Right about now, as some semblance of a ‘new normal’ begins to show its face – with school back in some form or fashion, and soccer, the same – it is very easy to slip into thinking about what we have missed for so long.

Since March, things have been different. A global pandemic put life as we know it on pause – in almost every way. Months passed. That pause did not. Here we are.

But with the start of school, be it ‘remote’, or ‘distanced’, or ‘hybrid’, or ‘in-person’, or whatever, we feel a sense of belonging creeping back into our days. School means work and studying and tests and getting up early. Yet, it also means interaction, communication, socialization, and purpose. It means structure. And no matter how amazing the thought of ‘a break’ seemed five months ago, this turned out to be much more. It wasn’t a break. It was a fracture of so much we needed and from whom we needed to share it with.

I played soccer since the age of 3 and knew it was going to be a big part of my life. I had the opportunity to travel around the world, earn accolades, and play in front of thousands of fans. In many ways, my life became engulfed by the game and I was overwhelmed by the opportunities that came from it: to meet friends, to push myself, to deal with adversity, to travel, to attend the college where I would meet my wife, to start a youth academy, to build a stadium, and to help run a league.

However, no matter how much I’ve been able to experience through the game, not a single day goes by where I don’t miss the deep sense of camaraderie that is felt when starting a new season with a TEAM. Pulling on a new kit. Lacing up new cleats. Walking out onto the field with your brothers, knowing you’ll have your own battles in training but all in the name of preparing for the bigger fights ahead, where you’ll fight together as ONE. The night before the opening match, the last look into each other’s eyes in the pre-game huddle, the brilliance of waiting for that whistle to blow, and the feeling when you run…..no, fly…..to the corner flag to celebrate after a goal is something I still dream about.

It’s been a really difficult few months and we will continue to feel the effects, no doubt, for a while.  However, what lies in front of you is real.  And while you won’t miss the coronavirus, what you shouldn’t miss is the opportunity to make the most of this time in your own development.  Regardless of the challenges, the time is there to be used.  To be invested.  To prepare you.

My playing days are behind me.  I can reminisce with the many teammates who became my friends for life.  I can miss those days.  And I do.  But now I channel that same intensity in new ways…..to be a better leader, a better father, a better person… and to make sure the ECNL is the best.  Not just good.  The best.

Your playing days are in front of you.

Right now, another player your age is out there working to be better than you.  That player is part of a team that is preparing to beat your team.  You have an opportunity to accept that challenge.  Or will you miss the chance?

You decide.  Start by investing in yourself.  Make it special by then investing the same work into your team.

Jason Kutney, ECNL Boys Commissioner