Impact of Pandemic on Sports

How the pandemic impacted youth sports (for the better)

Reprinted from Soccer America Youth Soccer Insider

October 15, 2021

The pandemic is responsible for changing nearly every facet of our lives. As life went virtual, it also returned to simplicity, pushing us to consider what’s most important.

Much of the focus on the mental health impacts of COVID-19 centered around adults, who were forced to weather difficult transitions to remote work, furloughs, or unemployment. There was also a steady dialogue surrounding teens, who experienced a complete overhaul of their school environments, social activities, and major life events like prom and graduation.

Young children don’t always express discomfort, stress, and depression in the same way as adolescents, but interruptions in their daily routines and access to resources like education, food, and care all took a toll on their psychological well-being — increasing their risk of developmental delays and health issues. As parents, teachers, and coaches looked for ways to bring children vital social interaction and mental stimulation during distancing, every outlet had to be reimagined.

Before the pandemic, youth sports were a source of friendly competition and the foundation for a future of athletic achievement. During the pandemic, they became vital and treasured opportunities for social interaction, needed physical activity, and fun in a world that had become isolating and uncertain. Today, we have an obligation to welcome a new evolution of youth sports that brings children widespread opportunities to build both a successful athletic career and a happier, more fulfilled future – but to do so, we must maintain several important changes that resulted from the pandemic.

Youth sports have forever changed for the better

COVID-19 reminded us not only of the importance of making the most of difficult situations, but also how youth sports can enhance and support children’s mental health and development. At the end of 2020, 73.7% of children who were not involved in sports exhibited signs of anxiety, compared to 18% of children who did participate in youth sports. Furthermore, 68.6% of children who did not play sports reported experiencing depression, compared to 42.1% of child athletes. In a world that was becoming increasingly small and scary for kids, sports became a last beacon of normalcy for many of them – but the way we had to approach it as coaches and mentors was far from business-as-usual. From re-focusing on fun to finding new ways to connect, we had to reconsider all that youth sports could mean.

A love of the game was rekindled: For athletes at any level, the joy of playing can often get lost amid the stress of competing or making the cut during tryout season. In fact, the No. 1 reason kids drop out of sports is because they aren’t enjoying themselves. The pandemic made everyone realize what we were taking for granted, and in youth sports, children finally had an opportunity to focus solely on having fun again. We saw a completely new level of engagement from our players after diverging from traditional training methods. Everything became about getting the kids involved, and as a result, they started practicing in their backyards, basements, and even bedrooms for the sheer love of the game. That kind of enthusiasm is an integral part of keeping children involved in sports; in turn, it helps to improve their self-esteem, goal-setting, and leadership skills, which are all more important than the score at the end of the day. Incorporating games and challenges into your in-person training routine is a great way to continue keeping engagement high, while still giving kids the opportunity to have fun.

Kids found new ways to stay connected: During a time when everything from jobs to grocery shopping to events shifted online, innovation was key to keeping kids involved. More than ever, the internet – and social media in particular – plays a huge role in children’s lives, so why not use it to our advantage when it comes to encouraging physical activity? Keeping children active should be a sweeping goal across both in-person and digital platforms, especially when it comes to promoting mental health. A recent study found that children who don’t exercise are twice as likely to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. Meeting them where they are helps get them engaged and excited about sports. Incorporating fun video activities and challenges can be more than just a solution to a pandemic, it can become a routine part of practice that keeps kids moving, communicating, and having fun.

Coaches became more accessible: Where coaches have historically been great motivators, they haven’t always been the best communicators – but COVID-19 challenged everyone to become better at working and talking together. Over-communication became not only desirable, but essential over the past year and a half, and conversations that used to be difficult to have with parents became a regular responsibility. Being more accessible as individuals allows coaches and parents to band together and provide children with a stronger, united support network. More than just key players in keeping children safe and healthy, accessible coaches can make all the difference in the world for adolescents. Surveys have even found that coaches have the power to impact development and help young children feel comforted and understood, which is something we should all strive to provide.

Reinventing the game

We all experienced loss and change during the pandemic, but these feelings also serve to remind us of the importance of human connection, health, and hope. In putting forth our best effort at maintaining the emphasis on practice and the competitive joy of youth soccer, we were able to see firsthand the role of sports in inspiring children’s confidence, and in turn, how we can all rethink our priorities. As sports leagues, parents, and communities, we are now in a position to learn from and continue the positive changes we have made throughout the pandemic to reshape the future of youth sports in a way that benefit our children’s mental health, boosts their development, and provides them with the support network they need to thrive.

