Following forced time away from the fields and friends, the excitement of returning to the beautiful game is here!

Although it looks a little different for everyone, one truth remains universal – there is no better feeling than that pounding of your chest after an intense workout with the ball at your foot and your teammates by your side (even if that currently means 6 feet apart).

The events of the spring and pause in play have given us all time to think and evaluate the future in a new way. In spite of stay at home orders, curfews and store closures, life never stopped. Online learning, zoom meetings and remote working spaces exploded onto the scene. Our resiliency took hold, our process took on a new shape and we found solutions to achieve our goals. Today, as we kick off the 2020 season, the sport is progressing and while it may look a little different as we follow our clubs’ return to play and return to competition guidelines, we are achieving the objective of safety and welcoming the benefits of sport.

Soccer has been a big part of my life for more than thirty years, and has held steady as one of the constants throughout all of my life’s milestones. This past winter, coming off of maternity leave, focusing on National Event Season, preparing for our membership expansion, and then heading straight into quarantine and pause in play was an opponent I had never seen before. But I knew that the lessons from the field – knowing my own strengths, counting on the talents of my team, knowing how to stay focused, and keeping myself fit and healthy – would be at the core of success.

The pause in play and uncertainty of when soccer would return was a lot to take in, but just as life never stopped nor did The ECNL team. We knew we had to keep our head on a swivel and be prepared for all that could come at us. It drove me to explore new ways to collaborate, to be flexible toward team members’ needs, and recognize that we all needed to support each other even when distanced, and that our unity would lead to reward.

The shared experience of losing soccer has not only caused us to renew our love of the game, but it has also given us the ability to rethink our game time strategy and realize where to improve ourselves. In my role as Commissioner it has also given me a moment to reflect on my love of the game, what it means to me and how I can do my part to make it better. Similar to life in 2020, The ECNL has continued to evolve. The league has entered a new era, with a new look, and a relentless pursuit to be stronger than ever. Unified – Dynamic – Expanding.

As the ECNL continues to grow, it will continue to change. The ECNL, in soccer and beyond, will continue to provide opportunities and motivate all who are involved to be their best on and off the field. The strength of the league lies within the players, and this strength continues to push the league forward.

Healthy things grow. Growing things change. Nurtured growth meets potential.

Jen Winnagle, ECNL Girls Commissioner