Grand Valley club soccer presidents reflect on a year without soccer


GVL / Meghan Landgren. GVSU Club Soccer practice, 4.15.21

Holly Bihlman, Sports Editor

There’s no denying that club sports and varsity sports are in different realms at any school, but for the Grand Valley State University club soccer teams, they’ve been living in a different world for the past year. Both presidents from the men’s and women’s teams have had a season filled up by COVID-19 regulations and socially distanced meetings, leaving no room for practices and games. 

Chelsea Clark was the treasurer for the women’s team last year when she found out there would be no fall season. As she was elected to be the president for her final year at GVSU, there wasn’t nearly as much planning, team bonding and responsibilities as a team captain for her to do. 

“All of my administrative roles kind of dwindled, so that’s kind of what I was expecting along with more of a leadership role and trying to keep the team tight knit,” Clark said. “But I found that with this year, it really transitioned to trying to do whatever we could to keep the team close.” 

Without those necessary team hangouts and practices, a huge part of the experience of being on the soccer team was lost. Despite the time that the teams have spent off the field, the club sports department at GVSU understood the importance of having a season and did their best to implement ways that the athletes could still be a part of their sports. 

“The club sports department really advocated for club sports athletes, just because they know how much of an outlet this is for so many of us,” Clark said.

On top of academics and all of the other parts of life that college students often juggle, being a part of a team has a lot to do with making friends and taking a break from homework. Dylan Furong, a first-year president of the men’s team this year, has also been feeling the same effects of this hiatus of their last season. 

“Sometimes in the first semester, I felt as if I was doing a bad job, because I think one of the big parts of being the president is bringing the team together and making it feel like a welcoming environment,” Furong said. “I would definitely say I don’t really know what it’s like to be the president.” 

As a result of their outlet being limited this year, most of the freshman on the soccer teams have been having a hard time making those crucial connections with the returning players on the team and learning the ropes of club soccer. Outside of what they hear from some of the older athletes, they really don’t know what a season of club soccer looks like at GVSU. 

“These last couple weeks, less and less people have been showing up and usually it’s freshman that we’ve not been hearing from, so I think a lot of it is they’re just still kind of lost where they fit in at Grand Valley,” Furong said.

As opposed to a regular season for the soccer teams, they haven’t had the opportunity to compete against other schools in the division including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and the new member of the division, Oakland University. Without any experiences or scrimmages playing at the college level, next season for the teams will look very different from a regular year. 

“A full year being out of a sport–doesn’t matter what kind of sport it is–it’s going to take a little bit of getting back to from a physical aspect,” Furong said. “Then from the mental aspect, I think that a big part of the reason that Grand Valley soccer has been successful the last few years, is because we are really close off the field too.” 

As a part of the COVID-19 presidential role that both Clark and Furong experienced, making the freshman and everyone else on the team feel like they were a part of something was a difficult job. 

“If the university wasn’t able to give us the year that we’ve had, I think a lot of us would still find ways to get together and workout because we’ve always been a really tight knit team,” Clark said. “It gets sad, so (my job is) making sure everyone remembers this will end and we’re still working towards something, just not in the near future.”

A massive part of the college experience lost to COVID-19 this year includes the senior’s last season as a part of a university team. Without the offer for an extra year of eligibility like a lot of varsity sports in the NCAA or a chance to compete in a final game for GVSU, both Clark and Furong are planning to be on the sidelines next year if their post-graduate plans allow it.  

“I will one hundred percent be staying in touch with the team,” Clark said. “I plan to go to as many games as I can, and I think there is a very, very high possibility that if they do have a season next year they will travel to nationals. There is so much talent on the team and I would love to be able to go out and watch them.” 

Clark is graduating this semester, awaiting responses from graduate schools and plans to join a pick-up league to continue her soccer career. Furong is also planning on attending as many games next year as he can, debating whether or not he’ll stay for the extra season while he completes his last two classes at GVSU. After an especially tough year on everyone, both team presidents have been looking on the bright side of things to lead by example for their teams. 

“I think that there’s a lot of positive to come out of it just from the sense that we had to buckle down,” Furong said. “No one has ever experienced this before; we all went through it together. I’m excited to be able to watch them and see how much they grew as soccer players and as people.” 

Looking ahead, the club soccer teams aren’t sure what next year will look like for the returning players, but they’re optimistic that a competitive season lies ahead for the teammates they’ll be leaving behind. Without the relationships that the teams usually have time to create, they are hopeful that the chemistry on the teams will snap back to  before COVID-19 and provide an opportunity for all of the athletes to experience what GVSU club soccer is really all about.