Special to The Lake Report
For the first time in 42 years, the over 400 youth and adults members of the NOTL Soccer Club will not kick off their season as usual this spring, yet another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is uncharted territory for the Niagara-on-the-Lake club, as it faces uncertainty over when, or even if, there will be a 2020 season. It's possible soccer fields could reopen in July and allow for some games to be played, but that won't be known for a while.
Club president Ted Vanderkaay said this is a trying and sad time for soccer in Niagara.
“I’ve never experienced anything remotely like this,” said Vanderkaay. “The worst I’ve experienced is delayed field openings due to the pitch being too wet. I’ve never experienced anything like this in all my years as a parent, coach or board member.”
If the season is able to start July 1, there will not be enough time to play the usual number of games.
“We will not be extending our season,” said Vanderkaay. “The logistics just don’t work out. If we were to come back, we wouldn’t go beyond August,” he said.
NOTL Soccer plans to follow guidance of the Ontario Soccer Association and the local and provincial governments, hoping that parks and pitches will be available in July.
If that happens, Vanderkaay expects to have a more informal season. “Something around the lines of pick-up games,” he said. Those games would be more focused on getting soccer lovers outside and just having some fun.
He said the members of NOTL Soccer Club are going to do everything they can, along with the Town of NOTL, to get kids back on the pitch this year.
Vanderkaay, who has been president for three years, on the board for the last seven, and coaching since 1990, said he wishes it were different and kids could be out playing on the pitch.
But looking ahead, the NOTL club is solid and will be ready whenever soccer can resume, he said.
“We are on strong financial footing, we are supported by the community and various sponsors, and we understand that some businesses that have supported us for many years are struggling and that’s something we’ll deal with as we get closer to normality.”
At this time, there are no virtual or online initiatives planned to help kids part of clubs exercise and practice. Vanderkaay suggested just going outside and kicking the ball around.
“There are so many videos out there on the internet that can help elevate anyone’s game,” he said. “Just log on to YouTube.”