“It allowed all of us to escape the world for a bit”
How an Orangeville soccer coach stayed connected when practice was cancelled.
This year has been a challenging one for almost every person on the planet – and amateur sport volunteers are no exception. I have coached soccer locally for over a decade. This year has caused leaders in sports all across the world to have to adapt to a new environment and find ways to keep our athletes engaged. For more than three months we couldn’t observe our players’ technical skills in person. Instead many coaches like me set up live video sessions through Zoom, Skype and other online meeting providers in order to continue to offer weekly training opportunities. I experienced the frustrations of dropped calls, frozen screens and lagging feeds while my players attempted to decipher my instructions.
Like many coaches though, I continued to persevere, not for the purpose of ensuring the 11-year-old player didn’t fall behind in their training, but more importantly to try and offer them some semblance of the “old” norm, so they could stay connected with me and each other once or twice a week. Sometimes we trained, other times we played online games, such as charades or Pictionary, or got creative and offered up scavenger hunts the team manager organized. The opportunity to keep that weekly appointment to check in with each other was a small piece of sanity we could offer in a time of uncertainty, and sometimes fear. It allowed all of us to escape the world for a bit and get together like we once took for granted.
As spring rolled into summer, we were allowed to get back outside, but keeping physical distancing practices in mind. Where once I would show up for practice about 15 minutes beforehand, now I’d arrive 45 minutes early. I would set up 10-by-10-foot squares, each six feet apart so that players stayed safe. Players added sanitizer bottles and wipes to their regular training bags, and were reminded not to help the coach pick up the cones at the end of practice. We recorded attendance to assist in contact tracing, and we questioned each player every session on their recent activities, to ensure they were doing their part to stay as safe as possible.
Hopefully things will continue to improve in the Headwaters region as we go forward. For now though, I’m happy to connect with my young athletes and co-coaches each week – once again outdoors.
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