photo courtesy of gobonnies.sbu.edu
By Jonny Walker
ST. BONVENTURE, NY — This past week, the St. Bonaventure men’s soccer team was cleared to enter phase three of the university’s COVID-19 return to play action plan.
The plan allows the team to resume contact drills, which were explicitly banned in phase two, but restricts them to training within smaller groups rather than intermingling with the whole team.
Players, who are still expected to wear face coverings when not actively participating in a workout, were split up into their respective groups based on multiple factors, the most important of which being their proximity to one another on a normal field of play.
For instance, a left-center back and a left back would be placed in the same group based upon them playing positions that line up adjacent to one another on the field, while also often working together.
The Atlantic-10—the conference to which all of St. Bonaventure’s NCAA Division I sports programs belong—officially announced its decision to indefinitely postpone all conference-sponsored games and championships way back in July. However, men’s soccer has sought to maintain some semblance of normalcy throughout this fall.
Despite the lack of games to prepare for, the team has held to a relatively rigorous practice schedule amidst the pandemic, holding training sessions five days a week.
According to head coach Kwame Oduro, this idea of training for a game that is an indefinite amount of time away works both for and against his squad.
One of the main points of any practice from a coach’s perspective, Oduro said, is to ,”Implement your philosophies and your principles.”
The lack of competition for the foreseeable future enables the sixth-year head coach to “Take (my) time getting those principles and ideas to our players.”
On the other hand, Oduro believes that there is no true way to evaluate where his players are currently at in that process without the test of real, game-time action against an actual opponent.
“The things that we do in training, we’re not getting to use them in a game,” Oduro said. “Playing against your teammates is one thing, but it’s another thing when you have to play against different competition, which, sometimes, you know very little about. It forces you to actually develop and grow faster.”
Optimism surrounding the possibility of games being played this fall may be at an all-time low, as, when asked, Oduro said that he does not believe his team will be able to play until at least 2021.
“That’s the bottom line,” he said.
He did, however, point to competition resuming in the spring being much more probable.
A vaccine, alongside learning from the example of other sports that would have already returned to play by that point, such as football and basketball, has Oduro excited about the possibility of spring soccer.
Oduro also said that he does not take the COVID-19-related restrictions being imposed upon his team to be over-bearing or unnecessary, and that he and his staff are very much appreciative of the efforts to keep him, his players, and the community safe.
“Let them know that we thank them for giving us the chance to be able to train and play and do the things that we love the most,” he said.