Adapting to life during lockdownNews
Written by Ashley Hammond - IFCPF Communications Officer (Americas)
What have you been doing for the past 4 months?
“We have been revisiting programs for our para-athletes and getting ready for an exciting start when we can,"
Francine Look-Hong, Trinidad and Tobago
“My personal stats are what they are, but team stats are much more important and I hope the team gets better coming out of lockdown and we can have a great season,”
Sam Charron, Canada Soccer’s Para National Team
“I just want to get back in the gym. I love the gym, that has been the hardest thing,”
Cameron Delillo, US Para National Team
“We have had to be more creative with a lot more technical work, but we know we can't let up. So, we train hard and the other guys are great and we all keep each other going,”
Drew Bremmer, Team US Para National Team
“Make sure that you don't take things for granted, cherish the little things, we are actually quite lucky,”
Duncan McDonald, Canada Soccer’s Para National Team
Uncertainty and financial instability are rarely good for vulnerable populations. It was hard to find a Para program before the pandemic that could report that they were either adequately or overfunded. Stretching dollars and cents in the “new world” will likely take on an added dimension for program heads.
Adaptability and creativity, however, are synonymous with CP players and coaches. With this in mind, we wanted to check in with our North American programs and find out how life under lockdown has impacted the coaches and the athletes and see what they have been up to for four months.
We spoke with some players and coaches in lockdown and asked them about life in their neck of the woods. We spanned the Americas from British Columbia to rural Pennsylvania and down to the milky white sands of the Caribbean.
Drew Bremmer, U.S. Men's Para 7-a-side team, has been in Atlanta, GA for lockdown, and he and his roommates became creative with a head tennis court etched on the driveway. When asked what he misses the most, Drew offered a typical player's answer, he “missed competing." One would expect no less from a veteran of many IFCPF tournaments and a top member of the U.S. team. Drew is one of the US players currently under contract with U.S. Soccer, and fortunately for him, he is going through the quarantine with three other U.S. players. This has been a very positive part of lockdown but Drew knows that all of the players around the country crave the whole team being back together.
Sam Charron, in Ottawa, gave a similar answer. Although Sam is enjoying time with his parents, he is now ready to get back on the field. Having graduated St. Francis Xavier in Nova Scotia this month, with a degree in International Business, Sam had the same visceral reaction as Drew to the question 'what do you miss the most'. He said “I just want to play,” no surprise from the 2019 IFCPF World Cup MVP. With two big titles this year, Canada's young talisman has adapted to life in lockdown with home workouts and extra technical work to keep himself in tip-top shape.
We also touched base with Precious Adams in Trinidad and Tobago. Precious has been trying to get to the park as much as possible but has enjoyed the time at home. “I am ready to get out more, I miss being able to see everyone as much and train and play,” added Precious.
The perseverance and hard work of Francine in Trinidad have seen her program grow since they ran a camp last Easter. The program features a wide range of balancing exercises as well as traditional soccer skills like passing and shooting. Francine says that the program has been shut down but remains optimistic that they will get back to work very soon.
Precious, who is a valuable member of the program said that “I have been to the park as much as possible to keep training but I can't wait to be able to see my friends and train more,” and we know Francine can be proud of a lot. Trinidad and Tobago is a valued member of IFCPF and is happy to be slowly getting back to work with their athletes.
In a small town in Pennsylvania, Cameron Delillo, Team USA, has enjoyed time playing with his dad and brother. When the local town padlocked the fields, they had to keep searching for places to train. “This was not easy but we were determined and we have found a way to play, luckily I live in a small rural town so we have managed to find space somewhere."
Cameron and Sam share a similar disappointment. Cameron's loss of his college semester at Kutztown University was particularly difficult as he made some wonderful friends and added “I just can't wait to hang out with my friends again."
Duncan McDonald, Canadian Para National team midfielder lives in a small town called Powell River in British Columbia. “We don't have any confirmed COVID cases yet so we are not as impacted as many others who are suffering”. This has allowed Duncan a little more time to do some of the fun stuff like listening to music and walking the dogs. Duncan also has a cool job. While not at the University of Victoria also in BC, Duncan works with other disabled and needy people helping them and taking care of them in their homes. One thing is for sure, COVID has taken away a lot from many people, but the Canadian Para team will be a winner with super smart and exceptionally nice community-oriented players. Duncan spends his time working on financial mathematics and economics at university and Duncan has also worked out that playing for Canada is unparalleled and “the most amazing feeling to pull on the shirt."
Moving forward, the uncertainty will ultimately be the stressor of the program leaders. In Canada, Drew Ferguson the long time veteran head coach has a very philosophical approach.
“It means I will have to work even harder next year with more road trips and work to get the squad back together again.”
Both the top man in Canada and the USA lamented the inability to get the guys together; “We've been busy! The pause in the game has required us to rethink how we program with the national team players and how we keep them progressing appropriately” said Stuart Sharp - head coach of the US Para 7-a-side team. Coach Sharp added, “USPNT are pretty active on social media, sharing stories, game footage, and information to help, amongst other things, to contribute to growing the game."
“We are very lucky that the Canadian Football Association is so supportive of us and through this, we have worked hard to keep the players focused and ready for the next camp,” added Coach Ferguson.
With 15 years in charge of the Men's Para team in Canada, Coach Ferguson has the trust and respect of his players who spoke of their love of playing for him and Canada.
Coach Sharp has generated a similar loyalty to the rigor and the badge, and feels good about the future, “I feel that we have used the time effectively to make some improvements in our processes and also attracted new male and female players into the sport at all levels.”
Uncertainty may be endemic but it cannot be found in the minds of the top Para programs in the Americas.