Governor Jay Inslee’s decision to keep King County in Phase 1 of the Safe Start plan until mid-June resulted in restless teens across Sammamish. Stuck at home with no indication of when things will start to reopen, their impatience grew. The challenge of waiting had been especially daunting for athletes in soccer clubs. Their spring seasons were canceled.
Over the last few months, many soccer players have found creative ways to stay active and keep their skills up, and sometimes, breaking quarantine regulations to do so.
For the most part players, such as those belonging to Eastside FC Futsal and Training Center, have maintained fitness through activities that their clubs had assigned while under quarantine. These training requirements include running two miles for three days a week, frequent Zoom “evaluation” meetings with the team, and participating in soccer drills on their own.
Yet despite the clubs’ attempts to keep their members active yet socially distant, most of the players that the Sammamish Independent spoke to agreed that these solutions were somewhat fruitless.
“Soccer is a lot more than just going and running two miles a day,” Sofia Perrina, 16, said.
Perrina has been a long-time member of Eastside FC since age 7. To stay connected with her soccer teammates and upkeep her skills, she and several of her friends met once or twice a week at the practice fields to kick the ball around without a coach. One of these friends is Maddy White, 16, who has played at Eastside FC for three years.
“Probably eight or nine girls from the team will go out there and do a couple drills and have some fun,” White said.
Until King County moved to Phase 2 on June 19, gatherings of five or more were prohibited. The teammates who did gather to play during Phase 1 agreed that it was a risk worth taking.
“Because when you’re doing it alone, some things can get repetitive, it can get boring really quickly,” Perrina said.
“When I’m doing the workouts at home, I find that I don’t have that much motivation,” White said. “But when I’m with my friends, we all push each other to get better ̶ we all have fun while playing soccer.”
Sapphire Maguigad and Claire Tolo, both 16, play on the Crossfire Premier Club in Redmond. Instead of only taking part in the sprints and workouts assigned by their coaches, the two made it a ritual to meet up at East Sammamish Park to practice. Their activities ranged from passing drills to long balls.
Their collaboration has been mutually beneficial. By practicing together, it gave them a chance to spend more time perfecting their teamwork. And with Maguigad being a goalkeeper and Tolo playing offense, they could not have found a more complementary partnership.
“For me, I’ve been working more on full-length dives and corners, while she’s been trying to get to the corners and get past me, so it’s a good working relationship,” Maguigad said.
The lockdown in King County had taken away almost every soccer club’s chance to hone their skills as a cohesive unit. Part of that cohesion comes from the social experience of playing on a team. Maguigad, who has played at Crossfire Premier for eight years, misses that social experience.
“It’s hard doing things on your own because you’re not getting that social aspect of being with the team and enjoying it all with them,” she said.
Crossfire Premier’s first practice of the season came on June 18, which was a bit late of a start compared with a normal season. However, after consistently practicing drills with each other for the past couple months, Maguigad and Tolo felt very prepared to kick the season off with their new teammates.
Alex Schoenstadt, 16, a member of the OL Reign Academy team, took a different approach. She had spent most of her time at home tuning in to Zoom calls with members of the professional OL Reign team from Seattle, as well as analyzing the pro club’s footage. Her goal was to share the pro team’s skills and tactics with her club team when they return to practice. And of course, there is no better way to keep up on her own soccer techniques than by kicking around the ball herself.
“When playing on my own, I can really tune in to things I need to work on individually,” Schoenstadt said.
But when King County moved to Phase 1.5, she folded, and started practicing with her teammates. It was a welcomed new addition to her lockdown routine to drive down to the fields and play with five of her teammates at most, two or three times a week. All of them were mindful not to violate state quarantine guidelines, but there was a strong desire to get together just for the fun of practicing with each other again.
“There’s things that are best to do with teammates, and of course there’s that social aspect where it’s really fun to be with your teammates,” Schoenstadt said.
Athletes are now seeing a glimmer of hope, and the return of scrimmaging with a larger group of friends, as King County moved to Phase 2 on June 19. Some club players have already been meeting up to play a game or two even when stricter regulations were in place. But now they can do it without feeling like they are breaking the law. Others are patiently waiting for Phase 3, when gatherings of 50 or more will be allowed, for a full return to the soccer pitch and the chance to compete once gain.