5 Ways To Support Young Athletes During A Pandemic
2020 and 2021 have been challenging years as athletes have had to endure rapid adoption to online school, modified training schedules and an unpredictable sports season. As we start 2022, athletes and coaches continue to face these uncertainties and need to continue navigating the shifting landscape.
Athletes face numerous challenges and uncertainties due to corvid. How will the season look? Will they play fewer games? What safety precautions do they have to follow? And is there a chance the whole season would be cancelled?
Although we are unsure of what the future holds, it is in a time of chaos that athletes need solid leadership from their coaches and parents. This is particularly important for younger athletes as these transitions impact their overall mental health. The Peak Cognition team has compiled some tips to help you better support your athletes as they navigate the school year and changing sports season.
1. Let them know you are available to offer support
For a lot of athletes, sports is a significant part of their life. When this part of their life is impacted due to cancellations or uncertainties, they tend to feel less grounded which can result in feelings of anxiety, disappointment or grief.
With so many people being affected by corvid, athletes may feel like they cannot open up about what they are going through. This potentially puts them at higher risk for mental health challenges especially because sports provides them with many benefits such as peer connection, a sense of identity and consistent physical activity. You can help your athletes develop coping strategies and build mental resilience. Normalize what they are going through and share that what is going on is impacting people in different ways. How it is impacting them is just as important. Provide them with space to express their feelings and work through them without judgement. Find ways to help them participate in their hobbies and other activities to keep their mind engaged.
2. In times of uncertainty, athletes will look to their leaders for guidance
Lead by example. Yes, corvid is impacting our athletes, but it is also impacting you too. Young athletes will look to the adults in their life for how to react and respond to the changes currently taking place. Teach and show them to distinguish between the things they can control and the things they cannot.
Take time to engage in activities that support your mental wellness and be open with your athletes about what you are doing and why. By letting them know they are not alone and that the adults in their life are also engaging in coping strategies, they will feel more connected to you while fostering mental resilience.
3. Let athletes know they're not alone
Let them know that all athletes are feeling what they are feeling. They are probably just as frustrated and disappointed that they are unable to play. Some athletes may feel like they are falling behind in their sport and will not be able to perform like they used to. Remind them that every athletes is facing disruptions to their training, so any change in performance is going to be felt by every athlete.
4. Adopt a different perspective
Instead of focusing on the limited training and changing game schedules, help your athletes refocus their attention on what they can do to continue training at home and take care of themselves. The pressure of what is going on could be an opportunity to develop themselves in ways they never would have been able to without the pandemic. Remember, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”.
5. Teach them to manage fear in the face of uncertainty
With so much uncertainty around returning to school and playing games due to the coronavirus it can be scary for many athletes. They realize they have to be in close contact with people during games which may increase their risk of being sick. Teach them to focus on what steps they can take to reduce the risk of infection. Let them know, “we are all figuring this out together, you are not alone”.
Since athletes’ mental health is being affected, if you notice that they are struggling with fear, grief or disappointment, seek professional support to help them address these issues.
About Peak Cognition
Peak Cognition is a vision training program designed to enhance athletic performance by improving attention, cognitive processing speed, peripheral awareness and complex movement perception. Learn more by visiting www.peakcognition.app.