Ella Birtwistle had high hopes of playing rep soccer and travelling to Vancouver on the weekends this year as she pursues a dream to play soccer at the college level.
But the pandemic has made it difficult for Birtwistle to practice for college try-outs, and now she’s not even sure if she will go for it.
“I’m thinking about potentially trying out, but because of the lack of a season we’ve had I’m debating not,” said Birtwistle, a striker who has been playing soccer since she was four years old. “It stresses me out to think about how little I’ve been able to practice and prepare myself for college soccer.”
As the soccer season is set to begin with modified practices, many students are excited to hit the field but disappointed that they can’t return to usual play. Students say sports are important not only for physical and mental health but to socialize with friends and peers.
Student-athletes, such as those on Peter Skene Ogden Secondary’s girl’s soccer team, are also missing out on tournaments, and just practicing together in general. They are disappointed that girls’ soccer may not go ahead this year, especially since sports such as volleyball and basketball have been happening since the beginning of the school year.
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“COVID-19 has tremendously affected soccer in both the community and at school,” said Julia Siclari, who will be playing community soccer and rep with the Williams Lake Storm. “At school this year, we’re currently not allowed to have a soccer team because it would be ‘mixing too many grade cohorts.’ As for the community, COVID-19 has prevented us from having a soccer season in over a year.”
Siclari added, “Even though we can’t play games, I feel practices would be really beneficial to the girls’ team at PSO to re-build skills.”
Birtwistle said the limited sports opportunities make it difficult for people her age to improve. She emphasized more could be done to stop the spread of COVID-19, which would allow for games and travel again.
“I think there is more we could do to slow/stop it, but unfortunately even if we did I don’t think everybody would listen. I honestly don’t even think school should still be open right now,” she said.
Despite not playing soccer in the past year, Birtwistle is looking on the bright side. She hopes to be able to coach community soccer this year.
“I’m thinking about helping coach if the soccer season is going to happen,” she said. “Even if we have to be in boxes during practice, I think some soccer skills can still be taught.”
She added it’s better to have modified practices than no practices at all.
“I’m sure when the team gets to practice again they’ll have to put in a lot of work in order to get back into the groove of things,” she said. “I feel like, at least for me, a lot of my skills and motivation to play next season has lowered because of the pandemic, but I’m hoping that the upcoming season is good and everything can go back to normal. Hopefully, we won’t have lost lots of players as I know many people may not even come back to playing.”