- The COVID-19 pandemic has upended all areas of life – and sports is no exception.
- Social distancing measures, brought in to limit the spread of coronavirus, have had a significant effect on sporting fixtures.
- Every aspect of sport has been affected, from the athletes themselves to media coverage.
The coronavirus pandemic has sent shockwaves around the world, leading to a public health emergency that has killed thousands and plunged the global economy into what the International Monetary Fund warns could be the sharpest downturn since the Great Depression.
Not surprisingly, COVID-19 has also upended the sporting calendar, with professional leagues everywhere suspending their activities to limit the spread of the virus. Even the Summer Olympics, typically one the world’s most-watched sporting broadcasts, has been pushed back a year.
The global value of the sports industry was estimated to be $471bn in 2018 – an increase of 45% since 2011 – and before coronavirus stopped play, the only trajectory seemed to be upwards. Now, every part of the sporting value chain has been affected, from athletes, teams and leagues, to the media that broadcast and cover games.
THE IMPACT ON THE INDIVIDUAL
I can turn the lens back on the individual easily because my partner, Lotte Wilms, is a professional athlete. I know first hand, as a life and business coach how this is impacting her, and therefore millions of professional athletes, a silent minority on the planet. Some are immune financially, some have sports that allow training to continue without breaking social isolation rules. But for Lotte in triathlon, the impact has been at every level.
- Financially, her income was through professional pool lifeguard – job gone.
- Prize money for events – events gone.
- Sponsorships and television coverage – none.
- Government support not currently forthcoming.
But this is by no means the essence of her real challenge. Indoor bike training has continued and some running is possible. Swimming is almost impossible with Sydney closing most beaches and all pools and prohibiting all but essential travel (going for a swim might not qualify). So, the loss of momentum, fitness and stamina is inevitable.
But this too, is by no means the essence of her real challenge. Facing, like the rest of the world, the uncertainty of the future and maintaining a strong mindset is the real challenge.
Lotte is Dutch, a gift in these times. She has set up strict protocols and routines to put strong order in her day. She’s disciplined around wake time, diet and of course training times. It’s amazing to witness her commitment to grinding out 2 hours of weight training alone in the spare room (my office / her gym), then often another two on her stationary bike with blood sweat and tears to match. Then, food, then out running for a few hours. Then back, food, rest and stretch.
The lack of social impact on an athlete is immense. Much of what they do in training is no fun so she has had to make it so. She’s got our in-flight noise cancelling head set blasting out great music, she’s put motivating pictures on the walls, has her Garmin measuring every second of her progress and connects with her coach via text and zoom, regularly.
But, that is not her greatest challenge either. Like all of us, professional athletes can live in the moment easily but like the rest of the world they are asking “what does the future look like?” Here, athletes, parents, performers and business owners are facing the most dire of uncertainties. “What does the future look like.” And this is where, we all need to be careful.
To help Lotte manage this uncertainty, which in turn could lead to lost motivation and even depression if it lasts too long I made a check list for her, maybe you’d love to use it.
Here it is:
CHECKLIST FOR LOTTE FOR HANDLING UNCERTAINTY
- There were two sides, balance, in the past, there will be two sides, balance in the future. Some things might change but there will always be a balance of good and bad in it.
- If there’s any anxiety about the future there should also be joy about it too. It’s wise to know that there will be balance, but try to focus on the positive side. It helps with happiness.
- Nothing is ever missing it just changes in form so, if there’s challenges ahead, there were challenges in the past and therefore there’s really nothing going to be different. Support and challenge will always come in the way that’s best for us but it’s never missing.
- The bigger your dreams the smaller the impact of the next year in your life/career. We will bounce back and in 12 months time, a new road will be open and there is still 30 years or more of road ahead of that. Plan big, think big, think vision, dream big.
- Thankfulness – or living in the now, is the greatest energy source on earth. It builds immune systems, it inspires effort, it controls the mind and transcends pain. Stay thankful, for every blessing. It’s easy to forget that we are still so lucky to be breathing and watching the night sky, or a flower, or even having a spare room to enjoy some training.
- Finally, with all this, the one remaining ingredient that is essential for life is love. You are loved, by me, by others, by your supporters, friends and nature. The universe loves you it keeps you alive. Surround yourself with this self talk at all times, you are loved, and therefore entitled to say “I love myself and my life too.” And that’s the best way to remain a champion in life.
This is the core of resilience and maybe we are all, at some level, professional athletes, we just define our sport differently.