Everyone within the sporting community has been affected by COVID-19, with many training facilities having been closed, and events and competitions being canceled at every level. With this, many athletes, coaches, and parents of aspiring children are striving hard to come up with contingency plans that will allow them to continue practicing and competing while following the fluctuating guidelines put in place. Here are some tips you should follow as an athlete, coach, or parent, to navigate through the challenges during COVID-19.
10 Tips for Athletes, Coaches and Parents During the COVID-19 Pandemic
1. Prioritize the Mental Health of All Involved
Possibly the most important thing that you can do, no matter what role you have within sport, is to view your mental and emotional health as a priority. Make sure that you provide yourself with the right nourishment, keep a roof over your head, get the right amount of sleep, and keep your body healthy with physical activity.
Athletes may struggle with the time away from the sport, or a performance dip caused by time out. Coaches will often feel like a part of their identity is missing. Parents have to care for their child’s mental health, while juggling their own which can also suffer with the changes. Encourage all involved to take part in sport wherever possible, even if it has to be in a creative way that is significantly different than before.
2. Take Advantage of Virtual Communication
Although we are restricted with limited socialization face-to-face, we cannot let it stop us from connecting with others, not just friends and family, but others in the sporting community. Pick up the phone, send a text, video chat as a group, or connect on social media as much as you can.
Not only will this communication make you feel better, you will also be making others feel better by showing that you care, and they add value to your life.
As a coach, it is important that you show your willingness to listen to your athletes should they need to talk things out, and as an athlete, this type of communication can provide you with a huge amount of support, even in uncertain times. Can you do one-on-one mental training sessions? Coach online? Ask parents to send videos of their children practicing so you can offer exercises or a critique? In times like these, we need to think outside the box.
3. Stay Up-to-Date
It is also good to keep updated with COVID information as it is released, from governing bodies, the World Health Organization, CDC, and any state regulations so you can respond should you need to.
With that being said, it is important to remember that these things are out of your control, and so you should focus primarily on the things you can control (i.e. your attitude, your actions, and your effort.) It’s frustrating for everyone involved to change or cancel events, but it’s also the best way to be respectful to other people in your sport who may be more vulnerable to the virus or work in the healthcare sector.
4. Create a Daily Routine
What can you do to stay in the best condition possible so you can return to your sport without missing a beat? For athletes, there are often flexibility exercises, strength, endurance, and other aspects of mental and physical fitness you can take care of, even if you can’t train with others. If you’re a coach, could you take an online course, read a book, or watch a documentary to learn more about being a better coach? Regardless of your role, try to incorporate it into your normal routine.
Don’t let the fact that you can’t go to the gym or train with your teammates stop you from training or working out. There are so many resources to help you exercise at home, such as YouTube videos or training apps. As we talked about above, can you train a different aspect for your sport from home? Do you need more muscular or cardiovascular endurance? If so, it may be time to start running or doing another activity to improve these.
6. Ensure Any In-Person Events Are Done Within the Guidelines
This may sound obvious, but it’s worth reiterating. If you can do in-person training, stick to the guidelines. There may be one person on the team who feels nervous about returning to training, so abide by the safety guidelines at all times so everyone can enjoy their time and feel safe and responsible.
7. Do Whatever Feels Right for You, Right Now
It’s okay to use this time to take a break from training or coaching if that’s how you feel. You may want to continue training in any way you can (following social distancing guidelines), but you shouldn’t feel ashamed to use some of this time to rest, catch up with school work or work projects, or engage in those other interests you don’t often have time to do. Self-care is key, so find constructive ways to improve your mental well-being.
8. Don’t Forget “Why”
In order to stay motivated and positive about the future, it is good to remember your reason “why” you train so hard and compete to be one of the top athletes in your sport. Loss of motivation or desire are common problems, especially due to the many uncertainties, but you shouldn’t view this time as “lost.” Instead, think back about why you started playing your respective sport in the first place – because it’s fun! Reignite that flame and view these moments as opportunities, rather than as challenges.
9. Consider Degrees of Impact
It is important to recognize that some athletes may have been impacted greatly by the effects of COVID-19, while others may have only been impacted by government restrictions. You may have to work from home, but a teammate may have lost their job. Another may have lost a grandparent. Be respectful. If you’re a coach, communicate. Be someone they can turn to for support and above all else, keep perspective. Everyone is struggling to some degree, even if they’re not outwardly showing it.
10. Continue to Train, Provide Training, or Encourage Training
If you or your athlete(s) want to continue to train during the pandemic, it is important that you continue to provide training through alternative means such as online training program suggestions, app recommendations, meal plans, or at-home training regimens, as well as relevant podcasts and books to further their sport psychology/theory.
Times are difficult within the sporting community during this pandemic and so the most important thing is to focus on the aspects of your life that you can control, even if this seems like very little. While it may be difficult at first, choose to focus on the positive over the negative. Reframe your thought process from “why is this happening” to “what can I learn from this experience.” Over time, you’ll notice that this shift in thinking will trickle into other aspects of your life. Finally, ensure that you stay connected with those who can support you the most and remember that we will get through this together.