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We receive questions and game change requests that suggest some confusion about schedules which vary based upon number of teams in a flight as well as the level of the flight.  Here is an explanation of the differences in flights and special rules that apply.  These rules are part of the NCSA Rules of Competition, but are stated more simply and answer associated questions that everyone wants to know: (a) is my entire schedule already posted on the website; (b) if yes, by when must we play all currently scheduled games; (c) or if not, how are additional games determined; and (d) if there are additional games, then by when must we play (i) already scheduled games and (ii) additional games to be scheduled.


These are the Playoff flights: B09A, B10A, B10B, B11A, B11B, B12A, B12B, B13A, B13B, B14A, B14B, B15AG9A, G10A, G11A, G12B, G13B

  • You will play a total of 10 games
  • Only the first 7 games are scheduled in weeks 1-7
  • You must play these games by 5/9 (week 7) for results to count in standings to seed weeks 8-9-10
  • At the end of games for 5/9, the match-ups for week 8 (1 hosting 8, 2 hosting 7, etc.) to be played on 5/16 will be posted
  • The actual game time and field MUST be scheduled by the home team by 11 am Monday based upon its field availability and fitting with existing schedule of games in order to be timely to be assigned referees for the game.
  • The last 2 steps are repeated for week 9 (5/23 game) and week 10 (6/6 game) with higher seeded team hosting lower seeded team in winners’ and loser’s brackets


These are the MBOS flights: B17A

  • You will play a total of 10 games
  • Only the first 7 games are scheduled in weeks 1-7
  • You must play these games by 5/9 (week 7) for results to count in standings to seed weeks 8-9-10
  • At the end of games for 5/9, the match-ups for weeks 8, 9 and 10 will be posted (1 through 4 playing each other a second time, 5 through 8 playing each other a second time
  • The actual game time and field MUST be scheduled by the home team by 11 am Monday based upon its field availability and fitting with existing schedule of games in order to be timely to be assigned referees for the game.


These are the Interleague flights: G13A, G14A and G15A

  • You will play a total of 9 games
  • All games are included in the original schedule, with the first game in week 0 (3/14)
  • You must schedule the first games against SJGSL teams – please submit a game change to NCSA so our records are current and so that you can produce an MDF and report scores
  • Week 5 (4/25) NCSA teams host SJGSL teams – while you may have these games scheduled to hold a slot in the initial schedule, you will need to confirm date and time and adjust schedules as needed
  • All games count in standings and must be played by season end date of 6/22


All other 7-8 team flights are full schedule flights.

  • You will play 9 games in 9 weeks if 8 teams; you will play 9 games in 10 weeks and have one or 2 weeks off if 7 teams
  • Weeks 1 and 2 repeat in weeks 8 and 9 – the 2 teams off in week 8 and 9 will be scheduled against each other in week 10 so all teams get 9 games
  • All games to be played are already included in the posted schedule
  • You must play all games by the season end date of 6/22.


  • You will play 10 games if 11 teams, with one week off; you will play 11 games if 12 teams with no weeks off
  • The 11 weeks of games are scheduled starting in week 0 (3/14) with all week 0 games as a TBS(L)
  • All games to be played are already included in the posted schedule
  • You must play all games by the season end date of 6/22.


  • You will play 9 games in 9 weeks if 10 teams; you will play 9 games in 10 weeks and have one week off if 9 teams
  • One team will have a 10th game to give the “odd” team (team off in week 10) its 9th game
  • All games to be played are already included in the posted schedule
  • You must play all games by the season end date of 6/22.


  • You will play 10 games in 10 weeks if 6 teams; you will play 8 games in 10 weeks and have 2 weeks off if 5 teams
  • Flights are rarely set at 5 teams, but usually occur when a team drops after flighting and scheduling is complete – we encourage teams to schedule an additional game as a friendly to play a minimum of 9 games
  • All games to be played are already included in the posted schedule
  • You must play all games by the season end date of 6/22.


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US Club Soccer, Northern Counties Soccer Association extend sanctioning agreement

CHARLESTON, S.C. (June 30, 2020) – US Club Soccer and Northern Counties Soccer Association (NCSA) are excited to announce a long-term extension of their sanctioning agreement, as the soccer organizations renew their commitments to continued growth and opportunities in New Jersey and New York. NCSA chose US Club Soccer as its sanctioning body in 2009, mutually growing on and off the field since.

NCSA was formed in 1973, adopting the motto “Enjoy the Beautiful Game” as a guide for bringing quality youth soccer to northern New Jersey. The league has expanded to about 100 clubs today spanning the Hudson River to Sussex County and from Orange County, N.Y. to Union County, N.J. NCSA has facilitated an environment that fosters both coaching and player development, and has been steadfast in its referee program.

