Coronavirus has caused the deterioration of the very fabric that binds the global sporting world together. Entire countries have sealed themselves off from the rest of the world and forced people to remain indoors. No world war achieved this on a global scale. We have entered into the unknown.
This sense of uncertainty is the kryptonite to many accomplished and aspiring athletes. With the Olympics postponed and world events cancelled, many athletes are now faced with losing not only their physical strength but their mental strength.
Young athletes are at a much higher risk of psychological decline during this period. The majority of seasoned athletes have experienced missing out on training and competitions due to injury, cancellations or lack of sponsorship at one time or another and have learned how to cope with feelings of frustration and uncertainty.
This uncertainty eats away at motivation. Athletes in New Zealand have no clarity on when sports will return to normal. With the absence of 2020 competitions, training incentives are dwindling. As athletes see their physique demise, they are at risk of rapid mental spiraling.
However, physical strength can be regenerated with a few months of hard work, it is the mental headspace that can take much longer to recover.
Spiral upwards not downwards
Beating this downward spiral requires athletes to accept the situation they are faced with. Viewing the lockdown as an opportunity to develop, rather than looking at it as a time of loss. A negative mindset will only increase the sense of despair.
Once the situation is accepted they can then focus their energy and time on minimizing the loss of conditioning by using what they do have access to. The loss of regular routine negatively impacts the mind.
Having a routine creates a sense of normality amongst the chaos, so it is vital that an athlete maintain training structure as it gives them a sense of some control within their circumstance.
People around the globe are sharing their creative responses to lockdown.
Ultrarunner Ryan Sandes of South Africa ran 160km around his home, Polish hurdler Patryk Dobek has set up his hurdles in his apartment complex car park and Tori Peeters a New Zealand javelin thrower, has been lifting her partner to simulate weight training.
By concentrating the mind on adapting to this new situation, motivation is renewed by the challenge of invention. Additionally, sharing these new techniques helps to maintain public interest in the sport regardless of the lack of current competition to watch.
Time to reflect
Lockdown is an opportunity to re-evaluate the why? Why do athletes compete? Why and how do they train? Why have they sacrificed so much for the sport? It is a golden chance to tackle the mental side of the game. Sport is only 10 percent physical, 90 percent is mental.
Therefore, if an athlete can focus on their psychological aptitude, cultivating a long term sustainable mindset, they will come out of this lockdown not only stronger but healthier and ready to face the next challenge.
What ultimately matters
In this time of isolation, Christian athletes have an additional chance to pause and reflect on their relationship with God. It is so easy to become distracted by the athlete lifestyle and lose sight of what ultimately matters and that is God.
Athletes are being striped of the normal distractions of the sport, which reveals where priorities and values are and whether or not they are aligned with the Lord's heart.
Many Christian athletes may now be asking…Have I been placing my worth in what the Lord says about me or only in my results? Have I been making my sport my number one focus and not the Lord? Am I giving the glory to God who gave me these talents or am I taking it for myself?
These are some very deep questions but it is necessary to ask them. There is no better time than now to be reflecting and processing these questions because there is the time and space to truly and honestly evaluate where you are at.
The Bible reminds us (Philippians chapter 1, verse 6) “be confident of this, he who has begun a good work in you will carry it out to completion until Christ returns.”
Therefore, Christian athletes be reassured that regardless of your season being postponed or cancelled, God will still use you and continue his plans for your life.
Your identity is not only in the sport you play, it is also in the God who blessed you with the ability to play sport. God will strengthen you through this time of uncertainty and reveal to you his plans for your future, whether that is in sport or elsewhere.
Mhairi-Bronté Duncan plays Curling for New Zealand and uses her experiences as an athlete to inspire her writing.