As the soccer season generally begins at the end of August, the off-season is particularly crucial for the Varsity Blues women’s soccer team. For the reigning Ontario University Athletics (OUA) silver medalists and U SPORTS bronze medalists — a feat which made program history — the 2020–2021 season is critical to prove once again that they are a force to be reckoned with.
However, strict physical distancing guidelines under COVID-19 — which have led to the temporary closure of public gyms and soccer fields in Ontario, as well as the postponement of summer soccer leagues — have created barriers for preparing for the upcoming season.
The Varsity reached out to captain Anna Crone and defenders Mikayla Ford and Alessia Cusimano to check in about what they are doing to stay on top of their game during COVID-19. The players noted how they had to adapt their pandemic workouts in response to the amount of space and equipment that they have at home.
Open-mindedness, motivation during the off-season
The players are expected to use the off-season to work on specific aspects of their game, improve their fitness levels, and become reacquainted with the high level of play that is required to be successful in the OUA East division. In the absence of the pandemic, the players would have been playing in competitive soccer leagues and completing weekly lifts to prepare for training camp in mid-August.
Under COVID-19, for players like Ford who do not have access to a home gym or much of the equipment necessary to complete team lifting sessions, this has made for an interesting transition. She has had to use cans or a backpack filled with heavy household items in lieu of weights.
This can be frustrating at times, because she knows that “it’s not going to provide the same results as being in the gym with real equipment.” However, she stressed the importance of keeping an open mind, because this frustration is something that many athletes are experiencing across the country.
The players also note the challenges of staying motivated while partaking in physical distancing. For Cusimano, being confined to her home has prevented her from working on many aspects of her game, which has made it hard for her to stay positive.
However, she remains determined to stay physically active because she knows that it is imperative to do so for the upcoming season. “If I come out [of physical distancing without having] improved on anything, then I have failed myself,” she remarked.
For Crone, thinking about her teammates keeps her motivated to stay fit. “When you know your team is counting on you to do your part, I think it makes it a lot easier to get off the couch,” she said.
Different circumstances, same expectations
Nevertheless, under physical distancing, the expectations for players remain the same. They’re still expected to complete mandatory dribbling and conditioning exercises, along with a total of three lifts a week — with two team lifts being led by their strength and conditioning coach over Zoom.
Cusimano and Ford have also taken up activities such as kickboxing, spinning, and yoga in their free time. “The goal is to just keep working out and training on our own with the mindset that the season is still happening for sure,” Crone noted.
When it comes to holding each other accountable, the players are aware that it is their responsibility to ensure that they come into training camp as the best version of themselves. The large 2020 recruiting class has also served to ensure that they do not slack off. As of February 2020, the team had signed 10 new recruits.
Ford noted, “it is well understood that there are certain expectations for the returning players. If you don’t come into training camp ready to go, it is understood that there won’t be a spot for [you].”
With no word on when the season will begin, the players are eagerly waiting for the all-clear to begin training again.