How the pandemic affected youth soccer
By Mo Hussain, Sports Reporter
“Where you’re switching from elementary school to high school, the one constant you have in your life is sport. You can rely on your team, and you can rely on that physical outlet.”– Peter Schad, BC Soccer’s Marketing and Communications Officer
As we discussed last week, the pandemic was a massive roadblock for organized sports. The restrictions had a significant impact on professional and collegiate athletes; now imagine the effects of shutting down youth sports for developing teenagers. Peter Schad, BC Soccer’s Marketing and Communications Officer, gives the Other Press his perspective on what the last year has been like for both the league and its youth players:
Other Press: How did the pandemic impact youth registration?
Peter Schad: “The youth season ended in March. When June came around, it felt like there was soccer again. In July, it looked a little bit more promising. When we got closer to the fall, it seemed like we were gonna get back to playing soccer in a cohort model. We’re trying to remain in neighbouring districts only, so we weren’t sending people traveling because of the non-essential travel. There was a drop off in registration, but I didn’t think it was as bad as we thought it was going to be. What’s really interesting is that right now is pre-registration for a lot of the interior season (Kelowna, Kamloops, etc)—and they are showing some really good signs. What we’ve heard from our members is they’re very encouraged, looking ahead to summer and fall.”
OP: How have young players reacted to this whole situation?
PS: “From my experience coaching U-12, it’s really hard to keep a bunch of orangutans apart from each other. I’m not sure if this is the same for everybody but we’re magnificent. We went through all the protocols, we talked about all the things you have to do. Our club made it very clear exactly what they wanted. I think for the most part, people were really respectful of the rules and regulations.
But I’m very concerned and very worried about the outcome of this. Where you’re switching from elementary school to high school, the one constant you have in your life is sport. You can rely on your team, and you can rely on that physical outlet. Then all of a sudden, it’s gone. My concern is the psychological effects in the long run.
We’re just hoping that things improve on the case front, on the variant fronts, and on the vaccination front so that we can get back to it because the psychological outcome is the untold story of the pandemic. There’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of uncertainty, and we’ve created a fear-based culture. We’re supposed to be afraid of going to school, we’re afraid of going shopping, etc. That is the most disappointing thing about this last year.”
OP: What have you guys been doing to keep the youth engaged?
PS: “In the initial stages last year, it happened very organically which is one positive that came from the pandemic. People were starting to juggle toilet rolls. What we notice in the human spirit is that people will overcome things, and they’ll make their own activities. That’s what a lot of people did. We encourage the at home skills challenge. We created all sorts of programming done in isolation to keep everybody sharp. We tried to arm the coaches with as much material as possible, in addition to what they were already doing.
Of course, you know, BC soccer is the governing body, and we don’t actually deliver the soccer experience. The club’s membership delivers. We’re the governing body, our job is to support everybody and help them as much as we can get through things. Our clubs have been doing a great job thus far.”
OP: What are your projections for the foreseeable future for BC Soccer?
PS: “We were hoping that we were going to get back to having contact gameplay that we were sort of experiencing in September by the end of this month. I’m going to remain positive which is all we can do and be hopeful prepared. The other thing that was a really good outcome of this pandemic was we had time to do some things that we haven’t had time to do. We had time to look at some of our policies, and we had time to examine our departments no matter what they were.
We’ve also been able to connect with our members via Zoom. Before you either get on the phone, you send an email, or you drive up. Zoom, and other video applications, are actually a really great thing because we’ve connected with so many of our membership clubs.
In that sense, I will say that this year has actually been a real benefit because we’ve connected with members in a new way. We feel more connected now to our members whether they’re in the valley or in Prince George. This has been good in that regard.”