The first takeaway watching a Chilliwack FC Return to Play camp is that companies that manufacture pylons will be doing very good business for the next few months.
Coach Victory Shumbusho walked around the north endzone at Exhibition Stadium, surrounded by dozens of flat multi-colored pylons, laid out to accommodate drills for a dozen or so teenage boys.
From above you can imagine it looking like a bag of Skittles spilled out on the field, but this is how soccer is adapting, to get players back on the pitch in a pandemic. There is no contact allowed, so everything is ball on foot with a focus on passing and first touches as the boys weave through and around the pylons.
“A lot of players have not been training at all because they weren’t allowed to go to a field at all, so the point of this camp is to get them outside, get them touches on the ball and build up their fitness because the season is going to start very soon,” Shumbusho explained. “Given the circumstances we’re having, we have to follow the rules of COVID and be more creative coming up with sessions that will work on the passing and dribbling. So how do you do that and still have a very effective session?
“So far it’s been good, with the coaches coming together with ideas.”
At the end of a Monday morning practice, Shumbusho had three players inside a rectangular box, moving and passing.
He said it’s a challenge keeping young players at an appropriate distance from each other, because they want to talk and socialize, but when they’re into a drill and staying at least six feet apart, he’s enjoyed coaching with a focus on technical soccer.
He said it may be a blessing in disguise having players ‘limited’ to skills drills.
“Most of the time, you train with a team and you focus collectively as a team, but with this most players are focusing on their technical ability in their own space,” Shumbusho said. “They’re developing skills they’ll need individually, and I feel when players are good individually and they come together collectively, the team is even stronger.
“The more they improve their ball control and dribbling and what I call their ‘skill bag,’ the better they’re going to be when we’re back into normal training.”
The downside comes after the practice when dozens of pylons need to be picked up.
“Normally we’d have the players do this,” he said with a laugh and a smile. “But with COVID and maybe spreading the virus, we have to.”
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