Soccer on Hold Due to Coronavirus COVID-19
American youth soccer has literally shut down because of COVID-19. What will it be like when it resumes? When will we return to the pre-pandemic life we left?
In this extremely challenging environment of unprecedented disruption, and uncertainty, it is critical we start creating a clear path forward to the other side of the pandemic.
We do not have a crystal ball and it’s too early to know when we will be back on the soccer fields across America, but we do know it will happen. The question is not if, but when and whether or not we will be able to be ready to seize the moment.
From an economic standpoint, the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to be a financial catastrophe that reshapes our soccer world. If the youth soccer club structure starts to fray too deeply, and thousands of coaches are left without paychecks, and kids become apathetic from weeks of dormant tethering to screens — the only ones really ready for the fields to reopen will be the frustrated parents who can’t wait to get their kids out of the house. And, parents will probably not have a lot of discretionary money for registration fees.
I am being slightly sarcastic but that does not invalidate my point. The impact on the youth soccer economy from the Coronavirus COVID-19 increases every week we are off the field. No one ever imagined this pandemic would happen, nor how fragile the fractioned youth soccer market could become.
While the youth soccer market is heavily dependant on America’s school being open — and using their fields to train and play games, there is still a lot of pieces to the pandemic puzzle.
What is the blueprint for recovery? Creating a plan for recovery.
While preventing the insidious spread of the Coronavirus COVID-19 governs our actions, our minds should focus on how to restart the machinery of youth soccer with a better mantra than the Win-At-All-Costs mentality.
The youth soccer club landscape should be to come out of this hiatus better than before — with loftier and more reachable goals that reflect a common “good for the game” goal. After all, soccer is a sport led by coaches and, what coach goes into a match without a plan? And, a good coach always knows how to modify the plan when new threats or opportunities appear.
Change is just an opportunity usually cloaked by fear — and soccer is a sport known for intelligent and brave coaches. Now is the time to come together and create a blueprint for the future.
The Wall Street Journal’s Coronavirus Could Cause Youth Sports Recession reveals the darkside of the pandemic’s impact on the economics of youth sports. It is not news that the short-term impact of the Coronavirus COVID-19 is dramatic, nor is it startling that once again a news outlet covered the fact that participation in youth sports has been declining. What was interesting? Lynn Berling-Manuel, the CEO of the United Soccer Coaches comment on youth soccer’s dependency on registrations fees as a source of operating income.
Lynn Berling-Manuel, who oversees a group of 30,000 soccer coaches at all levels of the sport, estimates that by the time it’s safe to resume play, as many as 25-30% of youth soccer clubs in the U.S. could have folded. “That goes lower or higher based on the time element,” said Berling-Manuel.
What would our youth soccer landscape look like if 1 out of every 4 clubs folded?
And, what happens if ‘social distancing’ stays in place longer and we are not back on the fields by June? A higher percentage of clubs could be the casualty of the pandemic. “The reality of the club world is that many are small to midsize and simply don’t have much extra cash in the bank,” said Berling- Manuel. “It will just get too hard to continue with spring canceled, slim access to summer facilities and the fall season in question. If the fall youth soccer season is canceled, you will see the club failure rate climb.”
If we look across the Atlantic, soccer clubs are pulling together to help each other survive the economic blithe. In America, President Trump’s $2 trillion aid package and the new small business loans may help, but by how much? In the face of the economic consequences of the pandemic and with nearly 10 million people applying for unemployment benefits, the soccer market has to think for itself. How can we bolster our youth soccer market? What can and will U.S. Soccer do to help?
The recovery of youth soccer in America will take time, but the kick-off will restart the massive money-making machinery and if the youth club system is still intact, everyone will benefit.
We will need more than hand sanitizer on the fields to make soccer the preeminent sport in America. Whatever the differences are between organizations, they dwarf in comparison to the challenges we face now, and when we get back on the field. This could be a curveball that ignites real opportunity and allows us to rise above trivial issues.
To understand the complexity of the problem does not mean to cure it of what ails. We can not solve everyone’s problems, or resolve the pay-to-play issue but we can do better.
How will the Coronavirus change youth soccer in America?
What we make of this opportunity, and whether or not we keep in mind that this is a business built on money from parents wanting to help their kids … that remains another unknown.
This is just the beginning of the conversation …
And, just so you know … coaches can make a big difference in the world right now. Read: COVID-19 CANCELLED SOCCER PRACTICE? FORMER YNT COACH TSAKIRIS ON WHAT PLAYERS CAN DO