NCSA is taking advantage of several US Club Soccer opportunities, including: integration with the National Cup and the US Club Soccer State Cup New Jersey beginning next season, Players First and the ability to host U.S. Soccer grassroots coaching education courses.

“We are delighted to be entering into a new agreement with Northern Counties, a league with a long-standing commitment to providing all players and their parents the best possible experience,” said Kevin Payne, US Club Soccer CEO. “The league’s approach dovetails perfectly with our Players First philosophy, and we look forward to working closely together for the next five years to make every player’s experience the best it can be.”

"The past four months have been very difficult for all of us, and we continue to try and navigate through this unprecedented time,” said Dennis Burns, NCSA President. “We are excited about our new five-year agreement with US Club and the safe return to soccer this Fall. The new agreement between US Club Soccer and NCSA will provide our clubs long-term financial stability of our fees and new access for their top teams to participate in both National Cup and State Cup competition at a discounted rate through NCSA."

“COVID-19 presents new challenges for everyone involved with youth sports,” said Bob Heinrich, NCSA Vice President. “We felt that at this time, it was critical for our league that we secure a long-term extension with US Club Soccer. The alignment of strategic vision between NCSA and US Club Soccer will result in developing and implementing programs that will benefit our clubs, coaches and players through the return to play and for many years to come.”

US Club Soccer’s mission is to foster the growth and development of soccer clubs throughout the country to create the best possible development environment for players of all ages in every club. The primary vehicle for accomplishing that ambition is Players First: a branded, holistic club soccer experience for parents and players which emphasizes the development of each individual to his or her full potential, and helps parents make better choices about where their children should play.

That Players First philosophy is supported by best-in-class partners and resources, including LaLiga, and is anchored by five pillars: Club Development, Coaching Development, Player Development, Parent Engagement & Education and Player Health & Safety. In particular, Player Health & Safety is the emphasis, as US Club Soccer prides itself on fostering the safest environment for players in youth sports. US Club Soccer has stringent requirements for all staff registration/eligibility and also provides a variety of safety-related resources and recommendations to members.


NCSA was formed in 1973, with the purpose of providing a forum for quality youth soccer. What began with several clubs from the Northern Bergen County area such as Torpedoes and Americans along with a handful of other Northern Jersey clubs like Montclair and Thistle has expanded to about 80 clubs stretching from the Hudson River to Sussex County and from Orange County NY to Union County NJ.

Our aim is still to provide quality youth soccer. The enormous interest in the game combined with the desire for kids to participate has spurred growth of the league to about 1,100 teams in the spring of 2015. NCSA offers premier level flights at every age group and provides many additional flights for children to hone their skills and work to move their game to a higher level. Many of NCSA's clubs offer professional training and coaching, resulting in higher quality levels at all ages.


A National Association member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, US Club Soccer fosters the growth and development of soccer clubs in order to create the best possible environment for players of all ages.

Anchored by Players First and its five pillars of Club Development, Coaching Development, Player Development, Parent Engagement & Education and Player Health & Safety, US Club Soccer offers registration, league- and cup-based competition platforms, player identification and a variety of other programming, resources and services.

US Club Soccer is sponsored by Nike and supported by LaLiga through a technical partnership.

