Alliance United’s Laura Gosse was, like all League1 Ontario players, disappointed when the “Summer season” was canceled. But, as one of few a player-coaches in the league, the L1O All-Time Best XI striker has another output.
“Obviously I’m a mature player on the league so I’d like to play and coach,” Gosse said. “League1 has always been a great avenue for us older players. I’m going to miss it this summer, but there’s lots to focus on.”
L1O’s Board of Directors finalized the cancellation of the 2020 Summer season earlier this month, adding a shortened tournament-style competition could be played this Fall if COVID-19 restrictions and protocols are lifted.
Gosse, like all soccer coaches in the Greater Toronto Area, is now preparing to return to play. Starting Wednesday, Ontario Soccer will allow the GTA to enter “Phase 1” of their return-to-play program. Its first stage maintains social distancing measures, calling for “individual training” and "no contact" only. Alliance is in discussions with city officials to bring its L1O club back to training, though a date has not been set.
“When you read ‘no contact’, how do you do a socially-distanced possession grid,” Gosse asked rhetorically, adding the team may go with the four-to-a-field quadrant setup Canadian Premier League teams have used. ”With four players, we’ll try to put positions together – like central midfielders. It could be good to help their chemistry. It could create an even stronger connection than if they were in a session with 18 players.
“Maybe we’ll be able to get more position-specific training because, usually, you’re forced away from that in a big team practice session.
“That could be a strength because we can lack that as a province.”
In the meantime, Alliance has done, well, what every top-level team has done: Zoom call sessions. Gosse has found creativity in that, too.
“COVID has made us coaches get more creative – and we’ll get creative when we return,” Gosse said.
“Even when it does return, we can work with a new normal – even more Zoom training sessions. Players will be more open to a new platform. It was a great experience for us as coaches – it forced us into new territory... and we’ve let our players come up with our own unique ideas.”
Those ideas have been flowing for Gosse, who hopes to begin some youth coaching this week. Until L1O training can resume, Gosse says she and her coaching staff will continue player check-ins with an eye to a Fall restart.
“A lot of girls see League1 as that proper first step towards their university programs,” Gosse began, referring to canceled or jeopardized university programs across the country.
"To find motivation when you have nothing to build towards is tough. But I’m always looking for hope. To see the universities cancel gives us the prospect of running something in the Fall.
“It’s a prospect and I hope it happens.”