Like teams all over the world, Penn men’s soccer is eager to get back on the field and is feeling as motivated as ever by the prospect of success.
In the three months since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent cancellation of athletic seasons, the players and coaches of the men’s soccer team have settled into a relatively nice rhythm, centering their schedules around weekly workouts, team Zooms, and overall doing their best to cope with the situation.
Flashback to the middle of March, when Penn had just announced an extra week of Spring Break, and athletic teams anticipated returning to campus for their spring training and scrimmages. Then, shortly after, it was clear that no one would be returning to campus following that week either.
So much was up in the air and the staff of men’s soccer knew that they needed to prepare for what seemed like a definite change of life, marked by a prolonged quarantine. With time against them in the short week, Coach Brian Gill and his staff began hammering out any kind of working plan for a team routine and schedule moving forward.
“Our job as coaches was to utilize some of the resources and technology and try to be creative as we could by getting the team together through team talks, bringing in guest speakers, or trying to make things relevant to them positionally,” Gill said.
Though many people's lives now rely on Zoom or other similar services, Coach Gill recognized and stressed the impending shift to online communication very early on. The team holds weekly Zoom meetings in addition to the players' group chats and more personal communication.
“We’re all just doing what we can, being as communicative, responsive and optimistic with each other as we can,” defender RC Williams said.
Strength and conditioning coach Stephen Brindle also sends workout videos multiple times per week, which are completed by groups of four or five players. Left back Kai Lammers also described how the team stays competitive and motivated with each other through group competition.
The soccer team keeps a running tally of points, which are earned during practice and the offseason. This system has now morphed into multiple groups sending a juggling video and teams earn points based on how many others can perform the juggling trick.
“They have to be creative in their own ways to follow through on the workouts that are being given to them, and to continue the work of keeping the team tight,” Gill said. “One of our main focuses within the program is to have a competitive environment with a sense of togetherness with our locker room.”
The Red and Blue are organized, focused, and purpose-driven. In many ways, the team has become even closer, as individuals really must expend effort and energy if the team environment and culture is to survive.
While the structure and routine provided by the coaching staff during quarantine has been essential, the onus is on the players to ultimately adjust and figure out how to continue striving for the ultimate individual and team objective: an Ivy League championship.
Yet, while every member of the team knows the final goal, the players have emphasized the importance of staying in the moment and not focusing on all the uncertainty of what lies ahead.
“Our coach has always preached, ‘Just control what you can control,’” Williams said. “We try to stay in the moment, do all of our workouts, and stay close together as a team.”
Following a tough second-place finish in the Ivy last season, men’s soccer desperately hopes to play in any season ― whatever form it may take.
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