Calgary soccer organizations, parents grapple with uncertain future for the sport

Calgary’s soccer clubs and organizations met this week to try and establish a clearer picture of what soccer might look like for the rest of the year under the cloud of COVID-19.

There’s some hope soccer could resume in some form by end of summer but no guarantees

Some Ontario soccer clubs, including the minor division of the Glengarry Soccer League, have decided to cancel the outdoor summer season all together. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Calgary's soccer clubs and organizations met this week to try and establish a clearer picture of what soccer might look like for the rest of 2020 under the cloud of COVID-19.

The prospect of any outdoor soccer this summer for around 20,000 kids in the city is slim-to-none, with parents, clubs and soccer organizations struggling to adapt to constant changes and the pressures of keeping kids engaged in soccer during isolation from COVID-19.

The Calgary Minor Soccer Association held a meeting on Tuesday evening with 73 people on the line for a mass conference call.

"We've placed an indefinite suspension on the summer outdoor season so everything continues to be on hold," said Susan Cress with the Calgary Minor Soccer Association.

"It's been really chaotic and it's been really traumatic," said Cress.

"You feel like you have an opportunity to plan something and then it literally feels like 20 minutes later a new piece of information comes in and you're trying to take that and adapt," said Cress.

"We're all non-profits and working with a large volunteer base so we have a lot of people finishing day jobs and dealing with this in the evenings. It's been a lot," said Cress. "It's really hard to manage our way through it."

The CMSA works with 38 soccer clubs in Calgary and organizations in neighbouring towns and cities, and holds more than 7,000 games per year over outdoor and indoor seasons.

Cress says they're looking closely at the province's relaunch strategy and working with provincial and national sports bodies, trying figure out where youth sport fits into the new landscape once COVID-19 peaks and the situation stabilizes.

Cress said as much as parents want to see a fixed date when soccer can resume it's just not possible with so much uncertainty right now.

"We're pausing everything with some hope, with some, some hope, that a very small organized schedule could resume in the late summer or early fall, that's where we landed," said Cress.

"We really need parents and kids to hang on with their clubs," she said. "They've never been through something like this before either."

Cavalry FC captain Nik Ledgerwood takes part in an online training session for Calgary soccer players at home in isolation. (Calgary Rangers)

In the meantime, soccer clubs, which are largely volunteer-driven, are offering refunds to parents who might be struggling financially, credits for future seasons or even asking for fees to be made as donations to clubs amidst the uncertainty.

Some are running online academy sessions, webinars and skills workshops to keep kids engaged but they admit it's not easy to learn and practice soccer via group chats.

There are also concerns about clubs retaining kids and keeping them hooked on soccer with no games or practices and no soccer to watch on TV. And there are major financial concerns for many clubs.

"A lot of the government support so far hasn't touched the not-for-profits and we run on a shoestring budget where everything that we get in goes straight back into the programming," said Ash Gooch, technical director with Calgary Rangers Soccer Club.

Gooch says there have been drastic changes at his club with major salary reductions for staff who continue to volunteer time to practice and engage with their young players.

"With no soccer season it could definitely be catastrophic for some clubs for sure," said Gooch.

"Parents have been patient to this point but some are in dire situations themselves and they do need refunds so there have been refund requests but luckily with the measures we've taken as a club we've been able to process those," Gooch said. 

Gooch says one of the hardest challenges right now is engaging players remotely, trying to get kids to keep up practices in their living rooms.

"If we have to go all the way to an indoor season how we engage them is the most important thing," said Gooch.

The club has brought in some big names to livestreams from Calgary's CPL team Cavalry FC.

Jessica Twemlow has two boys in soccer. She has concerns about the future of some clubs and how to keep kids engaged while soccer games and practices are cancelled indefinitely over the coming months. (Jessica Twemlow)

Players like Cavalry captain Nik Ledgerwood and defender Dominick Zator have hosted sessions for Rangers kids, sharing their knowledge of the game and some top-level skills, offering an opportunity for young players that likely wouldn't have happened without COVID-19.

"They loved it. The questions were flowing and we actually ran out of time in the end. Things like that are brilliant," said Gooch.

But soccer parents just hope there are teams to return to when the worst has passed.

"We're very worried. Soccer is a big part of our life and it's important to our kids' social and physical well being. We're not sure all of the clubs will make it. We are really concerned about that," said Jessica Twemlow, who has two boys playing for the Rangers and Blizzard clubs.

Twemlow is so concerned she donated her outdoor season's fees to try and help the clubs financially.

"I'm really concerned that things are going to look ok in the summer and then we're going to come into the fall and flu season and we're going to be advised to continue with social distancing," she said. 

"I'm hopeful we'll have an indoor season but I don't know if that's going to happen," said Twemlow.

In the meantime her boys will continue practicing in the basement at home, taking part in online sessions to keep them fit and active and keeping them connected to their coaches, teammates and to their sport.


Dan McGarvey


Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, using just an iPhone and mobile tech. His work is used by mobile journalism (mojo) trainers and educators around the world. Dan is largely focused on under-reported communities and issues in Calgary and southern Alberta. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at