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Sporting KC Show Podcast: Manager Peter Vermes reacts to COVID-19 developments

The Sporting KC Show Podcast, dropping throughout the season on Sports Radio 810 WHB, is now available on Spotify and iTunes. With Nate Bukaty, Jacob Peterson, Carter Augustine and Aly Trost hosting the weekly program, Sporting fans have a place to go to catch up on club storylines, player achievements, guest interviews and more.

Citizens across the United States and around the globe are entering unchartered territory, impacted more and more every day by a COVID-19 pandemic that has brought Major League Soccer—plus countless other sports leagues, public events and mass gatherings—to a temporary halt.

With this unprecedented development dominating the headlines, a special episode of The Sporting Kansas City Show debuted Tuesday night on Sports Radio 810 WHB as hosts Nate Bukaty, Carter Augustine and Aly Trost reflected on a week full of stunning postponements, cancellations and public health decisions geared toward combatting the spread of coronavirus.

All three shared poignant thoughts on the powerful role that sports will ultimately have in uniting people once the current climate allows for competitions to resume. With no MLS action on the immediate horizon, they also looked back at their favorite Sporting moments from the past five years and confirmed that Sports Radio 810 WHB will begin re-airing classic MLS matches in the near future.

Most notably, the hosts heard from Manager and Sporting Director Peter Vermes, who spoke about COVID-19’s impact and the collective responsibility that everyone carries in stemming the spread of the illness.

Listen to the full podcast above and check out Vermes’ remarks below.

On his reaction to the COVID-19 developments…

“I never thought I would be in this position, but most people probably think the same way. You have to embrace the responsibility that goes along with (the situation). I’ve been involved in a lot of conference calls with MLS, and it’s changing really quickly. It’s changing by the hour. There’s a high level of responsibility and flexibility you must have. It’s not one of those things where you can sit back and complain. You have to understand that this is unchartered territory. All people are trying to do their best in making decisions, but when you’ve never experienced this before, you’re making decisions on the fly.

“As more information comes in, it can change your decision from an hour ago. You need to have blinders on knowing full well that new information will come, and when it does, you have to make that next decision. The world is trying to do that at the moment. When you scale it down to Major League Soccer, we’re trying to do the same. There’s a level of responsibility that’s incredibly important to everyone—making sure that we understand everyone has a responsibility to each other.”

On how his job has been affected…

“There’s been very little interaction with people, which normally that’s my entire day. None of it’s been face-to-face, it’s been over the phone. Along with the rest of the staff, one of the things I can do is look at the processes we’re putting in place when we do come back to training. Whether that’s individual training or practicing in small groups, we’ll see. It’s not an easy environment based on the fact that we usually meet every day, multiple times a day. Now we’re obviously not doing that—it’s more talking over the phone and leaving people to be with their families.”

On the developments of last Thursday when MLS suspended play…

“It was a bit surreal. I kind of knew going into practice on Thursday (March 12) that this was probably going to happen. I had my phone with me on the field, which I normally never do. In times like that, you have to change and adapt, so I had my phone with me. The players were kind of questioning it, but we were still trying to get them ready to play against Atlanta. At the end of practice, I took a phone call and was told we were definitely moving in that direction. For the players, it was also very difficult. They were in a good place preparing and felt good about going into the game that weekend. Then it was all halted in that moment. From a mental perspective, that was a little difficult. But there are a lot bigger things that people have to deal with at the moment—it’s a life and death situation. All of these things are more important than (soccer), so we’ll abide by the processes and protocols that are put in place so that we can do our part from a community point of view. Hopefully we get through this in a good way for everybody’s sake.”

On the precautions that players are taking…

“Prior to last Thursday, we had a meeting with players and our chief medical officer, Dr. Neal Erickson. We laid out processes and protocols and made recommendations to our players about their everyday living. Since they aren’t with us at the moment, there aren’t a lot of situations we can control. Their interaction with different people at this time could be hazardous, so they have to be very careful about their participation out in the community right now, just like anyone else.

“We have to listen to the latest updates and communicate those updates to our players. Our staff is very good in doing that, so I feel like we have a good connection to them. I’ve spoken to a lot of them individually about this. A lot of the guys are young—we’ve even got some teenagers—who want to be out and about. Unfortunately, when you’re young, sometimes you think you’re Superman or Superwoman. You don’t think it’s going to affect you, but (COVID-19) obviously has a bigger impact. That’s what we’re trying to get our players and staff to understand. There’s a much bigger responsibility than just you and what happens to you. If you do get the virus, it may not affect you but it may affect someone else. That’s why we’ve got to be very careful.”

On the emotional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic…

“It’s something that affects your everyday life. It affects you not just in how you go about your life—it’s an emotional effect as well. That piece is even more difficult. At the end of the day, humans interact. When you go to work, you interact with a lot of people and it’s your everyday life. Socially, you have your friends and your family. All of a sudden, you’re basically being asked to be disconnected from all of those people you count on when you need emotional support. That’s what makes this situation different. During 9/11, you could at least connect with your family and friends and people in your support system. In this situation, in some circumstances you’re actually told to stay away from these people.

“To keep using the phrase, it’s unchartered territory. It’s a time that we must be incredibly disciplined to try to stem the tide on this thing and hopefully get to a place where we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. If we’re not disciplined in the short term, it could get worse before it gets better. The discipline of the individual is so important at this time.”

On the role sports will play in reuniting people once the pandemic ends…

“Sports are a part of our culture and our everyday lifestyle. It’s what helps people sometimes get through the week. It’s the thing they look forward to. When (we get back to playing), the players and staff will take that extremely seriously and understand that’s part of the responsibility we have—to help people get through the days and the weeks. When that time comes, all of our guys will be prepared and ready for that moment and hope that, in some small way, we can help during that time.”