Boy's memory lives on through soccer safety measures
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The memory of a 6-year-old Vernon Hills boy who died in 2003 after a soccer goal post fell on him will live on in a new law aimed at preventing other children and their families from suffering the same tragedy.
With the boy's family looking on Tuesday, Zach's Law — or the Movable Soccer Goal Safety Act as it's formally known — was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn at the Waukegan SportsPark.
The two-pronged piece of legislation, named after Zachary Tran, requires all movable soccer goals manufactured and sold in Illinois to be properly anchored and tip-resistant, among other safety criteria.
"It's a very emotional day for us," Zach's mother, Michelle Tran, said at the signing ceremony also attended by Zach's father, Jayson, and three siblings. "We thank you for passing this law. It's important and wonderful in a way that it can help others."
Also on hand were two of the bill's sponsors, state Sen. Terry Link, and state Rep. Carol Sente.
"This is a special type of legislation when it has a personal meaning to it," Link added. "Finally we can say to Zach, 'We got it done!'"
Under the law, all movable soccer goals, both in and out of play, must be secured down through number of measures, including spikes, permanent in-ground systems, locks, and weights. Weighted backbars can be used to prevent tipping.
"Zach was a person with boundless energy, very involved, and he believed in sports. The tragedy that occurred was a wake-up call," Quinn said.
Mary Jane Bender, executive director of the Illinois Youth Soccer Association, said the organization has always had goal safety awareness and policies that addressed the issue.
"After the Zach Tran case, the penalties were increased," Bender added. "Any coach or entity who is responsible for a field or game where the goal is not anchored will be fined $1,000."
Hugh Orlicz, volunteer tournament director the youth soccer association, said he visits different tournament sites regularly for safety checks and discussions.
"We have mandatory tournament meetings with directors and referees about goal safety," he said. "But we really haven't had any issues in the last couple of years."
Terry Ruff, president of the Palatine Celtic Soccer Club, said all of the program's goals are staked into the ground to prevent tipping.
"We recently purchased four movable goals for our new turf fields and they are being fitted with counterweights to prevent tipping," Ruff said.
"Any legislation that creates awareness and prevents injury is a positive in my book," he added.
Before the new legislation was signed into law Tuesday morning, South Elgin village board members approved a policy outlining guidelines concerning the use and storage of movable goals. Village Administrator Larry Jones said staff members also recommend the guidelines extend to any outside groups, like soccer clubs, that use village parks.
While the Trans were thankful for the legislation, they said that it is only one of many steps in the right direction. Since Zach's death, they have worked to improve soccer goal safety nationwide and have seen similar legislation passed in Arkansas and Wisconsin. They also founded a group called Anchor For Safety, which connects families that have experienced similar tragedies.
"This is just the beginning," Jayson Tran said. "People still need to do the right thing. We'd like to expand it to the federal level."
"If we need to take it state by state, we'll do whatever we need to do to keep it moving," Michelle Tran added.
• Daily Herald staff writer Tara Garcia Mathewson contributed to this report.
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