Top News

Edmonton soccer looking to get back indoors this winter

The outdoor soccer scene in Edmonton this year can be summed up in a single word.

With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down sports across the continent in the spring, and restrictions gradually lifting in stages to the point where activities finally began starting up again last month, local participation numbers for the most popular sport on the planet were, well …

“Terrible,” said Edmonton Soccer Association CEO Adrian Newman. “Basically, EMSA (Edmonton Minor Soccer Association) didn’t run any youth soccer programs at all, people were only basically training.

“Alberta Soccer finally came up with modified training where you could have contact within the cohort structure. EDSA (Edmonton and District Soccer Association), the seniors, began running their first event of the year Thursday with an outdoor, seven-versus-seven tournament. Eleven aside is impossible still.”

And the upcoming indoor season represents soccer’s first kick at the proverbial can to rebound the youth numbers as well.

And with no COVID-19 cases reported over the past month from initial sports groups piloting the reopening of East and West Indoor facilities, the ESA couldn’t have expected better results.

“No, it was amazing,” said Newman, adding 32 men’s and 16 women’s ball hockey squads, along with minor teams played five days a week for four consecutive weeks. “So there was a pent-up demand.

“We’re hoping this is good for soccer when they start up again because originally, some of the leagues were pessimistic that they were only going to get about 60 per cent of normal registration. But based on what we’ve went through, we’re feeling a bit more optimistic.”

The registration for the youth programs is next week. Prior to entering facilities, participants and spectators can pre-register online to speed up the process.

“So we wanted to put the word out,” Newman said. “It’s all about overcoming the fear. We’re not guinea pigs anymore, we’ve done it for a month and we’re starting again with another ball hockey mini-season, so everything is in place at the facilities, from screening and signage to cutting capacity, everything is in place so people should just come and have fun.”

For all intents and purposes, it’s back to business as usual for as usual as business gets in 2020, with some modifications, of course.

The ball hockey leagues reduced players on the floor by one per side to conform to cohort sizes.

“What we’re looking at for soccer in the winter is to get everybody to play on the same system of 45-minute playing time with 15 minutes for cleaning and warm-ups in between,” Newman said, adding player boxes, balls and dressing rooms get wiped down.

It all seems simple and straightforward, but took months of study and preparation to reach this point.

“Since the shutdown in March, we’ve been basically planning and planning,” Newman said. “Luckily, we had the experience of opening our outdoor fields first, so we had to go through some protocols for that with contract tracing and things like that.

“So that helped us prepare for the indoor.”

And with the South Indoor Centre set to reopen, the three facilities will be ready to handle a rush of players looking to make their return.

“The South is only available for use on the turf,” Newman said. “We decided this year not to remove the turf, like we normally do for concrete sports, so we’re ready to go if anyone wants to start playing indoor soccer right now.

“It’s all ready, but the priority was the two facilities we were going to have the concrete sports play on.”

One concrete surface will remain for ball hockey, inline and lacrosse.

“This year, it’s possible we may leave two concrete fields in,” Newman said. “It all depends on the soccer registration. If they drop significantly, then we will definitely offer two concrete fields, because there is a pent-up demand for the concrete sports.

“Once the ice hockey gets going in full swing, they have nowhere to play. At the moment, they can play in some of the city facilities that don’t have the ice in it. When it comes to winter, we’re the only game in town.”

Should positive cases arise at any time, Newman said the protocols in place will help minimize the effect on the different cohorts and safely allow for a return to play once possible.

“We’re excited,” Newman said. “We’re looking forward to getting back to as normal as can be.”

E-mail: gmoddejonge@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories