding should read the latest updated guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19.

If a coach or their participants show symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), eg a new continuous cough; a high temperature; loss of taste and or smell, they and their household should isolate at home and cancel any scheduled coaching activity.

The NHS provides further information on what to do if you or anyone you have been in contact with is showing symptoms.

Coaches across the country should be in regular contact with their respective governing body of sport or respective Home Country Sports Councils for updates on guidance and restrictions.

Sport England, Sport Northern Ireland, sportscotland, Sport Wales.

Head to our coaching community ConnectedCoaches to contribute to a thread on how coaching whilst maintaining social distancing will work for you. Additionally, if you register at ukcoaching.org you can download a series of infographics containing questions to help you plan for your return to coaching, and watch our free Returning to Coaching #Time2Learn webinar on-demand.