COVID-19 Impact on Soccer: How One USL Club is Preparing for When Games Start Up Again
Conquering the COVID Crisis: No one knows exactly when soccer matches, on any level, will be able to start up again. In this extremely challenging environment, it is critical to share information, best practices, and tools of empowerment. Here is a look at how one of USL’s top clubs is handling the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic.
This forced hiatus is challenging for everyone. The soccer world used to perpetual motion is at a virtual standstill with extended moratoriums on training. The global Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak has caused massive disruption in our soccer world — everyone is working under unprecedented circumstances.
One fact is clear. It is critical for soccer clubs to use the time since the pandemic was declared to create new ways to manage players and connect with their fans. When Governor Newsom and the United Soccer League, and in coordination with the City of Irvine and Orange County health agencies, made the decision to suspend Orange County SC games in March, it was the beginning of massive disruptions and a new journey.
Days before, Orange County SC (OCSC) just had an exciting home opener and had signed several new players before the season kicked off including Blake Malone, Nathan Smith, Brian Iloski and Sean “Ugo” Okoli. Their next home game was supposed to be on Saturday, March 21st against the San Diego Loyal.
Now, Oliver Wyss, General Manager and President of Soccer Operations along with Jeff Garner, President of Business Operations at USL’s Orange County SC (OCSC) are preparing their players to be ready to hit the fields when soccer starts up again.
Swiss-born Wyss understands the need for a clear and powerful conditioning and fitness program for OCSC’s pros to follow while training independently during this Coronavirus outbreak.
A highly respected coach, Wyss holds a national “A” license and has been an icon in Orange County soccer for over two decades and is a founding member of the highly respected West Coast FC, one of Southern California’s top youth soccer clubs.
Garner is an experienced sports executive and was appointed as President of Business Relations for the USL Championship’s club in June 2019.
With nearly 20 years of experience in sports marketing and management in both college and professional sports Garner’s goal since joining the club has been to further strengthen the club’s professional soccer brand.
Working with Orange County SC Owner & CEO James Keston and Head Coach Braeden Cloutier, Wyss and Garner are strategically planning the return to the field as well as making the most of the time now. In addition, OCSC is competing in the inaugural edition of the USL eCup: Rocket League Edition with 31 other teams from across the organization’s professional ranks.
Interview with Orange County SC’s Oliver Wyss and Jeff Garner
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your goal during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic?
Oliver Wyss: Soccer is one community. Soccer will come back in full force.
Our goal is to protect our great soccer community, fans, staff, and our players by keeping them safe, healthy and fit!
For now, you can only control what you can control — and we have built a club that will be here for many years. We are focused on the details that build great organizations.
Diane Scavuzzo: What was it like at first when everyone was told to stay at home and the games were canceled?
Jeff Garner: After the initial period of shock that we couldn’t play games, Orange County SC has developed a rhythm. The safety of our staff, players and fans come first. We are all working from home.
This can be a time to plan for significant growth and prepare how to successfully get back to the business of soccer.
It is important to use the time to catch up on all the items that one never has time for.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the most challenging?
Oliver Wyss: The most challenging? The uncertainty. Not knowing creates a lot of questions.
Jeff Garner: I agree. It is so difficult not to have the answers. We all look forward to when we will start playing soccer again.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is your new normal like?
Oliver Wyss: We have created work out programs to keep our players in the best shape, physically as well as mentally, through this tough time. Each player has an individual player plan, and we keep track of their progress every day.
It is important to keep a routine.
Each player is keeping fit and going for runs — and, those on the team who live together are playing soccer tennis in their garages and have created workout areas with weights. There will be no excuse for players not to be ready.
Diane Scavuzzo: I am sure this is tough on your players. Especially as the return to training timeline has been extended.
Oliver Wyss: Of course it is and our coaching staff is on the phone daily with everyone on the team. We are proud of how the players are dealing with it. It is especially hard for some of our international players Cameron “Cammy” Plamer and Danny Finlayson who are far away from their families.
Diane Scavuzzo: How are your Orange County SC’s fans?
Jeff Garner: Our fans have been fantastic.
Oliver Wyss: Yes, we are so thankful for our fans and their communication through social media.
Diane Scavuzzo: How long will it take you, from the time the order to stay at home is lifted to be ready to play a match?
Jeff Garner: We are planning for a minimum of a ten-day grace period between when the shelter in place order is lifted and when games kick-off, but we are expecting probably 2 – 3 weeks.
Oliver Wyss: When the season kicks off we will be better — and, ready.