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Fall 2021 Flight Winners



B09A Torpedoes-B09A-Woessner  
B09B GlenRock-B09B-Prestigiacomo  
B09C Torpedoes-B09C-Milin  
B09D Torpedoes-B09D-Samman  
B09EB Tenafly-B09EB-Reiser  
B09EW Ironbound-B09EW-Rodriguez  
B09FB SilverLakeAcademy-B09FB-Reihhold  
B09FW GlenRock-B09FW-Gulmi WorldClassFC-B09FW-Leone
B09G Maywood-B09G-Gonzalez  
B09HB NoRockland-B09HB-Henery  
B09HW Force-B09HW-Dam  
B10A GlenRidge-B10A-Convey  
B10B Lyndhurst-B10B-Barbieri  
B10C RiverDell-B10C-Stein  
B10DB Ironbound-B10DB-Oliveira  
B10DW CougarSC-B10DW-Smith  
B10E Teaneck-B10E-DeCastro SFL-B10E-Potes
B10FB NoRockland-B10FB-Ceus  
B10FW Bergenfield-B10FW-Benabdennour  
B10G CougarUtd-B10G-Son  
B11A CougarsSC-B11A-Angevine  
B11B Torpedoes-B11B-Mo  
B11CB WayneBG-B11CB-Grundleger  
B11CW Fair Lawn All Sport-B11CW-Londono  
B11DB CougarsSC-B11DB-Romano  
B11DW Montclair-B11DW-Lubenesky  
B11EB Americans-B11EB-Brusselback  
B11EW Harrison-B11EW-Gajwani  
B11FB Teaneck-B11FB-Perez  
B11FW Dumont-B11FW-Golas  
B12A RiverDell-B12A-RuizDeSomocurcio  
B12B Tenafly-B12B-Hitchcock  
B12CB Vikings-B12CB-Cohen  
B12CW Hoboken-B12CW-Lobue  
B12DB GlenRock-B12DB-Bullrich  
B12DW Montclair-B12DW-White  
B12E Hotspur-B12E-Picinic  
B12F NoRockland-B12F-Henery  
B13A Mahwah-B13A-Diaz  
B13B Ridgefield Park-B13B-Long  
B13C Verona-B13C-Burke  
B13D Rutherford-B13D  
B13E Aviators-B13E-Oettinger  
B14A Thistle-B14A-Nogueira  
B14B Maroons-B14B  
B14C Montclair-B14c-Strenz  
B14D Harrison-B14D-Flores  
B14E Montclair-B14E-Brucia  
B15A NoValley-B15A-McAuley  
B15C Bergenfield-B15C-Navalta  
B15D Ironbound-B15D-Pernas  
B15E Fairview-B15E-Rodriguez  
G09A Torpedoes-GU9A-Alzola  
G09C Ironbound-GU9C-Fontes  
G09D Spartans-GU9-Crollo  
G09EB River Dell-GU9EB-Del Corral  
G09EW Nutley-GU9EW-Lohr  
G09F WoodRidge-GU9F-Cata  
G09GB SilverLakeAcademy-G09GB-Granowski  
G09GW Hotspurs-G09GW-Polizzotti  
G10A Torpedoes-GU10A-Santana  
G10B Montclair-GU10B-St. Pierre  
G10C WestEssex-G10C-Gallo  
G10DB AviatorsHHSA-G10DB-Karcic  
G10DW WorldClassFC-G10DW-Palau  
G10E WestEssex-G10E-Gallo  
G10FB Nutley-G10FB-Misner  
G10FW Clarkstown-G10FW-Osorio  
G11A Torpedoes-G11A-Leone  
G11B WorldClassFC-G11B-Tartara  
G11C Warriors-G11C-Minervini  
G11D Vikings-G11D-Gardner  
G11E JerseyCity-G11E-Warner  
G11FB Vikings-G11FB-Sampson  
G11FW WOrange-G11FW-Gomes  
G12A NoValley-G12A-Cabrera  
G12B Maroons-G12B-Myers  
G12C WOrange-G12C-Dawes  
G12D Dragons-G12D-Connelly  
G12EB NoRockland-G12EB-McEnery  
G12EW Ajax-G12EW-Vitetta  
G12FB AYSOBergen-G12FB-Hernandez  
G12FW Verona-G12FW-Derrick  
G13A WayneBG-G13A-Genese  
G13B Force-G13B-Duffell  
G13C SaddleBR-G13C-Zea  
G13D Sportfriends-G13D-McLean  
G13E Montclair-G13E-Fayne  
G14A Force-G14A-Key  
G14B NoRockland-G14B-Piscopiello  
G14C Paramus-G14C-Buttacavoli  
G15A Force-G15A-Key  
G15B NoValley-G15B-Ognibene  
G15C CougarUtd-G15C-Sathananthan  
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NCSA 2021 Scholarship Winners Announced

NCSA is pleased to announce our 2021 Scholarship Winners!


Thank you to all of the seniors that applied for the NCSA Scholarship this year. We wish you all well in the next chapter of your journey.


The NCSA 2021 Girls Scholarship Winner is Lauren C. Lauren has played for the River Dell Blackhawks since Kindergarten and went on to play for River Dell High School.  Lauren has a tremendous resume outside of soccer where she has volunteered her time and given back to her community.  She is also a member of the Honor Society and volunteer at the Englewood Hospital.  Lauren plans to attend the University of Delaware and pursue a degree in Human Physiology, on a pre-med track, and then go on to medical school to become a Doctor.


The NCSA 2021 Boys Scholarship Winner is Dan B.  Dan was a member of Cougar United Soccer Club from U8 to U19.  He went on to play for Cresskill High School where he was a Captain.  Dan has exceptional academics and has achieved AP Scholar with Distinction and finished in the top 2 of the Bergen County Debate League.  He also finished in the top 3% on New Jersey Science League Biology II Competition.  Outside of soccer, Dan is a Teaneck Ambulance Core Volunteer and still finds time to give back to his community by offering virtual soccer training to local kids over zoom.     

Congratulations to Lauren and Dan and best of luck to you both!



NCSA Scholarship Committee

Dennis Burns, Diane Pinto, and Mike Mara

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