The 7 Elite Academy tryouts have been praised as a major step on the road towards normality in the Utah youth soccer community, after hundreds of young people took part in sessions.
The lifting of Covid-19 restrictions to ‘Yellow’ level meant tryouts were the first opportunity for most youngsters to play competitive soccer, following the suspension of group session during the pandemic.
7 Elite Academy led a major coaching initiative with players in the United States, United Kingdom and Africa during lockdown, including an eight-week Home Technical Program, team meetings via zoom, one-to-one sessions and online masterclasses.
That safety-first approach continued during tryouts over the last three weeks and included socially distanced arrivals, hand sanitizer available throughout and masks worn by staff whenever appropriate.
Existing players were automatically offered a place in next season's teams before sessions began, in a bid to protect the mental health of youngsters who missed out on contact with team-mates during restrictions.
7 Elite Academy Head of Foundation Phase, David Mayer, said: “I am so proud of how all our coaches, young people and their families conducted themselves during this year’s tryouts in Utah, just weeks after restrictions were lifted to Yellow status.
“We worked hard as an organisation to ensure those who attended tryouts enjoyed the return of youth soccer in a safe and supportive environment. The measures in place were fully respected, which was a very positive sign on the road towards normality.
“It was great for players to get back on the pitch, play the game they love and just be part of a team once again. From my perspective, the social side of getting back to soccer was incredibly important for players and their families.”
Sessions were held in Southern Utah from May 26th, before moving to the Northern Utah, Salt Lake County and Utah County areas from the start of this month.
Shaylee Wilson, Head of Youth Development at 7 Elite Academy, said: “One of the highlights for me was watching our existing players welcome new players and encourage them during sessions. I could see so many positive and supportive friendships being forged during those first few days of tryouts.
“There was a real sense of community amongst players that I expect will go a long way towards a very positive and successful season for all our teams.
“It hasn’t been easy for any of our players during the lockdown, but with the support from our Home Technical Program and other initiatives they’ve been able to keep fitness and skills levels at a high level. That was clear to see in the intensity of every session.”
Every tryout location saw an influx of players from 7 Elite Pre-Academy, which gives Utah youngsters in the 2013 to 2016 age brackets an opportunity to try soccer in a supportive and age appropriate environment.
Matt Brown, 7 Elite Pre-Academy manager, is delighted to have seen so many youngsters make the step up from younger age groups.
He said: “It is fantastic that we’ve been able to develop such passion and enjoyment for soccer in Pre-Academy, which has in turn inspired players to join the main 7 Elite Academy teams.
“We work so hard to instill a real love for the game in young people, as that is absolutely key for them. From there, we introduce basic skills and equip them with the tools to have a lengthy and fulfilling career in soccer.
“We are very lucky to have fantastic coaches and staff in Southern Utah, who have been so important in making sure young people enjoy a positive and supportive introduction to soccer.
“I can’t thank everyone involved enough for their efforts in helping to build 7 Elite Pre-Academy. But the biggest thanks should go to the players and their families. Without their hard work and effort, none of this would have been possible.”