Tillsonburg FC U18 boys are gearing up for a 2021 soccer season in the West Region Soccer League (WRSL).
“The boys are quite happy to be back,” said coach John Twinem after practices started June 12 at Tillsonburg’s Gyulveszi Park.
Some players unfortunately did not return for the 2021 season, he said, due to the pandemic’s stop-start nature over the last 15 to 16 months.
“It kind of is a bit demotivating, but there is a lot of them who are quite enthusiastic about being back.”
Four players also ‘graduated’ to a higher level of soccer, said Twinem. Two are now playing OPDL (Ontario Player Development League) with London Whitecaps and two are on TFC London’s ODPL team.
“It’s changed our roster a little bit.”
Players on the current U18 squad come from Tillsonburg, Ingersoll and a couple from Aylmer.
“This team is actually a melding together of two age groups,” said Twinen, noting it’s a combination of 2003 and 2004 players.
“Right now I have some guys who, as I look at them, have some good ability. And if you gave me a longer time to prepare, then I could say more. Right now, with short preparation time and the uncertainties as to what the competition will look like… I don’t know what the league is going to look like and I don’t know exactly where we’re going to be in a month. I know a couple of teams have folded, and you wonder what sort of amalgamations have taken place.
“At least a few of these guys were wanting to play college or university soccer – and still want to – but now they don’t know exactly they are when it comes to preparation for that next level.”
WRSL games, from Windsor to Guelph, are expected to begin the week of July 10 or soon after. That leaves the Tillsonburg FC U18s just under one month to prepare for the 2021 season.
“Right now we still have to function with the guidelines as far as players cannot even scrimmage because you’re not supposed to be having physical contact,” Twinem noted. “There’s supposed to be distancing maintained, so right now we’re doing a fair amount of individual technical ball work and we’re also doing fitness.”
Being off for so long, the fitness challenge is not causing injuries by over-training too early.
“By the time you’re in your late teen years, you’ve got enough muscle that you can hurt yourself, so you have to make sure you go into training properly. Especially when you get into game-speed play, the demand a person puts on their body when it comes to direction change and things like that, is so much higher. So you have to work into it, and hopefully the tissue responds well and toughens up, then you’re prepared to put the extra-high demand on it that a game requires.”
There won’t be a lot of time between the province’s Stage 1 re-opening restrictions and games.
“We have to make sure that we start to build pretty quickly.”
The June 14 practice was ramped up a bit from the initial June 12 practice. The plan is to keep ramping up as they go along, said Twinem.
“It’s just trying to find that balance between not over-training them, but training hard enough that they’re ready to move to the next level the next practice.”