by Sydney Wiser ‘23
The highlight of many student athletes’ school year is their season but with the Covid-19 pandemic, an in person season isn’t possible. So how can these athletes still get to enjoy the sport they love with their school teammates? Using Zoom, MCPS created a five-week virtual sport option as a means for connecting players and coaches, and the Sherwood girls’ soccer program worked hard to provide some answers on how this season can be made worthwhile.
Hope Gouterman, a former Sherwood soccer player and the current girls’ varsity soccer coach, strived to make the virtual soccer environment fun, engaging, and useful for her team. She selected speakers who played at different levels of soccer, varying from a teammate who played alongside her at the University of Maryland, a former Sherwood player who went on to attend Vanderbilt, and Ashley Hatch, a professional soccer player from the Washington DC women’s team, the Washington Spirit.
Gouterman chose this diverse lineup of speakers by focusing on what she would have wanted to hear as a younger player. “I was thinking to myself, when I was in high school, what opportunities did I wish that I had or what stories did I wish I got to hear?” Gouterman explained. “From there, I determined that I wanted to provide guest speakers to address all aspects of learning for the players.”
Gouterman, along with JV coach Todd Levine, also ran weekly virtual ‘check ins’ for players to share their experiences in the time of the pandemic and an hour-long virtual practice focused on fitness and ball skills. For her, team connection was a crucial aspect of these sessions.
“We are strengthening our team culture and chemistry as we navigate unprecedented times together.” Gouterman said. “We all understand that the present and future are unpredictable, but we are going through the experiences together which makes it easier to handle.”
This emphasis on team bonding is shared by many of her players as well. Tessa Block, a senior varsity goalkeeper and member of the MCPS Student Athlete Leadership Council, echoed Gouterman’s focus on sticking together. “I mentioned [to Gouterman] that we should have time to bond as a team and utilize programs such as Zoom.” She said when asked if Gouterman asked for player input.
Block’s favorite part of the season were the virtual practices because they were the most similar to in-person practices. “Seeing your fellow teammates still diligently working to improve their skills makes it feel as though we are right back on the soccer field!” She explained.
Staying connected is key in a team-dependent sport like soccer where chemistry is vital and in unprecedented times, the girl’s soccer team worked together to create some semblance of normality.
Wiser is a member of the Sherwood girls team.