How do you play sports in a socially distanced world?
By Mo Hussain, Sports Reporter
Under normal circumstances, this time of the year is usually when the Douglas Royals women’s soccer team’s road to the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national championship would be underway.
However, with the CCAA cancelling the tournament and PACWEST cancelling their season due to the ongoing pandemic last June, the Royals might have to wait a little while before they can get back on the pitch. “We weren’t thrilled that PACWEST decided to end the season so quickly. We knew that nationals (CCAA tournament) wasn’t going to happen, but we were hoping that on the provincial level we would be able to do something,” said head coach of Royals women’s soccer, Chris Laxton, in an interview with the Other Press. “But you know in hindsight, the right decision was made with enough time that we weren’t trying to force a square peg into a round hole.”
The ongoing pandemic has caused plenty of coaches to make big adjustments as to how they go about operating their team. For Laxton, the biggest adjustments he must make involves how he is going to develop and analyze his current players and how he is going to recruit new ones. “We haven’t been able to do a proper training session yet. I have no idea who is going to pick up our principles. Who is going to react under pressure? Who’s going to step up?” stated Laxton. “But I know there are a lot of players who are going to surprise us in a positive way.”
As for recruiting, Laxton says that it will be “the one thing” he is interested to see how it will work.
“I’m hearing concerns from parents and prospective athletes on whether there will be spots, scholarships, and opportunities available to athletes,” he said.
In the meanwhile, the team recently came back to “social distance” practice in August, following the Royals “Return To Play Plan” program. The program is designed to “explain special protocols, training methodology, and strict safety regulations that will be implemented and followed upon the return to play in relation to COVID-19,” according to the team’s website. “The group was really keen to get back. Even though it was not an ideal situation, it was still nice to be back,” said Laxton.
The practices involved each player having to fill out safety forms before coming to practice, placing bags in socially distanced cones, continuously disinfecting materials, using hand sanitizer, wearing masks, and adapting contact drills to socially distant soccer drills.
Laxton says that this week the team was cleared for contact training, but due to the recent harsh air conditions in the lower mainland, that had to be cancelled. As for whether there is a possibility that the CCAA and/or PACWEST can somehow bring back this year’s tournament, Laxton says: “CCAA soccer is not happening, that’s for sure. They definitely couldn’t commit to a season in Ontario for February or March. As for PACWEST, there is still hope for a season. If I was a betting man, I don’t think that can happen. Having to make to trip to the island is very difficult to maneuver. But I really hope I’m wrong.”