skip navigation

Play ON! Spotlight Series - Featuring: Oak Ridges Soccer Club

By Staff, 09/22/20, 3:00PM EDT


Sam Foti, the Oak Ridges Technical Manager, discussed how they are managing Return to Play, the feedback they have received and the new normal

Play. Inspire. Unite. 

Following an unprecedented shutdown of sport worldwide, Ontario Soccer is continuing to return to the pitch.

The Play ON! Spotlight Series is a Return to Play campaign designed for the membership to help drive awareness and registration as Clubs, Academies, Districts Associations and Leagues Return to Play this summer and fall.  

This campaign will help build communities, increase health and wellness, excite our members, and reinvigorate participation.

We are calling upon the Ontario Soccer membership to inspire and unite the soccer community as Ontario Returns to Play.

There will be challenges and it may be different than we remember, but the most important thing is that we move the game forward together. Unified in our return, we will all Pitch in, Play ON! with the game we love.

This week, we speak with the Technical Manager from Oak Ridges Soccer Club on how they are managing through Return to Play, the challenges, the successes and the smiles. 

Can you give a high-level outline of your process to get back to play?

When Ontario Soccer announced RTP, we approached it with excitement and caution. First, we educated parents and coaches on the process and guidelines we had to abide by. The message we communicated to members was that training had to be done in a phased-in approach to prioritize the safety and well-being of our players and community.

We created a standardized ORSC Return to Play training guide for our coaches, managers, staff and members. Zoom sessions were held with our coaches and team managers to discuss the guide and plan for our outdoor kickoff. We had to recruit additional staff to be field marshals, which are the point of reference at the field, when it comes to following health and safety protocols.

We had initially intended to kick-off both our competitive and recreational programs on the same week. After deliberating, we realized staggering the kick-off weeks between the two programs would help us to best facilitate the process of getting back to the pitch with the new procedures.

It provided us with additional time for recently on-boarded staff to become familiar and comfortable with their roles. It also allowed us to put all of our efforts into having a great return to play for each program in their respective week.

When Ontario Soccer announced the transition into Phase 2, we had been preparing since Phase 1. We had communicated and discussed the details of Phase 2 with our members and coaches from the beginning. Our coaches were prepared and had already planned training sessions for Phase 2, allowing us to transition smoothly.

What made it successful? Or not?

Our guide to RTP made it successful by giving guidance to staff, coaches, parents and players. We also managed expectations, understanding RTP has guidelines in place for the safety of our members.

Which part of your operations are currently functioning, and how does that compare to a ‘normal’ summer?

The club is running modified competitive and recreational programs. The training schedule for the competitive program is standard with two to three training sessions per week.

Now, with Phase 2 of Return To Play, we have had a few scrimmages amongst our teams. In a ‘normal’ summer our teams do not usually scrimmage with each other. However, the inter-club scrimmages have been fun and have promoted a healthy competition within our teams.

Our recreational program usually consists of house league games for U7-U10 and inter town games for U12 and older. The modified program for all age groups consists of an instructional program with small-sided scrimmages amongst our participants added at the end of each session.

What is some of the positive feedback you have received?

The general consensus from participants is that they are excited to be back on the pitch. We have heard numerous parents use the word “excited”, as well. Children have been mostly at home with the closing of schools and recreational facilities. Therefore, parents are happy to have their children being active and return to some normalcy through soccer. As for health and safety procedures in place, parents are all for it. 

What ‘hack’ are you most proud of? Did you make a discovery, or find a way to do something easier that you could share?

I do not think we have found a “hack” per se, but what makes things easier is communication and teamwork. We have a great group of coaches and field marshals that have facilitated the process of Return To Play. We are collectively working towards the same goals and do not want to take shortcuts along the way. We would like to make sure we get everything as close to right as possible. The ongoing communication with club staff, coaches and field marshals just makes the process easier.

If you could provide advice to a club/academy that is currently Returning to Play, what would you tell them?

Planning is the key to ensuring everything flows smoothly with RTP and it is important to remember we are all striving for the same goal. We hope sooner than later to be able to get back to “normal”. 

Is there anything about RTP that seemed really hard in the beginning, but now isn’t actually so bad?

Staffing and training seemed to be one of the bigger tasks, but we got it nailed down in the first week. We brought on field marshals and trained them to ensure members are complying with social distancing rules and safety protocols. At the beginning, it was also an educational process with parents and players to understand and adhere to the ‘new normal’.

What do you see as the main benefits of RTP? For the player, and for the club/academy?

RTP provided the necessary guidelines for health and safety to be the number one priority, while keeping players active. During quarantine, we stayed engaged with our members through zoom sessions, social media challenges and more, but there is nothing like being back on the pitch. 

Is there anything else you would like to share?

The Covid-19 pandemic and RTP has taught us that we have to embrace change and adapt quickly.

And Finally

If you would like to recognize an Ontario Soccer member organization that is proactive and innovative in engaging, servicing and caring for its stakeholders during this challenging time, please contact Bjorn Osieck, Director, Business Operations. If suitable, we would be happy to share any suggestions and case studies with our membership, so we can all support and learn from each other as we all work together to Pitch In. Play ON!