First paragraph: The aim of this guidance is to provide a framework for athletes to cope, thrive and engage in personal growth during the current pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has likely led to wide-scale disruption of your sporting trajectories for 2020. This has included the cancellation or postponement of sporting events, limits to group training due to social distancing, restrictions on use of sporting facilities and loss of face-to-face access to coaches and support personnel. In the context of a threat to public health, arguably sports competition sinks into lesser importance, but for athletes like you, for whom sport is a fulltime job or major life goal, or for those who identify sports competition as a key part of their identity, it is important to share recommendations based on evidence and theory on how to support athletes and players through this time. The unprecedented situation means that evidence from similar or related contexts and relevant theories needs to be used to extrapolate to COVID-19 and all its challenges. Each of the guidelines below should be viewed like a menu to choose from and try, test and review, and be seen as a road to discovery instead of passive prescription of activities. Our team of practitioners and researchers have collated the knowledge below based on four premises: 1. Psychological Strengths: As a performer on the sporting stage, you have, in all likelihood, developed many skills and habits to support your on-field performance. Pre-performance routines for penalty taking, for example, may include relaxation and focusing components which aid emotional regulation. This can be also applied to help you cope in world outside of sport (i.e. outside the bubble). Awareness of your repertoire of psychological skills and the ability to use them across different contexts is highly important. 2. Resilience: The capacity to mobilise resources both in advance and after a major challenge, is developed through our sporting challenges. In the face of a trauma, it is likely that resilience is the default rather than the exception. As an athlete, you have the ability to respond in an optimistic way to major stressors and engage in post-traumatic growth. Further, you have successful experiences from memory to call upon on which By doing this, you build a firm foundation on which to build your beliefs that you have sufficient resources to cope with COVID-19. 3. Individual Responses: It is important to acknowledge that athletes in different sports and at different levels of competition have developed diverse sets of abilities and competencies. Dual-career athletes (e.g. student-athletes) may have invested much of their effort in their sport despite study or work commitments, and injured athletes may be over-identifying with their sport as a predictable response to injury, in both cases making these athletes very vulnerable to major stressors. 4. Perception of Control: Loss of control is a major source of anxiety in a pandemic (see Mansell, 2020). Developing autonomy and a sense of control is a key part to feeling safe and secure. With COVID-19, the new habits that could help protect you such as physical isolation, hand hygiene, and avoiding touching your face can help you gain control in an uncertain world. And finding new ways to exercise, to work and to interact can open up a world of exciting possibilities. Athletes have shown an ability to develop positive habits and maintain self-control, skills transferable to meeting the present challenging circumstances.
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MacIntyre, T., Brick, N., Butler, C., Doherty, A., Lane, A., Morris, R., Murphy, C., Murphy, E. & Rogan, M. 2020, Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic: Tips for Players and Athletes COVID-RECOVER, The Psychological Society of Ireland. Available at: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/32955