River City players happy to be back on the football pitch despite COVID-19 restrictions

Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free to the public. You can support our critical reporting on the coronavirus by buy a digital subscription Where donate directly to the press room.

Gabby Ravin said playing football while wearing a face mask was a challenge.

It is one of many requirements put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19 as local youth football clubs returned to the training ground earlier this month.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

“It was definitely more difficult to train with a mask. But, personally, I’m all for it,” Ravin said.

“I just miss football. I will do anything to play now.

Ravin travels 28 miles from Brooks to the field at Hermon Elementary School to train with his Bangor-based River City Athletics Under-19 soccer club.

[image id=”2978483″ size=”full” pos=”center” /]

Ravin, a junior at Mount View High School in Thorndike, said she sympathizes with workers who have to wear face coverings all day.

“It was a bit difficult with the mask, especially the fatigue [quickly] and it’s moist. But it’s not bad. I’m just happy to be here,” said Emma Coleman of Dedham, a sophomore at John Bapst High in Bangor.

This is the consensus among players deprived of activity since March due to the pandemic.

[image id=”2978482″ size=”full” pos=”center” /]

US Soccer and Soccer Maine have established restrictions in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the national and state levels.

Wearing face masks and social distancing top the list.

Players should stay six feet apart during drills and breaks as well as before and after practice. This means that scrums are not possible.

[image id=”2978481″ size=”full” pos=”center” /]

Players cannot touch the ball with their hands, the only exception being goalkeepers who wear gloves.

Anna Drinkert, a junior goaltender at Orono High School, said wearing the face mask required an adjustment.

“[Fortunately]I didn’t have to dive much,” she said.

MJ Ball is River City’s Director of Coaching and coaches a women’s under-14 team.

“You wear a seat belt for your safety and after a while you don’t realize you have it. We’re going to have to deal with that for at least this month, maybe longer,” he said.

[image id=”2978479″ size=”full” pos=”center” /]

Ball, the women’s soccer coach at Hermon High School, hopes the mask requirement will be lifted in June, but said teams will follow guidelines set by the state and US Soccer.

Players must bring their own balls and water bottles and are not allowed to ‘head’ the ball. There cannot be more than 10 people in an area at a time.

“It’s weird not being able to hug all my friends,” said Ashlin Allen, a sophomore at Hermon, who will be a junior at Hermon. “But it was fun.”

River City’s U-19 team was scheduled to play this weekend in New Hampshire.

“Even if we don’t play games, I still want to train and work to improve,” Ravin said.

Ball said his U-14 daughters have been fantastic in the face of restrictions.

[image id=”2978478″ size=”full” pos=”center” /]

River City chairman Wayne Harvey, host of ‘The Morning Line’ sports talk show on 92.9 The Ticket in Bangor and coach of the club’s U-19 girls, said the return to football had gone fairly well.

River City has 14 men’s and women’s teams ranging from U-11 to U-19 who train regularly.

Harvey said players benefited from more frequent water breaks and mask respite during each 2.5-hour session.

If there are more than nine players at a practice, Harvey divides them into two groups and they play in separate halves of the pitch.

[image id=”2978477″ size=”full” pos=”center” /]

He stands in the middle of the field or leads each group in turn.

Separating players can be a challenge, especially for longtime friends.

“Some of them have been playing together since they were first and second graders,” Harvey said.

Ball said all River City coaches have the tools and resources to execute productive practices in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines. He told coaches to emphasize skill competitions between teammates involving passing, dribbling or shooting.

[image id=”2978476″ size=”full” pos=”center” /]

The ball uses a passing drill in which two players are on a part of the field with three cones. They try to complete as many one-touch passes as possible in a minute. One player stands still and the other negotiates the cones. He said it served as a conditioning and fitness exercise.

Harvey uses a drill with players positioned on cones of different colors.

He will call out the color of a cone to announce that is where a pass will go and when the ball is on its way to the player at that cone, he will call out another color, telling the recipient of the pass where it should send his pass.

“Even if you can’t play against each other, it’s nice to be able to go out and practice,” Coleman said. “I definitely miss the scrum.”

Watch: The difference between a face mask and a face covering

[bdnvideo id=”2966436″]