The high school soccer season has so far escaped the full wrath of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the sport of soccer, which for many local players has turned into a year-round endeavor, has taken a hit because of COVID-19.
Popular local club programs – Century FC and Beadling Soccer Club – have been forced to halt competition at least until the end of April.
It could not have come at a worse time for the clubs, which have turned into go-to opportunities for local players at various ages to play throughout the year.
“There are weekly games, tournaments and regional leagues,” said Century FC president and Peters Township girls soccer coach Pat Vereb.
“Probably April and May are the two busiest months of the year. More often than not it’s about having elite training they might not get outside of high school. Kids can play with top players in the area, in highly ranked tournaments and against high-level players.”
The clubs combine to feature thousands of players of all youth ages, including those who try to better their skills in the offseason and prepare for the upcoming high school season.
Vereb said about 90 to 95% of players on his varsity and junior varsity roster at Peters Township plays club soccer, but it’s not a requirement.
“They are missing out on a good bit of preparation,” Vereb said. “I’m still sort of undecided on what impact it will make depending on the length. United States Youth Soccer will tell us what our timeline is. Another question is when we are able to hold team activities, what are the limitations going to be?”
Both clubs are using Techne Futbol, a soccer training app that allows players to individually create an account and do one-on-one training that focuses on foot skills, wall work, technique, shooting and speed.
“We are using technology to stay as connected as much as we can,” said Bethel Park girls soccer coach Missy DalBon. “We are all in the same boat. It’s not just happening to a certain area.”
DalBon, a longtime teacher in Canon-McMillan School District, also coaches for Beadling.
DalBon is unsure how missing spring and possibly summer soccer will affect recruiting efforts of players, a problem Peters Township’s CeCe Scott won’t have to worry about as she orally committed in February 2019 to play at Michigan State.
“I went up there multiple times and got to meet all the coaches and the players,” Scott said. “It felt like home.”
Scott, who plays for the Beadling 2003 Girls Showcase team, will be a junior next season and has been a mainstay in the Indians’ midfield after playing important minutes during their run to the PIAA semifinals in 2018.
She was an All-WPIAL selection as a sophomore but admits not having club soccer throughout the spring and summer could affect many players.
“It could affect us drastically, mostly the running and conditioning,” Scott said. “When you play club, it’s at a high, fast-paced level. Without those practices and games, you’re expected to do it on your own. I’ve been working with my personal training on my speed, strength and agility.”
Scott’s Beadling team played in a tournament in North Carolina in December and had plans ruined to play in Las Vegas last month. The tournament in Vegas could have qualified the team to play at nationals in the summer against the top teams in the country.
While the length of the suspension because of pandemic concerns is the biggest waiting game, both organizations will have decisions to make when it is deemed safe to return. One of the biggest issues will be parents’ comfortability with traveling to tournaments across the country.
“I hope to get back as soon as possible but safety is most important,” DalBon said. “We must keep everybody safe and well before we can get back at it.”
As far as the high school season, the PIAA recently said that no workouts are allowed for sports teams until at least July 1.
“We are all hoping for a fall season but we all saw what happened to the spring sports,” DalBon continued. “Those athletes were the most impacted. We’ll have to see when things start up.”
The Almanac sports editor Eleanor Bailey contributed to this story.