‘Keep in touch’. That’s the message from the Oxford United Academy as the country goes in to lockdown.
As Academy Manager Dan Harris told us, the young footballers within the Academy are having to adjust quickly to life without the social interaction that comes with regular training sessions.
“Our number one priority is to make sure people are safe and well” he told iFollow. “There are 250 people in total involved from under 7s up through the programme and we will follow every guideline to keep people safe. We also realise that these are elite young athletes so we have to put things in place for their everyday lives. People out there who have teenagers in the house will understand the need for a routine; athletes thrive from that structure. The first team have performance to worry about, plus we have that extra layer of education.
“Everyone has been given tasks to do and this is a competitive environment; we have three or four different streams so there are leader boards and that helps us ensure people are doing the right things. We have a running app and we set them challenges of distance and so on. One day they had to write a word, other days they have to have certain things in the background.
“We also have hudl tasks where they are analysing games, and looking at matches at all levels. They are talking about them with staff and I think the phrase social distancing is wrong: we are interacting all the time and I think it’s quite dangerous not to keep talking and communicating. A big part of it is making everyone still feel involved and part of things.”
Dan is in a unique position within the club of having experienced something similar to the current situation while he was coaching in Asia a few years back:
“I was working in South Korea when the SARS virus meant a similar situation on a smaller scale and the country and football were shut down.
"The thing I took away from that was that there will be an end to this and a day when things get back to normal and that is going to be a great day, a celebration of everything we have missed. But until that point it is just a case of making common sense decisions, checking in and looking after each other.”