2020 – Around the World and Close to Home
The Coronavirus outbreak escalates to a global pandemic in March and by year end deaths worldwide reach 1.9 million, due to the pandemic Tokyo’s Summer Olympic Games are postponed until 2021, and the United Kingdom officially withdraws from the European Union after 47 years. George Floyd is killed by a Minneapolis police officer pressing his knee on the neck of a prone Floyd for over eight minutes during an arrest, and video of the act sets off demonstrations across the nation, President Trump is impeached for a first time but acquitted by the Senate, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are elected President and Vice President, with Harris the first woman, Black and person of Indian descent to become VP. Washington becomes the first state to diagnose a COVID-19 case and the first two reported deaths occur in Kirkland, the West Seattle Bridge closed unexpectedly due to rapidly expanding cracks, and while playing in a season-long bubble in Bradenton, Fla., the Seattle Storm win their fourth WNBA championship, sweeping Las Vegas in the finals.
The Lost Season
Who knows what might’ve been in 2020. Those state cup experiences and Senior Nights, those special seasons and tournament destinations, friendships furthered, and friendships made. Someone was going to win awards, some team would’ve lifted the trophy, if not for the pandemic. Certainly, with millions dying and countless others hospitalized around the globe, there was a much higher cost than missing 10 months of footy. But there was a cost.
Some memories were made, either in the weeks preceding the mass closures due to COVID-19 or in spite of the health and safety regulations. The professionals eventually played on, albeit without the cheers of fans. But 99 percent of the soccer public never returned to the parks, fields and stadiums after the second week of March 2020.
The curtain fell hard and fast. Just three weeks after the first five Washington Youth Soccer state championships had been determined came the nation’s first known death, on Feb. 29, in Kirkland. On March 8, the state’s death toll reached 18, and the Sounders hosted Columbus before 33,080 distracted fans. Three days later, a global pandemic was d.
Within 24 hours, Governor Inslee ordered schools closed statewide, for a minimum of six weeks. On March 23, with cases surging, Inslee issued a statewide two-week stay-at-home directive. The youth of Washington were no longer at play. WYS canceled RCL matches and the remaining state championships, and the WIAA, once Inslee extended school closures through June, canceled the state boys’ high school championships. All summer camps were shuttered.
Throughout Washington, coaches went from bustling, busy schedules of training, travel and games to periodic emails to check-in. By later in May, when it became plain to all that COVID-19 would not be leaving soon, the only action was strictly one player, one ball. Whether it was the pros, collegians or kids, it was juggling in the backyard and the age-old practice of kicking a ball at a wall.
“We were doing Zoom meetings and giving them training tasks and videos to watch,” recalled Peter Hattrup, a coach of multiple teams for Maple Valley’s Valor Soccer. His younger team was engaged, even enthusiastic. The older teens were the most frustrated, some stopped playing altogether. With June came making mandates but also the first gatherings. Pods of five could train while avoiding contact and socially distanced.
By late summer there was a glimmer of hope for competition to resume in the fall. It was a false hope. College and high schools’ autumn seasons were pushed out to spring 2021. The only games tended to be intrasquad or such. Everyone was no doubt grateful to be getting out of the house, but there truly was no end game.
“I told my teams I was super proud of their commitment,” said Hattrup, “but thinking back to when I was a kid, I don’t know how long I would’ve trained without games. The payoff for working hard in training is tournaments and games.”
For most in 2020, come mid-March it was game over. With vaccines on the horizon in the winter, indications were that early in 2021, play could begin again.