OSU builds character through pandemic pause

OSU 2009 Boys Live

By Ottawa Sportspage, For Ottawa South United Soccer Club

The pre-season pandemic stung like a tackle from behind with cleats up, but Ottawa South United Soccer Club rose back up to keep players connected and support their development before their long-awaited return to the pitch.

OSU garnered very positive feedback from members and parents as close to 1,000 players participated in a total of 10,000+ online sessions, reaching well beyond Ottawa South into homes across Canada.

“I’ve got to give praise to our coaches and our staff,” says OSU Head Coach Paul Harris. “They adapted really, really quickly, and they kept our players motivated throughout this difficult period.

“The kids were finding it hard. It’s hard when you’re missing your friends and you just want to get out there and play. They did a fantastic job keeping the kids involved and keeping their spirits high.”

Among OSU’s initiatives was a speakers series featuring the likes of the FC Barcelona women’s team captain, former pro players and coaches from top English clubs such as Everton, Wigan Athletic and Crewe Alexandra, a FIFA player agent, and leaders from many Canadian university programs. In all, there were more than a dozen talks from “people outside our organization to provide our boys and girls with great advice for their future,” Harris recounts.

Though the speakers’ involvement in the game came from many different perspectives, “there was a common message that was apparent, and that was that the key to success is largely character-based,” adds the past Everton academy coach. “Of course they’re looking for talented players. But what they really want is individuals with a high level of character who are highly dedicated, self-motivated, and willing to work hard and not stop.”

Under the remote guidance of their coaches, OSU players kept busy during lockdown by working on ball manipulation in tight areas and outdoors, along with strength training. They assembled video highlights and player profiles for university recruitment and analysis.

There was also an emphasis on team-building, with game-show style quizzes for players to get to know each other more personally. Activities to promote tactical, psychological and social development were part of the mix too, such as having players present to their teammates about a given soccer topic.

“We weren’t really working on football in this case, it was really working on them as all-around people,” signals Harris, noting the pandemic produced increased collaboration and sharing of ideas between clubs across Ontario often pitted against one another.

That became helpful when it came time to create a session plan for 9 players and a coach while respecting physical distancing. Despite those restrictions, getting the chance to train together as a group was nonetheless treasured when it happened at last on the June 20 weekend.

“Everyone’s been at home with their own families of course, but our teams feel like families too, so it’s been really difficult to be apart for so long,” Harris highlights. “Yes, it doesn’t quite ressemble the training we’re used to and that everyone’s craving, but it just felt so good to get everyone reunited.”

Speed training with Redblacks RB

In anticipation of game play returning this summer, OSU is currently offering training opportunities at George Nelms Sports Park. Among the sessions available is Speed Camp with Ottawa Redblacks runningback Brendan Gillanders.

“He’s a physical specimen,” Harris says of the Ottawa-raised CFLer. “He has to run and he has to accelerate and he has to move quickly over 10, 15, 20 yards. That’s down to his mechanics, how he builds his power and his acceleration.

“Even though it’s different sports, what we’re looking for is how we can help our players get faster and more powerful, which they need in soccer.”

Find out more at: osu.ca

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