Getting a quick autograph or photo from a soccer player is fun, but in that split second, you don’t really get to know that player all that well.
In the absence of actual matches, Chicago’s soccer clubs are busy coming up with alternative programming to keep fans entertained and connected during the COVID-19 shutdown. It’s allowing fans to slow down, ask questions, and actually connect with players in a much better way, even if it’s over a computer screen.
The Chicago Red Stars held a virtual tailgate in place of the club’s home opener, and then launched the stellar new “Neighborhood Kit” in an online party a few days later. The Red Stars have pushed out great content for fans every day, including coloring sheets, exercise classes, and even bedtime stories for kids—Alyssa Naeher read “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” to kids last weekend.
Take a pass on Monday morning and go back to sleep while listening to Alyssa Naeher read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" to Rory's kiddos #StoryWithRory #mkot https://t.co/ZI8U32Zfk9 pic.twitter.com/xnlf23yzxk— Chicago Local 134 ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ (@ChicagoLocal134) May 4, 2020
The Chicago Fire are holding another “By the Fireside” chat for season ticket holders today. This week, it’s the Germans—Kenneth Kronholm and Fabian Herbers. New play-by-play guy Tyler Terens hosts the online chat, starting at 2:30 today. Robert Berić and Jonathan Bornstein are lined up for Saturday, May 16th, and Brandt Bronico and Jeremiah Gutjahr will chat with fans May 23.
(In case you missed it, here are some highlights from last week’s chat with CJ Sapong and Djordje Mihailovic.)
Local youth clubs are getting creative, too. Tierna Davidson talked to players at Eclipse Select Soccer Club last week, and Casey Short chatted with the kids the week before. (Disclaimer: I do some coaching for Eclipse, and my kids play for the club.)
So, maybe this is one of the few plusses of the coronavirus hiatus—fans are getting a chance to get to know the players as people, not just soccer players. Hopefully, this is something that carries over after things get back to normal.