By Ottawa Sportspage, For OSU Force Academy
When the sporting world screeched to a halt because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Ottawa South United (OSU) released previously exclusive content to all its athletes to make sure they can return to soccer without missing a step.
The club has opened up its ‘OSU TV’ service to all club members, allowing players to watch and replicate training videos while practising social distancing.
Paul Harris, OSU’s technical director, says OSU TV was launched originally in an attempt to replicate programming offered by the English Premier League’s Everton F.C., where he coached academy soccer before moving to Canada and coaching with OSU.
“When I first got to OSU, we tried to mimic it on a smaller scale… We put together some technical videos that I did at the time and we stored them online,” Harris said.
The stockpile and infrastructure created in the online program’s original package allowed OSU to move to an online training model quickly after sanctioned soccer activities were put on hold by the governing body of the sport in early March.
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OSU has since been adding new content that includes interactive components for its players.
“Players can not only go on and see the technical videos but can also send us examples back of them doing practices, sessions or techniques,” Harris said.
Most of the first videos offered by OSU were technical in nature, but since then the club’s various coaches have put together and uploaded footage that also focus primarily on physical elements as well as videos geared towards helping athletes with the psychological side of the game.
Pre-pandemic, OSU’s training catalogue had been a paid subscription service, but the club removed fees and distributed links to its members when limitations cut-out usual practices.
Hundreds of OSU players across the competitive and recreational streams have used the club’s online programming since sports facilities were closed in Ontario.
OSU delivers 300 soccer balls to players for home training
OSU also sought out to address an issue faced by their recreational players, in that they may not have proper equipment to follow along with training. To help with this, coaches recently delivered close to 300 soccer balls to allow them to participate remotely.
And for its competitive players, OSU has also turned its attention to their non-training needs. The club temporarily cancelled fees to lessen the load for competitive players’ families. It’s also been working with athletes to put together recruitment packages, to help them seek out playing offers from universities, colleges and elsewhere.
“We want to keep our players’ loyalty through this difficult time where we know there’s a lot of issues they may be dealing with in terms of parents’ employment, some future employment issues and obviously the social problems that the players have got from not being in school and maybe not interacting with their friends,” Harris said.
Harris says the club is constantly evaluating and trying to figure out the best way to keep its players engaged on a weekly basis because of the uncertainty around when soccer could resume.
“After consultation with many of my colleagues through Zoom meetings and special WhatsApp groups, I don’t think any club or technical director has all the answers at this moment in time,” Harris said. “This is an unprecedented situation and we are all experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t on a week-to-week basis for our players.”