Sporting Missouri Valley (SMV) soccer players had only competed in a couple games before the COVID-19 pandemic paused the season indefinitely.
For SMV Director of Operations Jacques Tournoy, the stoppage put the Kansas City, Missouri-based organization’s 600 players on 50 teams in a difficult position. The season wasn’t officially cancelled and players, coaches and parents were waiting for answers. Since the last active day of the season on March 12, Tournoy has been working on unique and creative ways to keep everyone engaged with the club.
With many of SMV’s players parked at home playing video games, Tournoy figured a virtual FIFA World Cup would provide a distraction while also keeping their minds sharp.
The first tourney featured 72 players divided into an Xbox and Playstation bracket (depending on their game system). After a round of group play on March 21, the playoffs and championship were held the following day.
Tournoy said the tournament was a chance for everyone to take their minds off of the pandemic for a short time.
After receiving positive feedback following the first eWorld Cup weekend, Tournoy organized another e-tournament based on the UEFA Champions League. The eChampions League started on April 1 and goes to April 18, with an expanded group stage.
Once members of Sporting KC, SMV’s MLS affiliate, heard about the e-tournament, the professional club planned a larger tournament that included its 13 affiliate clubs around the region. That upcoming one-day, single-elimination event will include two age groups. Each affiliate will crown a champion, who will then enter another competition to determine the overall winner.
“That all happened because of what we started,” Tournoy said.
Drills at home
When it’s time to shut off the Xbox and kick around a real soccer ball, SMV is delivering a stream of virtual drills to its players.
Director of Coaching Chris Dean sends a league-wide email every Tuesday and Thursday with a skill-specific drill. On top of the daily activity, Dean includes a link to a classic soccer match, along with an analysis of a pro player he admires.
Other coaches are connecting with their teams with Zoom meetings.
“They’re using these online platforms to talk to their players and see how things are going,” Tournoy said. “We have to get creative.”
The club’s upperclassmen are also losing valuable time to catch the attention of college coaches, so Jefferson Roblee, SMV’s college soccer director, is hosting open video calls to keep players and parents informed about what they can do to keep the recruiting process moving forward. Roblee tells players to ask college coaches about their teams and include comments on what they like about the team’s playing style and structure.
Tournoy said communicating with parents and players is the most important thing to do in such an unprecedented situation.
Whether it’s through Facebook, YouTube, email, video calls or video games, the club is creating channels for players to stay active.
“There are no right or wrong answers,” Tournoy said. “We just have to throw it against the wall and try to be creative.”
Tournoy said no matter what is going on — whether it’s an activity for a specific age group or the entire club — the most important thing is to make everyone aware it was happening.
“You can’t just keep collecting money and disappear,” he said. “Forget soccer. Forget sports. There’s a lot of people that are financially impacted by this.”