CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Roughly 13,500 players and almost 1,000 coaches call North Carolina FC home, making it the largest youth-to-pro soccer club in the entire country. As restrictions ease in North Carolina, just about all of them are excited get back to regular action.
"We're at about 95 to 98 percent of our players still coming back." NCFC Events Director Bryan Bachelder told ABC11 on Tuesday.
As the club's massive youth apparatus tries to ease back into playing games, it made a fairly significant adjustment Monday, clearing all ages for full team, contact training.
"We're continuing to see here and at the other 35 states that are allowing contact soccer, we're seeing that there's really not that much of a transfer from one child to another one playing contact soccer." Bachelder said.
For youngsters eager to play, it's a welcome step back in the direction of normalcy. Since resuming socially distanced practices, NCFC Youth has conducted nearly 2,700 training sessions. Only four positive tests have been found, none of them related to soccer and zero transmissions to other players.
Michael Howard plays for NCFC's U15 Academy team.
"You can do as much individual work as you want individually, but the real work is in the games when you get to make decisions and get better like that," he said.
Bachelder said the vast majority of the feedback he's received from parents has been about the positive impact of getting out of the house and getting formal exercise and interaction.
"Kids need to be able to grow, to develop, you know, emotionally, mentally, physically, socially," he said. "All those things are really important for the families we're dealing with. So, this is something they're willing to do."
For the coaches it's meant much more to do beyond developing challenging and engaging practice plans.
"Trying to make sure that that they understand there's a light at the end of the tunnel." explained NCFC Academy Coach Dewan Bader. "And this is just the process that we're taking and it might be a little bit different. You can still in that environment see things kind of building and flourishing as we kind of progress week to week."
The club said it's excited to be moving forward but it is also ready to step back if necessary.
"We're trying to make sure that we are coming back responsibly and ensuring that in the case that some of the data we see changes we can quickly adapt to it and make the adjustments necessary to continue providing a safe environment for our kids," Bachelder said.