Edward Little’s Noah Peck, left, and Lewiston’s David Abdi battle for control of the ball during a boys soccer game at Edward Little High School in September. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

Edward Little boys soccer coach Tim Mains recognized a positive aspect of sanitizing breaks the first time his team had one this season.

Edward Little girls soccer coach Miles Bisher tosses the ball to a player before the start of a game against Mt. Blue in Auburn in Sept. 2018. Tony Blasi/Sun Journal file photo

The Red Eddies were on the ropes midway through the first half of their season-opener against rival Lewiston, but Mains took advantage of the rule and made an in-game adjustment, the likes of which he previously wouldn’t have been able to make until halftime. Edward Little still ended up losing, but Mains’ adjustment made the Eddies more competitive.

“I love the sanitizing breaks. Sometimes you will see something from the sidelines, and it can be a handful to make the adjustment from the sideline,” Mains said. “I essentially look at it as a timeout — talk about changes we need to make, what we’re doing well, etc. They’re high school kids, sometimes it is really important to have the chance to talk to them and remind them of a particular game plan or move on from one that isn’t working.”

One of a few changes the Maine Principals’ Association made this season in the name of protecting against COVID was the addition of, as it’s written in the MPA’s 2020 soccer bulletin, “an official’s break for water and hand-sanitizing at the first natural stoppage after the 20:00 mark of each half.”

Edward Little’s girls soccer coach Miles Bisher said he was skeptical of the breaks going into the season.

“If you’re a soccer purist, the idea of breaking up the flow of the game like that is a bit jarring. But I’ve started to think of our games like basketball games, with four distinct quarters,” Bisher said. “There’s a reason why soccer coaches at the professional level are called managers, and it’s because they can’t really do much in-game coaching, they can only manage the game with substitutions and spur of the moment changes in formation. These sanitization breaks allow coaches to do more actual coaching, and make significant changes in the middle of a half, when that would previously only happen at halftime.”

Leavitt boys coach Zac Conlogue, who also coaches basketball at Mt. Blue, said he wasn’t sure what the breaks were going to look like going into the season, but was prepared to treat it like a 30-second timeout in basketball. He has found, however, that he has had more time than that.

“I am actually able to get to a lot of important information,” Conlogue said.

“We use them as another halftime,” he added. “It’s great to use as a timeout to make a change to what is happening on the field. … Players also focus more right before the sanitation break to gain the momentum going into the break.”

Conlogue said the breaks have, for his team, turned games into four quarters, and the Hornets’ goal is to win each quarter.

“If we have a good 20 minutes, we try to do more of the same with a few adjustments. If we have a bad 20 minutes, we make an adjustment or switch formations,” he said.

Bisher said he sees some differences in the breaks for each half.

“The first-half break is generally geared toward affirmations and adjustments: what’s working, what’s not working, how can we adjust?” Bisher said. “And the score will dictate how we use the second-half break, but at that point there is more of a focus on water and getting a quick rest, along with a message about how we want to finish the game.”

Monmouth Academy head coach Gary Trafton gives Alicen Burnham a hug after Trafton put substitutes in with a 4-0 lead over St. Dom’s late in the second half of a Class C South girls soccer semifinal in Monmouth in Oct. 2017. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo

The new breaks have Monmouth/Winthrop girls coach Gary Trafton thinking about games in the past when he would have liked to have had a timeout at his disposal — “Mostly when things, they’re starting to press you, and you’re on your heels and you’re just hunkering in and just playing defense,” he said — but he’d rather play the full 40 minutes of a half because his teams are usually have the conditioning to withstand non-stop play and can use it to their advantage. But he’s also seen the positives of having time to talk strategy with his players.

“I mean, we had a scrimmage and the first game or two, then you kind of start figuring out some extra things to do with that timeout, and change some things with the kids,” Trafton said. “And then you can kind of talk to them and show them exactly what you want, instead of trying to pull them out of the game and bring them back in.”

Trafton said the game situation usually dictates how he uses his break.

“If it’s a close game then we might say something for a corner kick or a direct play that we might run a play, so when it happens they know exactly instead of me trying to tell them it’s going to be a play one, two, three or four, whatever,” Trafton said. “Make sure everybody knows what they’re doing instead of having them … wondering what’s going on out there. They’re a little more composed for that time because they have a chance to kind of relax and listen a little bit better.”

Bisher said he appreciates that extra time to talk to his players about what they’re seeing on the field.

One issue, he’s found, is when there’s a longer-than-usual wait after the 20-minute mark for the break to occur.

“The one wild card … is the referee’s discretion to stop the game,” Bisher said. “There have been times when I’ve held off substituting a player and the official either forgot about the break at the 20-minute mark, or let play continue for another minute or two, and if a player is gassed, those few minutes can potentially make the difference in a goal being scored.”

Monmouth Academy girls soccer coach Gary Trafton runs practice in Monmouth in Aug. 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

Poland Regional High School goalkeeper Trevor Robbins makes a save as Tanner Sawyer, right, of Leavitt Area High School and Aiden MacFawn of Poland zone in on the ball during the second half in Poland on Oct. 10. Watching in the background are Leavitt assistant boys coach Todd Johanson, back left, and Leavitt girls coach Chris Cifelli, back right. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

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