Courtesy of Acadia Fire FC

Keeping Acadia Fire FC, an independent, non-profit travel soccer club going during the pandemic has not been easy. Acadia Fire has rolled with the challenges, creating a field on  private property for summer social-distanced training and then for a modified fall travel game  season. Emily Ellis, executive director of AFFC, and the board of directors knew that the  winter indoor season would come with more challenges. In December of 2020, AFFC moved  out of its rented indoor training facility, that club families had deemed “the Firehouse,” due to  the building not being properly ventilated and limited in spacing for socially distanced  programming. This action was coupled with AFFC successfully completing a matching donor  fundraising drive, surpassing the $10,000 match goal. As well, AFFC was holding  conversations with the owner of the Acadia Events Center and other potential community  partners about the possible rental or purchase of this larger, ventilated building with auditorium  space.  

However, by the projected start time of Jan. 4, with a commitment to making the Premier  Program happen, which would provide training to the committed year-round soccer players,  AFFC found itself without a physical place to train. With COVID numbers at their highest points  for Maine, it was an indicator that another solution had to be found to keep the players  maintaining and possibly improving their skills safely. AFFC coaches rolled out virtual skills  training, using Zoom to hold live in-person workouts, conducted by coaches with players  following in their home living rooms, bedrooms, or garages. These workouts are recorded so if  players miss it they can still get in their workout.

AFFC also pulled in their SoccerFit! Athletic Trainer Instructor and Trenton Elementary’s PE and AD Alex Johnson to offer core-building and fitness workouts that can be done at home. The 5-Day Alex Johnson workout plan, involving such exercises as bird dogs, lemon squeezes, chair dips and glute bridges, has  videos that show how to do each exercise and is now offered to all the Premier players. Parents report that they think that it is doing wonders, despite being stuck inside. One player FaceTime’s with another player while doing the workout, getting their social time in as well as  the physical workout. 

Acadia Fire is also offering an opportunity for in-person soccer, in partnership with The Pitch in  Warren, a 200- by 300-foot state of the art indoor turf facility serving Maine’s Midcoast region.  The Pitch is owned by Robbie and Tammy Krul and is the home of fellow Premier soccer club,  Dutch Soccer Academy. AFFC players and coaches from 10 and Under to 18 and Under have  been making the trek to The Pitch on Saturdays for a weekly, 2-hour training session to prepare  for the expected spring game season. Robbie is a US Soccer C-licensed coach trained to offer  parts of the D-licensing course to other coaches. Ellis saw this as an opportunity to incorporate  further training for her coaches by hiring Robbie to work with AFFC coaches during these  Saturday trainings. “We are trying to keep moving the players and coaches forward as much as  possible during these trying times,” Ellis remarks. 

Ellis knows that this is all temporary and along with relief from the coronavirus in the future,  Acadia Fire also has to find a more permanent solution for where the players will continue to  train in the future. “Now, more than ever, it has become very apparent that for the club to  continue to thrive, Acadia Fire needs an indoor turf facility and outdoor fields. Back 10 years or  so ago when the club was just getting started, school gymnasiums were available. Without  school gymnasiums or playing fields available due to COVID, getting teams together to practice  in-person will continue to be hard to facilitate,” Ellis reports. 

Looking at future options, AFFC is seeking a place to rent, buy, or build new. Ellis would like to  think bigger by providing not just an indoor turf facility for Acadia Fire’s use, but building a  resource for the community: batting cages for softball and baseball players, an indoor golf  driving range, adult soccer and ultimate frisbee leagues, birthday parties using inflatables. In  addition, she is thinking about how to have a low-impact on the environment by potentially  adding solar panels to the roof. A possible outdoor turf field could serve not only the needs of  Acadia Fire, but also the needs of local schools and other sports programs that want to extend  their outdoor spring and fall seasons. 

Acadia Fire is looking for the help of other businesses, individual donors, or community-minded  organizations, to partner with, to create these facilities for the community. “The closest indoor  turf facilities are an hour inland in Brewer or two hours south in Warren. As well, the closest  outdoor turf facilities are at least an hour away for most Acadia Fire players, making it difficult  to train on weeknights,” says Ellis. They all have their own programs in operation and are  limiting their use by outside entities due to COVID, according to Ellis.  

Acadia Fire is no stranger to adversity and will continue to accept the challenges thrown at the  club to get through this pandemic. Ellis expresses, “Seeing the joy in the kids as they grow as  skilled players and as confident individuals, is a sight worth fighting for.”