OLDS — The Olds Minor Soccer Club (OMSC) is gearing up for activity this spring, but it won’t be like any other season.
Due to COVID restrictions, the clubs's teams will only practise twice a week at the Rotary Athletic Park from May 3 until the week of June 21.
They won’t play in any games.
OMSC president Blake Machan said those are the restrictions as laid down by the Alberta Soccer Association.
Machan admits that’s pretty tough for coaches, parents/caregivers and players – especially the players, who had been looking forward to game action.
But the organization is doing its best to make those practices fun and productive. The goal is to keep the kids moving and engaged by teaching them soccer skills and strategy.
"Depending on the age groups, we do apply what is called the long-term player development structure. So as the kids progress, the skills will progress as well,” Machan said during an interview.
“So we’re going from ball skills, general field awareness and positional awareness into putting the ball into open space and creating space, passing; sort of the general skills and layering those into the sessions.”
The younger they are, the less time kids will stay focused, so the sessions will be tight – held to less than an hour, he said.
“Even for our U6 group it’s only a 45-minute session, so our focus is going to be that it’s nice and concise and condensed, but that we’re not just sort of standing around and passing the ball back and forth,” he said.
“It’s going to be key for us that we’re keeping the kids moving and keeping them engaged as much as we can.
“Obviously not playing in games is hard on the kids, but it’s one of those things where you have to kind of look for the silver lining, which is we’re going to be outside and learning new skills and playing soccer and being together.”
He noted that last year the kids didn’t even get on to the field at all because the first shutdown occurred just as they were getting organized.
Machan fears for the long-term survival of OMSC if the community is continually hit with shutdowns.
He said normally, the OMSC attracts 330 to 350 kids. However, this year, only 185 had registered as of last week.
“You look at sort of the sustainability of these clubs long-term,” he said. “If we’re continuously not putting a product on the field, it becomes harder and harder to get people re-engaged, so we don't’ want to lose that.”
He said frequent changes in the rules have resulted in uncertainty and frustration for some.
“We’ve tried to create as much clarity for our members and also being focused on the development of the kids; letting kids sort of express their love for the game and be out there and be with their friends,” he said.
“Obviously during this time there’s been a lot of this readjusting and pivoting, so that’s what we’re having to do.
“The season will be very different from years past but we are very excited about the product OMSC will put on the field and it is all because of our great team of volunteers that we are able to make it happen."