Adapting to the 'new normal': from no contact to full contact training

As the defending national champions, UBC’s women’s soccer team is taking a different approach to training due to the cancelled season.

In compliance with BC health authorities, coach Jesse Symons had to implement social distance training. This also meant that there was no contact at all during training sessions.

Another policy was having everyone taking part in the training sessions to complete BC assessments before attending each session. “Also, hand sanitizers for the players, pre and post, and sanitizing the equipments with [disinfectant] spray bottles,” Symons said.

Recently, the team went back to full contact training starting September 16.

“It’s awesome ... training sessions are normal [now]. We still social distance when there are rest spots [and] moments where we're gathering in a group, but otherwise, there's no more social distancing during the actual activities,” Symons said.

While Symons has acknowledged that it is “a difficult situation with the habits of the players over the years having contact when [they] compete,” he believes that there have been positives such as giving the team opportunities to settle down and create more technical, tactical goals.

Both T-Birds’ midfielder Katalin Tolnai and goalie Emily Moore agreed that they adjusted to the new policies smoothly.

“I feel like it’s been fine. It’s kind of annoying wearing masks everywhere, [but] just an adjustment,” Tolnai said.

“It’s little bit of adjustments, but I feel like if everyone wear their masks, we can get by it pretty easily,” said Moore.

Moore was named Tournament All-Star at the National Championships last year and reflecting back at the experience, Moore said, “I felt really good to be considered for that All-Star Tournament for nationals. I felt like finally being noticed.”

Moore discussed the immense pressure she feels as a goalkeeper. “If [the ball] goes in on us, it’s not our fault, but it feels like our fault.” Moore believes that to combat this pressure, most goalkeepers need to exhibit a good amount of mental strength and stay resilient.

When Katalin Tolnai first joined the team, she tore her ACL, a crucial knee ligament. While she was unable to play her first year, she took the time to adjust without being fully committed. The following year, she performed like a veteran and scored the only goal against Montréal at the opening game of nationals. For the time being, while physically distanced training is still in place, Tolnai hopes to work on the little things, like “touches, passing, shooting, and [we’ll] see where it goes.”

When asked about winning back-to-back titles, Tolnai and Moore acknowledged the perpetual pressure, but recognized that it was always going to be there.

“I remember when I came in my first year, they just won [the] year before that … we made it to nationals that year and we came second,” said Moore.

Although there were many adjustments being made this “season” with COVID-19, Tolnai and Moore look forward to their next season.

“We have a good shot,” said Moore.