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FC Northwest players and coaches are eager to return to the field, but they will have to wait a bit longer before teams can fully get back to the pitch for competitive games.
The Manitoba Soccer Association issued Return to Participate guidelines and recommendations which include physical distancing, screening, sanitizing, and three stages: non-contact return, limited contact return, and resumption of competition.
FC Northwest entered Stage 1 on June 18, which allows outdoor-only training to resume as long as players physically distance themselves and follow provincial health guidelines. Before then, athletes had been training with the club’s Stay Active series, designed to help them continue training at home. The series focused on physical literacy, ball work, and fitness.
"It became a real challenge for how we’d stay engaged with our players and families," said Ron Sarran, the vice-president and communications director for the club’s board of directors.
"Having something to do and something to work towards was better than having nothing to do at all."
Not only was it vital to help athletes maintain their fitness, but also their connection to the team as well, said U13 girls coach John Bellino.
"The girls had been training three times a week, playing once a week … and to suddenly just stop cold turkey was really hard for them. A lot of the messages I got from them were some of the girls were just not adjusting well; early signs of sort of a depression because they were missing that camaraderie with their teammates," Bellino said. "I was challenging the girls to do certain activities, which would force them to sort of interact with each other through Facetime or Zoom."
Bellino’s daughter Jillian, who plays on the U13 team, said she had success following the Stay Active series, although it didn’t come without challenges.
"It’s kind of hard working out at home because you know that there’s not really anyone with you. I think it makes it more fun when there’s teammates with you and people there to help you along with it if you get confused," she said.
"I think it encouraged me to stay active and it encouraged other people to stay active and not have to worry about coming back and being not as good as you were before."
At press time, Sarran said the club was considering moving into Stage 2 soon but no official decision had been made. The second stage is similar to the first but allows six-on-six opposition activities and spectator attendance.
Stage 3 will allow outdoor-only games to resume, and training may return to full capacity if general public health guidelines are followed. Sarran said by mid-July a shortened season may be underway, at which point the club will begin planning for the upcoming indoor season.
According to the MSA, timelines of stages will be based on provincial health recommendations. The full Return to Participate document can be viewed online at manitobasoccer.ca
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