Creating games. Watching movies. Playing music. Becoming a temporary teacher.
Those are just some of the ways Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals FC players and coaches are spending their time after their seasons were suspended due to COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
Major League Soccer recently announced it would not resume until at least May 10, while the National Women’s Soccer League postponed the start of its season, which was scheduled to begin April 18. Training moratoriums in both leagues have also been implemented, and extended multiple times.
So as RSL and Royals fans have been adjusting to live without soccer, so too have the professionals. Those with families, like URFC captain Amy Rodriguez and RSL defender Nedum Onuoha, are enjoying the extra time spent with their loved ones.
For Rodriguez, who has a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old, she’s found herself becoming a temporary teacher due to many schools closing around the country. In California, where Rodriguez lives in the offseason and is currently staying, there is a shelter-in-place order.
“I’m trying to maintain a decent schedule during the week,” Rodriguez said of her home-schooling efforts. “It’s a little bit of a mundane feeling, but I’m trying to keep the kids on a schedule, trying to keep a routine — even though it’s a totally different routine than we’re used to.”
Rodriguez drove to California from Utah once news broke that the NWSL regular season would be delayed so she could be with her family. She said she’s trying to set a positive example and doesn’t want to be involved in even the mere possibility of spreading the coronavirus.
“I drove my car here from Utah and it has not left its parking spot in my driveway because I’ve really been adamant that we’re going to stay home right now and we’re not going to be out and about,” Rodriguez said.
Nedum, on the other hand, lives in Utah with his wife and three children. He said he’s experienced a similar feeling of passing time before because at the end of last season, he could not return to his native England due to his daughter being in school.
In a way, Onuoha said, he got a taste of what life would be like after his soccer career was over, and he rather liked it. The only difference currently is he’s lacking “a little bit of extra freedom.”
Onuoha is not the type of person to watch TV series or movies. Instead, he spends the bulk of free time watching sports. Now that so many professional leagues have either been canceled or on hiatus, he finds himself in uncharted TV-watching territory.
“It’s a very different time for me,” Onuoha said.
Defender Aaron Herrera is in a different situation. He, along with his teammates and roommates Justen Glad and Tate Schmitt, has been finding all kinds of ways to pass the time. In their apartment they have a ping pong table, an arcade basketball game and an upstairs gym.
When the trio isn’t making up challenges involving toilet paper, Herrera said he’s playing X-Box and browsing the internet “learning random stuff.” He added he and his roommates are cooking practically every meal, which takes up a lot of their time.
Herrera said the trio has been sleeping later, which has caused him to wake up as late as 1 p.m.
“Being able to just not set an alarm in the morning [and] wake up when your body wants to is nice,” Herrera said.
A big part of what RSL and Royals have been doing during the hiatus is finding ways to stay in shape. With the training moratoriums in place, players are relegated to working out at home, in some cases with no equipment.
Royals defender Michelle Maemone said her and her roommate and teammate, Raisa Strom-Okimoto, have access to a trail where they can execute what they can of their running programs. She recently posted a video of an at-home workout that incorporates a soundtrack.
Rodriguez — like Herrera, Glad and Schmitt — has a gym setup in her home. For running, she also finds a trail or a field. But, any soccer-related training is unavailable to her because it’s not safe to train in groups.
“My training is my biggest challenge right now,” Rodriguez said.
MLS allows players coming back from injury to rehab in their training facilities. But currently, no one from RSL, which has a few players on the mend, has done that because the club is adhering to directives put in place by the Utah Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
With the current restrictions, Onuoha said players would likely do their workouts more an as effort to alleviate boredom and maintain their current level of fitness, as opposed to trying to build on what they already had or get ready for a game. Getting some exercise might also be a way of coping psychological given what is going on all over the world, he said.
“A lot of it is just to keep your head going as well because it’s a tough time,” Onuoha said. “There’s so much uncertainty in the world — not just with sport, just in general, life — that people need to find something to latch on to. And within our industry, that tends to be fitness, whether that’s in the gym or just out in a field somewhere.”
RSL coach Freddy Juarez is passing the time focusing a lot on soccer. He’s watching film, speaking this staff, and even getting outside opinions on his team’s first two weeks of MLS competition. But, he’s also spending time watching a lot of movies, he said — about two per night.
All of this time spent just waiting for trainings and games to start again is just that — waiting. RSL and Royals players want to get back as soon as possible, but they also understand that their situations will be present for the foreseeable future.
“It sucks,” Herrera said. “But there’s no other option right now.”