When our 2nd ever Premiere Soccer League of Chicagoland season was cancelled this summer, we knew this would be a challenging off season - and hopefully the longest off season in the club's eventual history. Due to necessary State & CDC regulations, clubs below professional ranks are limited to exclusively play scrimmages within their own squads - no competition against other clubs at any point is allowed until we reach a safer climate amidst the pandemic. ECFC's staff (myself very much included) were at a bit of a loss as to how we could possibly continue any momentum with our young club amidst such a serious and obviously life-threatening pandemic.
One of the major challenges we clocked in this murky period of time ahead of us was the fact that we are not a well funded professional soccer club. We are a small, sustainable, organic-growth-oriented community organization. At no point in our history (or our near future) have we been able to throw money at a problem. Not only is it not in our bank account - it's not in our DNA. Every member of ECFC's staff has made this game a crux of their lives despite the fact that we are committing years of our free time to something we will struggle for with zero financial reward. We take the shoe string we're given, say thank you, and add it to the tapestry. We had no choice but to take our circumstances (dire as they were and still are) and do what we could to survive the storm.
Aside from general organizational survival, the most pressing issue for our club was and remains eliminating as much health risk as possible for our players & staff. Covid-19 has hit our Nation at a time where misinformation is as common as information, maybe more so - which has made developing a clear, strict & fool proof Health & Safety Policy for our club a top priority within the staff. As I mentioned earlier - we are not a well funded organization - so many of the professional solutions to these issues, such as regular rapid testing, are not an option for us.
Our player pool (around 42 players as of today) consists of individuals from 20 nations on 5 continents: different backgrounds, cultures, world views, etc. A main purpose of our organization is to create space in which literally any person from anywhere and any situation can show up to the club with acceptance in their heart and be accepted themselves - this does however make a unified club direction in risk-mitigation more challenging. Even so, we've spent hours as a staff to create and modify Health & Safety Protocols that educate our players, and mitigate as much risk as we possibly can. Once we had a good enough plan in place for training (painfully denying several requests for out of state friendlies), we felt that we could take one step further and safely created our Intra-Squad League.
We're now heading into week 3 of the league, and so far it's been a great experience. We've developed social distancing and masking practices for each of our 4 teams, as well as all attendees and staff. Fleet Fields has provided us with plenty of hand sanitizer and the club has free masks available for all players and attendees that misplace or forget their own. We have strict sideline and substitution regulations which mitigate as much risk as possible for game play, and separate zones for both teams waiting for the second game. Masks are required at all times for all individuals not participating in activities on the field of play.
Each week, we find new small adjustments we can make to our policy to further and further separate our players from Covid-19 infection risks. It is a stressful process to be sure, but I know that this game is vital to the lives of our players, and we will do everything we can to maintain their access to it as safely as possible. If you're able to support us in any way - watch our stream on Facebook, like our posts on Instagram, visit the website, buy a t-shirt, donate, join our community ownership group - whatever you choose to do, know that we are using every ounce of that support to help build a more equitable and safe environment for our players and for Chicago soccer in general.
We need all the help we can get, but you better believe we'll keep going even if we don't get it. Thanks for your time and have a safe, healthy & relaxing day.
Edgewater Castle FC