For most of us it has been a couple of weeks since all our traditional soccer activity has ceased. It is a very short time, but also one that really heightens a sense of “community lost.” As we navigate this new normal, players, parents, coaches, referees and administrators all feel the disruption.

As parents are anxious that their children have lost an athletic outlet it is impressive to witness coaches being concerned to stay connected to their athletes. Beyond the individual coaches, clubs, leagues, associations and governing bodies have responded diligently in connecting with their membership. Our community has been quick to both ask for support and to offer it. It is a credit to our soccer family.

Now that we are all becoming more settled into an indefinite period of isolation from in-person connection to team, club and competition I wonder if we can do better in framing our needs and our services. What do players, parents and coaches want during this time? How would they like it provided? What are the avenues for articulating their needs? Membership groups need to use their voice. At the same time clubs, leagues, associations and governing bodies now need to listen more critically and respond to their membership rather than assume what a need may be.

Almost all our soccer organizations have posted a COVID-19 statement, many are unique to that organization and some are contradictory. Many clubs and associations have posted a lot of content for their players and coaches to interact with and they have done so frequently and loudly. I believe it is now time to begin to manage that outreach with a greater degree of intentionality.

In speaking with Glenn Crooks of Sirius Radio he shared an excellent idea. He is communicating with his players on the same schedule they would have had, had they been outdoors. In this way the players, while understanding this is different, also have the familiarity with the rhythm of contact. Glenn also suggested that as the players are studying at home and online more and more screen time may not be welcome right now. Furthermore, the players still have full class loads and family responsibility and so perhaps they need less volume of engagement but more targeted engagement.

Just as coaches have wanted to connect to their players during this difficult time so have organizations such as United Soccer Coaches, wanted to stay connected to their members. As such, our association has broadened its digital offerings, offered creative ways to enjoy the benefits of membership more directly and offered solid communications about COVID-19. Several of the biggest youth organizations have engaged us in the desire to support coaches with educational and career related assets. In collaboration we have met the challenge. My hope now is that our member coaches begin to tell us more clearly what support they need and help us to tailor not only content, but also delivery formats and frequency. Full-time coaches still have a volume of traditional work to do and part-time and volunteer coaches are either working their full time job from home or are still required to report to work. So there is not an infinite void that needs to be filled. Also, maybe one impact of our relative isolation from teammates, players and competition is we have time to reconnect with family and engage more in non-soccer related activity.

I am proud of our soccer community for being so responsive to the challenges of our new normal. My overwhelming experience is that parents, players, coaches and clubs and organizations are making decisions in the best interest of the health and wellness of everyone and still trying to keep soccer as a connecting force in our lives. My challenge to all of us is to continue to communicate respectfully and with good intention. We should feel empowered to ask for support, we should be ready or proactive in supplying support and we should be empathetic and intelligent in our dialogues.

We will be on fields in the future and we will only appreciate more the beautiful game for its absence in our lives at this time. Be safe everyone.


Ian Barker
Twitter: @ibarkersoccer