Local Soccer Club Turns To Technology During Pandemic
Most kids have a soccer ball.
They have a cellphone or tablet.
And — right now — they have a ton of free time.
The Frewsburg Soccer Club is making the most of a bad situation.
With large gatherings across New York state, the country and the world restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, FSC is hosting practices using Zoom.
“I was kind of shocked a little bit. We were planning on a bunch of tournaments in Batavia and Rochester the weekend of March 7-8, and then everything started getting canceled left and right,” Scott Stone, FSC’s president and head coach, said by phone Wednesday night after a workout. “Coach (Ryan) Deppas and I talked about (Zoom) and at first we just wanted to meet with the kids and see their faces.”
According to owllabs.com, Zoom is a cloud-based video conferencing platform that can be used for video conferencing meetings, audio conferencing, webinars, meeting recordings and live chat.
“We had 65 kids last Friday during a trial run with our girls teams,” Stone said. “It went really, really well. We did it for an hour.”
The number of Zoom users has grown rapidly, with it estimated that the company has added 2.22 million monthly active users so far in 2020 — a majority since coronavirus concerns have grown, forcing more and more people to stay home.
“April 30 is the new cutoff, so at the very least this is going to push back our season,” Stone said, “but we are in a situation where we could lose our whole season. We are still hoping we can get word that we can play. Hopefully, it’s not a matter of if, but when.”
Stone has led the practices from the FSC’s Indoor Training Facility at Allen Park in Jamestown with his daughters: Ava, Alex, Addison and Olivia, and son, Isaac.
“After the first trial, we separated the boys and girls because we couldn’t focus on each and every kid,” Stone said. “At first we just had the older kids, but now we have the 10-year-olds all the way up to the 18-year olds.”
The athletes are obviously unable to do any team drills or passing and shooting unless they have a sibling and/or net at home, so Stone and Deppas usually just run them through a series of exercises and skills training over an hourlong call.
“I’ll start the first 15 minutes and do some ball ‘hop-overs,’ pushups and planks, and then turn it over to Coach Deppas,” Stone said. “Everything is geared toward being able to do it in a tight space. They’ll do different variations of moves and touches … and at the end do some core workouts. We don’t want to do the exact same thing every time, so Coach Deppas and I are in contact every day with different ideas of things the kids can do.”
FSC’s club schedule of games was supposed to begin April 25 and run through the end of June with additional tournaments throughout July.
“We had tryouts in November. This is the first year we’ve actually been practicing all winter with some games in Erie and at our place,” Stone said. “We’ve been preparing for this season since November. Even this past weekend, we were supposed to host U-14, U-16 and U-19 games.”
Stone, who is also the Frewsburg girls varsity coach, recognized that although the club teams may not get any of their games in this spring and summer, the training will ultimately make the kids better players whenever they do get back into a team environment.
“Ninety percent of our (varsity) girls play for FSC so we are in constant communication. Losing travel … we dedicate our life to it, but if you start talking about losing a varsity season as well — that’s not a conversation I want to have right now.”
It would be particulary bad for the Bears, who won the Section VI Class C championship last year before losing in the Far West Regional, and are losing just three seniors to graduation.
“It’s hard to distinguish the two. They are different seasons,” Stone said of club and varsity. “I love my club because I’m with so many different kids from so many different schools, but at the varsity level I get to be with one team for three or four months.”
For now, Stone and his coaching staff are just trying to keep a positive attitude with the more-than 100 kids on their club teams.
“I always tell the kids, you never know when it can be ripped away from you. Injuries and different situations are usually what I’m talking about, but this literally has ripped soccer away from us.
“I’ve almost come to terms with the fact we might not play this summer,” Stone added. “Is it OK? No. It breaks my heart.”