Closing the Fields

The decision to open or close fields is made by the City of Newton’s Parks & Recreation Department, in consultation with Newton Girls Soccer and Newton Youth Soccer officials.

Every effort is made to update the fields status on the web site (NewtonGirlsSoccer.org), Facebook (like Newton Soccer Fields), and Twitter (follow @NewtonFields), as needed, by 3 pm on weekdays, by 7 am on Saturdays, and by 11 am on Sundays. The status posted using these methods will remain in effect until a new status is posted. In other words, if the status is updated announcing that fields are open, they will remain open until the status message is changed.

The decision to open or close fields is not necessarily based on the weather at any given moment, but rather on the condition of the fields themselves. After heavy or extended periods of rain, many grass fields often need hours or even a day or two to dry out and become playable. Conversely, there may be occasions when fields will remain open even if it has begun raining, because the fields are not saturated with water.

The primary reason for closing a field is player safety; playing soccer on a field that is muddy and saturated with water is dangerous and poses real risks of injury.

The secondary reason for closing a field is preservation of the playing surfaces; it only takes a few minutes to do serious damage to a field that is wet and slippery–and it can take weeks or months for a field to recover from such damage.

Typically, the decision to open or close fields is only made once during a day (by 3 pm weekdays, 7 am Saturdays, 11 am Sundays). If field conditions worsen after the decision has been posted, it is incumbent upon coaches (or referees, if the activity is a game) to cancel any on-field activities. It’s not at all unusual for field conditions to be fine at 3 pm when the decision is made to keep fields open, and then have heavy rains make fields unplayable later that same day. In such an event, coaches and/or referees are expected to use common sense and cancel on-field activities.

In the Fall at Forte and Albemarle fields, where lights are used after dark, Parks & Recreation Department staff have the final say on whether or not fields will remain open, no matter what fields status has been posted earlier that day.

For games, whether intramural, BAYS or other organized league games, the referee has the authority to postpone a game in progress or before it has started based on field conditions, no matter what fields status has been posted earlier that day. However, no one–including referees– has the authority to open a soccer field that has been closed, other than designated Newton Girls Soccer and Newton Youth Soccer officials.

Thunder and Lightning

Following courtesy of John Burrill, Executive Director, Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association:

In the event of thunder or lightning observed in the vicinity of a field, all activity on the field must cease immediately and for a period of at least 30 minutes after observed thunder or lightning. Coaches and other adults present must ensure that everyone goes to safe shelter in the event of thunder or lightning. DO NOT remain on the field or in other exposed areas.

Lightning is a serious danger. Thus lightning safety requires a large standoff distance from thunderstorms and a long standoff time after apparent thunderstorm decay. Thunder produced by a lightning strike travels one mile (1.6 km) every five seconds. Thus, counting the number of seconds between the visible “flash” and the audible “bang” and dividing by 5, provides the distance in miles.

The 30-30 Rule

Employ the “30-30 Rule” to know when to seek a safer location. The “30-30 Rule” states that when you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If this time is 30 seconds or less, go immediately to a safer place. If you can’t see the lightning, just hearing the thunder means lightning is likely within striking range. After the storm has apparently dissipated or moved on, wait 30 minutes or more after hearing the last thunder before leaving the safer location.

First Strike Advice

The “30-30 Rule” is best suited for existing thunderstorms moving into the area. However, it cannot protect against the first lightning strike. Be alert to changes in sky conditions portending thunderstorm development directly overhead. Larger outdoor activities, with longer evacuation times, may require a longer lead-time than implied by the “30-30 Rule.”

When lightning threatens, go to a safer location. Do not hesitate.

Safe Location

What is a safer location? The safest place commonly available during a lightning storm is a large, fully enclosed, substantially constructed building, e.g. your typical house, school, library, or other public building. Substantial construction also implies the building has wiring and plumbing, which can conduct lightning current safely to ground. However, any metal conductor exposed to the outside must not be touched precisely because it could become a lightning conduit. Once inside, stay away from corded telephones, electrical appliances, lighting fixtures, ham radio microphones, electric sockets and plumbing. Don’t watch lightning from open windows or doorways. Inner rooms are generally preferable from a safety viewpoint.

If you can’t reach a substantial building, an enclosed vehicle with a solid metal roof and metal sides is a reasonable second choice. As with a building, avoid contact with conducting paths going outside. Close the windows, lean away from the door, put your hands in your lap and don’t touch the steering wheel, ignition, gear shifter or radio. Convertibles, cars with fiberglass or plastic shells, and open-framed vehicles are not suitable lightning shelters.