The Greater Sudbury Soccer Club (GSSC) obviously did not wish for the pause of the pandemic - they simply made the most of it, once it was here.
"The pandemic gave us a break to look at ourselves and ask: where are we? where do we want to go? how do we want to get there?" suggested GSSC Technical Director and club Head Coach Giuseppe Politi.
"We want to come out with a little more freshness, a higher standard."
On a personal level, that is saying something.
Already the most accredited soccer coach in the north, Politi took advantage of a quieter time to complete the final stages of his UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) "A" license, furthering his own general belief in the value of education.
"Professional development makes you a better coach; you bring it back to the community for the betterment of the players, the coaches, even administratively," he said.
More specifically, Politi easily identified a broad range of benefits, takeaways that can impact the entire spectrum of GSSC soccer.
"It's true that this license is designed more towards a high performance audience," acknowledged the Laurentian Voyageurs alumnus and long-time local teacher. "The players that are 13 and older playing 11 on 11 soccer are likely the biggest beneficiaries of that compentency, but it does trickle down to the grass roots level."
"How to teach, concepts like being meticulous in your planning, making use of periodization - breaking the season into months and weeks - it all helps with planning a grassroots program as well."
Though he is very much in his element working young athletes through soccer specific skills, Politi does some of his best work raising the bar for coaches in Sudbury, North Bay and the Sault.
"The game has certainly modernized, a bit, but I wouldn't say that it's been revolutionary," he said. "The concepts of whether you are going to play high pressure or low pressure, the concepts of short passes or long passes, those things still exist."
"A lot of the coach education is not designed to morph you into one style. It's trying to teach you to be open to everything, and aware. I remember the head of the Irish Federation saying that with whatever you are willing to take, from a strategic standpoint, you have to be willing to give something up."
Still, for as much as he is excited for what the future might hold in store, individually, it is the potential of the GSSC that will bring out a whole other level of enthusiasm entirely in this passionate fan of the beautiful game.
In part, this was due to the circumstances that existed as soccer returned to the pitch, on a local level, earlier this summer.
"I just think that there was such a pent-up demand for soccer, and in Sudbury, our club was first to market, which really helped," he said. If the vision sounds familiar, part of the foundation was presented when the GSSC unveiled a strategic plan in March (2021).
The explosion of numbers since that time - the club now features more than 1000 individuals involved, primarily as players, but also as coaches, board members, officials, etc ... - has Politi and company embracing the roll-out of GSSC 2.0.
"We're trying to up the ante," he stated. "We have an energetic board that are fully engaged. We want to be a full year club offering programming to any age group that wants to play soccer. We want to introduce one brand for our uniforms, even grassroots, with higher standards in coaching apparel and coaching equipment."
The GSSC have also launched themselves into the accreditation process that accompanies the Canadian Soccer Association's Club Licensing Program, the goal of which is covered on their website:
The Canada Soccer Club Licensing Program is designed to guide member organizations throughout the country toward best principles for organizational development both on and off the field. By raising the standards of member organizations, both the daily playing environment and participant experience are enhanced; thereby improving the overall soccer system in Canada.
On a club level, the GSSC vision ranges from welcoming aboard "all abilities soccer", closing an identified existing gap with the lack of recreational programming in the U13 to U18 age brackets, as well as furthering the accreditation of local coaches and officials.
"There's a lot on the agenda," Politi admitted. "But we are getting a lot of really good feedback."
And the truth is that while completely unwelcomed, the pandemic did allow Politi and company to put this plan in place - a bit of a COVID-19 silver lining, if you will.
For further information about the GSSC, please visit www.gssc.ca or login to social media platforms Facebook and Instagram