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What it’s like when your season is shut down

How is it on the inside of a club when your season is canceled due to COVID-19?

June 14, 2018 - Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, United States - Minneapolis City SC defender Aaron Olson (2) battles Minnesota TwinStars FC captain Anayo Kwazema (4) to regain possession during the Minnesota TwinStars FC vs Minneapolis City SC match at Prairie Seeds Academy. 

(Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)
June 14, 2018 - Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, United States - Minneapolis City SC defender Aaron Olson (2) battles Minnesota TwinStars FC captain Anayo Kwazema (4) to regain possession during the Minnesota TwinStars FC vs Minneapolis City SC match at Prairie Seeds Academy. (Photo by Seth Steffenhagen/Steffenhagen Photography)
Seth Steffenhagen

To have a goal in your mind and be working for it for months on end, is a difficult feeling to put into words. It’s a feeling everyone can relate to. What makes this so difficult is that there is no definitive answer if that goal is taken away. This whole article could be a waste by June/July or we could play no soccer until 2021. This is what leaves us with so much indecision, should I as a coach be preparing for games we may not even play or would my time be better spent reviewing larger coaching philosophical points and spending this time to grow as a coach? As I always say, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle but this is the indecision on coaches and front office staff across the world right now.

What is it like for a player in this scenario? Players need to find a way to stay fit but also sharp without the use of a gym. Finding the balance of at home workouts that don’t cause them to lose much muscle from atrophy, or not working out enough which can cause them to come back out of shape. It’s a difficult balance, but the hardest for everyone whether you’re an athlete, staff, or a fan is when the days pass where you were supposed to do something fun. Like yeah an away day playing in Bridgeview during March was exciting, and it sucked when that day passed for everyone and dealing with those emotions can be difficult for some. For me it was this past week when I fully expected to be in Madison around friends and family from where I grew up competing against their team. Yeah that would be fun and so would going to a beach, or going to those previously scheduled weddings. Ultimately we all need to sacrifice to make this go away, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

COVID-19 is serious and I’m hoping a conversation about sport won’t lead people to think I don’t care about the human impact of this, because I do and I don’t want unnecessary lives at risk. 1000 people at a game is a danger to many peoples health, but this article is a sporting conversation not a human one. The human conversation is something we hear about every day however we get updates on the crisis, one thing is for certain that we didn’t appreciate our first responders to these types of crises enough before this happened.

Back to the soccer, in case you didn’t know...

For those of you who do not know I’m an assistant at Minneapolis City who plays in the NPSL, which as you can read shut down the entire league season last month. However soccer may not be over, as of now no decision has been made on MPLS City II season in the UPSL (so come check us out if we have games and you can watch me attempt to coach soccer and criticize me as you’d like). The bigger indecision for everyone in local soccer is the US Open Cup, which in my opinion could see a great opportunity to grow in it’s brand/importance if they don’t cancel or downsize the tournament to 16 teams. Would it be easier to do that sure, but doing the right thing isn’t always easy, in fact it’s usually the hardest choice. The right thing is restructuring the tournament so that the teams that want to be in it can still compete and the tradition can live on and add a new story to one of the longest running cup competitions in the world.

The elephant in the room for all of this is about how this will affect teams financially. At this level of soccer there is no “oil money” where all problems go away, so much of a teams finances come from game day revenues. Our Co-Founder Dan Hoedeman wrote a great article in the Protaganist last October about the reality of the finances for our club and it’s well worth a read for understanding what local clubs go through and you can imagine how a stoppage like this will effect local soccer.

I hope all the clubs survive this, and I hope after this more clubs are created as the desire for local soccer increases, but the hard truth to hear is that this will probably cause some clubs to fold. As a coach I am privileged that I get to travel to new cities and compete against what their city has to offer.

As of now I do not know much more then anyone does on what will happen with MPLS City, you should follow them on social media for that, but you probably already do. I know the club will work hard to make games happen that people will enjoy as long as it is safe for everyone involved. Since moving to Minneapolis I have seen first hand what this club means to so many people, and I know similar clubs have a similar meaning to many others. There is something special about soccer in this country that I can’t quite put my finger on yet, maybe it’s my nativity but I have genuine hope something will break for the sport in this country at a local level. I believe MPLS City is helping to lead the charge on that which is why I volunteer my time to them and to the community.

Sport can be used as an escape for supporters, for players, and for staff. It provides a sense of belonging, like you’re apart of a family with everyone involved from the coaching staff, to the players, and most importantly the fans. Sure it’s a terrible cliche, especially in sport, but in reality with the time you spend with these people they are an addition to your family. We care about the health and wellbeing of these people like we care about our immediate family, and nobody wants to see people to transmit this virus to others.

At the end of the day sport is used an escape, and I hope every action was considered by decision makers around soccer and that clubs are supported and able to grow. Ultimately we all want to see the sport grow, but in times like this people need to be thinking and caring for each other. Somethings are bigger then sport, but sport can provide people with an opportunity to smile when right now most of us aren’t smiling enough.