‘Start slow’: Loudoun United coach has tips as kids, weekend athletes return to Northern Va. fields

As young athletes and weekend warriors return to local sports fields after the coronavirus lockdowns are eased, and as Northern Virginia enters Phase Two of Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to reopen the state on Friday, Loudoun United’s head coach suggests caution.

“The COVID situation is not over,” said United head coach Ryan Martin, in a WTOP video interview. “Bring your own water bottle, and don’t share it with other people.”

Loudoun County’s United Soccer League team, owned by Major League Soccer’s DC United, is in its first week of training at its Segra Field facility, in Leesburg.

Martin said four players train at a time, with players and coaches often wearing masks and following safety protocols.

Martin offered the same advice to child athletes and their adult counterparts, who have seen league games and practice canceled since mid-March.

“They’re going to want to run out and play, and be back to normal,” Martin said. “We’re not quite there, yet.”

In Phase Two of Northam’s plan, limits are in place on social distancing and the number of people allowed to be present on fields and in gyms.

In addition to the public health restraint, the long coronavirus-related layoff, combined with summerlike heat, can be dangerous.

“You’re not going to be able to jump into a 90-minute game for a young kid or weekend soccer player,” Martin said. Extended practices, in head and humidity, “requires significantly different fitness.”

“Make sure you’re hydrated, and then start slow,” Martin said.

Since current conditions prohibit extended physical contact, coaches and players will have time to work on fundamentals.

“These are the ABCs of your game,” Martin said. “Whether it’s dribbling, passing, the more you can be fundamentally sound, the more it will help when you get back to full play.”

The long layoff has been frustrating for professional athletes, as well as young people and adults — Martin encourages patience. Loudoun United’s games are scheduled to resume July 11 — likely with no fans in attendance.

“It’ll take a while to get your fitness back, so lower your expectations of where you are,” Martin said. “Right now, it’s just an opportunity to get back to what you love to do.”

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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