High schoolers haven’t been the only athletes to take a hit due to cancellations over the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it be soccer, basketball, baseball and softball or any sport in between, recreational and travel teams from all over the country have been relegated to the sidelines as leagues and tournaments put things on hold until later this year.
With more than 200 players and 12 teams, mostly from Montgomery and Macoupin counties, Impact FC has been hit particularly hard by the unexpected vacation from soccer.
“Our motto, Team Before Self, says it all, but with social distancing, this has not been an easy move for anyone,” said Impact FC board member and coach Dave Reiher. “I want to see our kids, coaches and families back on the field. At the same time, our biggest concern is the welfare of all of the young athletes that are a part of the club, their families and communities.”
The Impact FC teams were scheduled to play in tournaments throughout the area, including Edwardsville, St. Louis, Springfield and Terre Haute, IN, in addition to league play in the CIYSL and SLYSA soccer leagues. All of those have now been cancelled, leaving a hole for the players, parents and coaches.
“I miss the kids. Our particular team has been together for three years, practicing twice a week for seven to eight months out of the year. You become close with not only the kids, but their entire families,” said Travis Matthews, coach of the 2009 boys team and director of coaching for the club. “We’ve been using our SportsEngine app to keep connected with the boys. We send out weekly “homework” assignments for them to complete. Then their parents take pictures of them doing the training sessions and post them to our team chat. The boys enjoy being able to see their teammates even if it’s just through the app.”
As coach of the high school girls team and the U10 Impact girls squad, DJ Morgan has looked at different avenues for working with his two teams.
“I have sent the U10 girls videos for improving ball handling,” Morgan said of communicating with his younger squad, who need more hands on training than the older team. “I keep in touch with the players moving on to play at college by making sure they stay in shape and get their touches in with their high school season being canceled.”
With two daughters, Jordan and Devan, who saw their high school season cancelled, Morgan is all too familiar with that aspect of the quarantine. As hard as it’s been for him to see his daughters miss their senior season, the story of one of his Impact players is even more heartbreaking.
“One player in particular has it even tougher as she signed to play at MacMurray and they have since closed their doors,” Morgan said, referring to Carlinville senior Olivia Turley. “I was able to help her with options and she is currently deciding between two colleges where she will have a roster spot.”
Reiher, who wasn’t planning to coach this season due to work commitments, has been working to keep the Impact family connected as a whole, via social media.
“Putting my coaching status on pause was hard enough to do, but with the current situation it is even tougher just knowing that the kids don’t have the interactions with their teammates. it was easier thinking that I could still pop in to training sessions and games to see the kids and be around the sport that all of us involved with Impact FC love so much.” Reiher said. “One of my roles is working on the website and posting on Facebook. I have been trying to provide some smiles to all of those involved with Impact FC so they can have a look back at the fun we have had as a club so far.”
For all of the club’s coaches, the most difficult part of the shutdown has been that lost link with the players and the shared joy of their successes.
“The hardest part about quarantine is not being able to connect with the players, said Morgan, who has coached soccer for 16 years. “Watching players develop new skills and helping them learn the game is what coaching is all about for me.”
Fortunately, Morgan, Matthews and the other Impact FC coaches will be back once the pandemic has subsided, ready to foster the love of soccer in the youth of the area. While some bigger clubs have had to furlough employees and cut salaries, Impact’s staff is volunteer-based and has been able to continue doing what they love. Until that can happen, they’ll just wait for greener, and safer, pastures.
“We have to do what the scientists and doctors believe is the right thing in order to preserve what we have so that we are all able to get back to soccer when the time comes,” Reiher said.