How young athletes can overcome the lockdown challenge

We all have different personalities, our approach to the lockdown should not be the same. The Free Press Journal talks to a leading sports psychologist from UK and a head of football academy to learn how younger generation of athletes can overcome this challenging period.

April was supposed to be a busy month for sports in India. That smack into a goal-keeper’s glove and cracking sound of a cricket bat should be right around the corner, but as we know, it is not. Maidans and gymkhanas usually buzzing with energy despite summer heat freezed in time as the effects of pandemic started spilling out on the domestic turfs.

Gradually, smaller leagues and tournaments also started fading away from the 2020 calendar. Surendra Karkare, head of Bipin Football Academy at Karnataka Sporting Association Ground in Mumbai reckons that there is a little chance tournament might happen before July.

“While we focus on not making gains during this time and try to live for better days, some of our brightest 15-year-olds who feature in the U-16 line-up are losing opportunity of playing at their prime in this category. Playing knockout tournaments in summer would have helped them enhance their fitness and beat the early nerves as they climb up the ladder to U-18s.”

Karkare feels the centrally contracted players and those playing in professional leagues - apart from getting a few hiccups - will be able to withstand this phase with 10-30% pay-cut, indoor facilities, proactive management and online sessions with psychologists. “...but the anguish of someone who went through the boring drill without proper equipment and patiently waited for this season will be hard to imagine.”

‘Approach needs to be different for every type of athlete’

Sarah Majid, an Indian-origin sports psychologist and fitness trainer currently in UK, reminds us that while we are travelling in the same boat, approach to the lockdown has to be unique depending on one’s personality.

Talking to Free Press Journal, she said: “The most important job for an athlete right now is to balance both their internal as well as external world and not lose longer perspective.” Being a former Asian Judo silver-medallist herself, Majid says there is lot to a player than just performances on the field.

“Thoughts, feelings, manifestation of emotions into behaviour are all essential elements of an athlete’s all-round game and can all be developed indoors. So, my suggestion to all the budding athletes would be to focus internally.

“It could be that some of them are experiencing a lot of frustration as they would have been looking forward to the tournaments, but the situation demands us to accept what it is and control the controllable.”

What about fitness & external elements?

“They cannot practice with their teams while schools are closed, and seasons are on hiatus. So, youngsters will have to sweet-talk themselves in doing one thing they are not good at: Repetitive tasks.

Drills to develop hand-eye coordination, circuit sessions, strength endurance, balance and stability, flexibility, breathing techniques involving yoga sound boring but should be developed indoors.”

Majid suggests doing about 30 to 40 minutes of work-out, three to four days a week, so as to manage stress and positive mental health. “Basic equipment like dumbbells and yoga mat should be sufficient. All they need is to maintain their physique with normal pushups, situps, planks, squats and lunges while they cannot train outside.”

Try and learn something new

“With fate of many tournaments already sealed, it is very important to divert energy and emotions to something that is more productive. A lot of times youngsters want to do stuff they never got a chance to do because of academics and sports. This is the right time to pursue their interests of learning painting, drawing, singing, musical instruments, blogging or creative writing.”

For vivid social media users

“They could try being more expressive on networking sites, watch videos and learn new moves of their sport while not forgetting they are at home. These newly acquired skills can make a lot of difference in their game once normal service resumes.”

For emotional athletes

“Start writing a journal, monitor emotions. It is really good time to introspect how emotions affect one’s game. Every single action is an expression of emotion. It is easy for such people to go from one extreme to other very soon.

“So, doing some work on your emotions would be really helpful because you are not exposed to football, cricket or any other variety of sport. Only aspects you can have control over during this lockdown are your mind, thoughts and emotions.”

For introverts

“Humans are hard-wired for connection. So keep in touch with people and don’t get too isolated. While it is true one size doesn’t fit all, it is also important to stay in the same boat with your team and coach. Make sure you maintain connections and talk to them. There will be things or topic on which you might have never had discussion with them, it could be about a game or just a tiny grudge.

Make sure you schedule virtual sessions on Skype, Zoom, FaceTime or write on a forum or a WhatsApp group. Keep active and stay connected in your community because community is a part of an athlete’s identity. So, it is very important to be in touch.”

For ones feeling laid back

“If they are feeling a little laid back, too disconnected from their squad or their identity as an athlete, then it would not be so bad to read books on those athletes who inspire them or about previous generation icons. There are also loads of documentaries online on athletes and sports people.

“It would also be fine to just stay laid back and enjoy the break, not thinking about sports and no self-evaluation, nothing. Only drawback to this approach is that their body will take more time to adapt once everything comes back to normal and chances of getting an injury will be higher.”

(To view our epaper please click here. For all the latest News, Mumbai, Entertainment, Cricket, Business and Featured News updates, visit Free Press Journal. Also, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and do like our Facebook page for continuous updates on the go)

Free Press Journal