The Impact of Covid on Athletes
As of February 2022, the world is still looking to navigate the pandemic. That makes for nearly a full 2 years that Covid has had its impact. Athletes have not been immune. In fact, many have struggled more so as their main passion, identity, and way of being has been continuously disrupted. That said, people in all areas of life have been able to grow and find resilience through these difficult times, athletes included. This blog serves as a basic summary, and by no means comprehensive, of the negative impact of Covid on athletes; but more importantly, to give advice on how athletes can continue to get through successfully.
If you are a coach or parent of an athlete, you have no doubt felt the impact of Covid on them or their friends/teammates. The disruption to their ability to train, play, and compete has been consistent throughout. Athletes typically thrive on routines. Like most people, they enjoy knowing what to expect and that they have control over how and when they train and compete. Covid has disrupted all of that. Competitions and training space is constantly being rescheduled or canceled. Random quarantines rear their heads. Frustration and anxiety surface like it never has before.
Let’s bring some perspective here. Your teenage athletes likely just went through the longest period of their lives not being able to compete and do what they love most. They were forced through school to be on screens more than they ever have been, socially isolated from their friends and teammates for too long of time. Their eating, sleeping, and exercise habits likely changed significantly, wreaking havoc on their bodies, minds, and souls. For those that had Covid, their was a level of fatigue that lingered after, impacting performance. Training changed a lot too! For many, it had to be solo, bringing a different kind of motivation. And what are they training for exactly!? There is no guarantee that their seasons will look like they usually do, if they even play at all. This lack of certainty is not easy on anyone! And let’s just bring in the typical mental health challenges of depression, anxiety, and substance use, all exacerbated by Covid.
All of these factors have made consistent confident performance nearly impossible. However, there are things your athletes can do to thrive through these times and get control back of their performance.
Thriving Through Covid: Tips Directly to the Athletes
My best suggestion is to help your athlete control the controllables and to develop the right mindset towards the uncontrollables.
SNERM- The Top 5 Health Practices
S- sleep- at least 7.5 hours, experts say
N- nutrition - food truly does have a major impact on our physical and mental health
E- exercise- get the heart rate up daily! Stretch!
R- relationships- create and maintain them
M- mental training- breathing, mindfulness, visualization, yoga
Set Training Goals!!
- Work with coaches to understand the specific technical, physical, tactical, and mental skills you should be working on
- Create a plan to hit all of these elements each week
- Have a parent, teammate, or friend hold you accountable
- Share workout and technical drill videos with teammates
- Schedule group workouts over a video platform
- Create challenges/competitions for a team to compete
Develop a Mental Training Routine
5 minutes a day at least! Visit my recent blogs on guidance for each of these specifically.
- Rhythmic Breathing
Always come back to your “Why”.
Your why is the reason you love your sport and are willing to put in all of the hours you do to be better. Most importantly during Covid, your "why" helps you to manage setbacks and inconsistencies. It is the thought that motivates and drives you back to your daily process.
Managing The Uncontrollables
Sometimes there is nothing we can do about our situations. Maybe another game has been rescheduled, or we have to miss a week of practice, or are super fatigued from a recent injury or covid setback. Our mindset and actions towards these situations is critical to stay in a place of positive growth..
- Remember first that it is ok to feel disappointed, frustrated, stressed, etc… It is how we manage these feelings that matter most.
- Talk through unpleasant feelings with trusted friends and adults
- Know and apply your top coping skills to manage unpleasant feelings
- Utilize your self-talk. Remember you do have control over how you respond. A helpful statement to say is, “A more helpful way to see this is…”
- Stay patient! Stay focused on the process you can control
- Develop acceptance
- Shift your mindset towards gratitude of what you have rather than what you do not!
Work with a Sports Psychologist or Mental Performance Coach
There is no better time to have your athlete(s) work with a professional so that they can get control back over their performances. Check on their experience and make sure they have a certification or licensure to work with people in the capacity they do : )
If you are interested in your athlete working with me, Contact me here!
Thanks for reading!
Powell Cucchiella, LMHC