CHARLESTON — Tuesday night’s announcement of the cancellation of United States Youth Soccer’s Eastern Presidents Cup and Eastern Regional — both originally scheduled to be hosted at Shawnee Sports Complex and at Barboursville Soccer Complex — brought with it significant economic consequences. For area soccer clubs, it also presented yet another hurdle and setback in terms of scheduling.
Cancellations and postponements due to the coronavirus pandemic have come by the fistfuls in recent weeks. As it stands, area soccer clubs are on hold in terms of events until at least May.
However, the two USYS events scheduled for late June and early July formed another crater in club schedules, one the clubs find particularly heartbreaking.
“It was extremely disappointing,” Randall Coleman, president of the West Virginia Futbol Club, said. “It was known that it was probably going to happen, but the timing of it was a little earlier than we anticipated.”
Making life rougher for the WVFC, the club’s second-annual Capital Cup, scheduled for this weekend at Shawnee, was also canceled. Coleman said the event consisted of 134 teams a year ago with 202 committed to descend on the Kanawha Valley this year. The money the WVFC took from the event was to be used to fund several programs within the club.
“It allows us to provide scholarships to an increasing need in areas for kids who want to be a part of travel soccer but don’t have the financial wherewithal,” Coleman said. “It also helped fund our rec (recreational soccer) outreach program where some of our coaches go and work with different rec organizations in the Kanawha Valley and provide free clinics. We also used (the money) to help keep costs down overall so our families aren’t as financially impacted. Losing that event for us was enormous. We canceled about 2,500 hotel rooms.
“I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but we’re doing like all West Virginians are. We’ll roll up our sleeves and figure out another way to do it.”
Aside from missing games and practices, players are also missing out on training sessions and as the days stuck at home stretch on, physical conditioning becomes a worry as well.
Ashleigh Woods is the director of coaching for the Charleston Clash, a gym owner and CrossFit trainer. Woods said she is trying to do one-on-one sessions via Zoom, a video conferencing app, but that keeping up with her entire club is impossible.
“Every tournament that is canceled and every day that we can’t train is difficult,” Woods said. “I train seven days a week and now we’re at zero. We’re getting some Zoom workouts in with the kids, but we’re limited on how long I can do them and we’re also limited by space depending on each of their houses.
“Really though, the kids miss each other and we miss them. It’s tough.”
Therein lies a whole other aspect of the sports shutdown — camaraderie versus social isolation.
Coleman pointed out that relationships are established across state lines and beyond during the course of a normal travel season. For now, those relationships largely have been put on hold.
“Travel soccer is a sport, but these are huge parts of our players and families’ social network and that’s been removed for them,” Coleman said. “In the spring and summer, there are daily and weekly activities of getting together and that’s been lost. We want to make sure we provide them with the right opportunities at the right time and allow them the choice of whether they want to participate or not.”
Just when that will be, no one seems to be quite sure. What most do seem to agree on is that when the green light is given for activities to resume, travel clubs will do whatever they can to get as many events in before school seasons start in August.
Yet that, too, is fluid. Where coaches are used to having a set schedule long before travel seasons start, scheduling may now have to be done on the fly. That is a challenge most seem willing to meet.
“It’s different, traditionally we are scheduled all spring and summer by January or the beginning of February,” Woods said. “Most times, we know what we’re doing through June. Now being in the middle of April, we have to wait and see what we can do in June and July. I know a lot of the parents and the kids feel like I do, and that’s if there’s an opportunity to play once this is lifted, we’re going to be a lot more flexible than we have been in the past.”