Image Credits: Fisto staff

  • Apr
  • 03

‘Some things are bigger than sports’: Coaches find ways to support young athletes in the time of Coronavirus lockdown

Author Image Mervin LR

Coaches spoke on how they’re utilizing the downtime to get creative in helping their players work out at home and stay in shape.

With a long list of cancellations and suspensions across sports due to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus outbreak, and the implementation of social distancing measures, coaches are being tasked with getting creative in keeping their athletes in game-ready form while at home.

Coaches are making efforts to keep athletes/teams emotionally close when they've suddenly been scattered across the country — and in many cases the world. Regular video calls and group texts have replaced face-to-face interactions as they embrace new ways to help young athletes cope with a crisis that has also taken away the sports they loved, the very thing that defined many of them.

“Rather than accepting this current situation as an excuse look at it as an opportunity to do other things related to TT which we don't really focus on regular days,” Table Tennis coach Rajesh Ramanathan said.

For coaches across the country, the social distancing measures have left them to rely more on technology to help communicate with their players. Rajesh noted he’s utilizing social media and other video apps to help his athletes stay accountable and offer at-home workouts.

“A committed professional isn't someone who just puts in lots of TT hours but also does things which are related to TT all the time,” he said, by adding, by that, I mean that we have a lot of free time in our hand now and how best we can make use of it to be training ready for months to come. We can’t see each other face to face, but we’re only a phone call away or an email away.”

For Rajesh, playing TT doesn't mean only training, it involves improving one’s technical, physical and mental (attitude) toughness as well. He believe that athletes can do from home till the situation improves.

“This is the time to correct your technical flaws by doing the footwork and shadow excersises, recover from all the niggles and injuries, except for long distance running, rest of the excersises can be done at home. If you have a table access do lots of service practice.”

Rajesh has been providing optional workouts for his athletes and stay in contact with them remotely to give instruction via electronic communication.

Some of his training methods during this lockdown period includes:

Try to analyze your attitude and see what changes can be brought in to make you do things in a better way.

Make yourself busy by doing whatever it is related to the sport.  Watch the videos of yourself to get a better perspective of your strengths and weaknesses.

Compare what others do when they are in a similar situation.

Pen down your thoughts and thought process, visualize yourself playing as often as you can with better players and find ways how you can beat them.

Write down those imaginary points with better opponents which you played in the mind.  Our sub conscious brain cannot differentiate between actual play or Imagery if you do it with utmost focus.

By doing the above getting back to table rhythm will happen in a few sessions. The process mentioned above is continuous and not a one-time affair

Cricket coach Prabhakaran strives to maintain his optimism

Cricket coach Prabhakaran, Take Solution, finds himself in a situation similar to so many other coaches across the country, miles away from ground and lost without his daily routine of coaching.

“This whole situation has been hard to process and still feels so surreal,” Prabhakaran said. “Never thought I would advise anyone to stay away from others. I think for all of us the No. 1 focus always has to be on the players’ well-being.”

With the absence of cricket season that allow everyone to be together perhaps one final time, he said coaches can get creative: establish new team awards, hold virtual celebrations, share a book the whole team can read and discuss, or let players prepare a practice plan or new drill.

“All coaches in every sport want to win, but the bottom line in all of this is these players are 17- to 21-year-olds in a prime part of their lives when they’re still trying to figure out the world.” 

But he strives to maintain his optimism. Optimism is a good thing, said the 46-year-old coach.

“I just hope the players can stay self-motivated as they have. And to stay active. I know they’ll do a good job,” he declared. “I tell them to stay fit, visualize yourself playing as often as you can with better players and use objects and find ways how you can beat your opponents. I like to stay that way until we hear that the season comes back,” he said.

Athletics coach Azarudeen on detraining programs

Mohamed Azarudeen, India’s youngest world athletics level-2 coach says that he's been devastated by losing so much of the season. But he says a recent message of encouragement on the group chat with his friends and students helped him change his thinking.

The athletic coach has encouraged everybody to keep working out, hydrate, get your rest and practice social distancing.

“In the lockdown period, it’s better to follow what the government says and stay safe at home but it’s also essential to follow the training routine without dropping out of your fitness level

He says that athlete’s body is always highly-trained engine, even when you stop your training suddenly, it may cause many health problems such as gaining weight and other mental problems.

“When a highly trained athletes in the peak of their power, were readying for the competition but all of sudden their season was cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic; the nationwide stay-in-place ordered, what are they supposed to do?”

“Detraining programs,” says Azar.

“I always give them some detraining programs which will make them fit even though improper detraining can affect their cardiovascular system, could also weaken their immune system. To avoid this, I always tell my athletes do some essential training at home like Cycling, Corestabilites, Circuit training, Strenthening work, Yoga, motivation video, and analyse their own race videos to rectify their mistakes. These will help them to maintain their fitness level around 50%,” said the 25-year-old coach, who is hoping the season returns if only so he can see the offseason hard work pay off.

'We will get through them together'

This is totally new territory for coaches across the state and the country. Few if any people have ever had to deal with this type of shutdown. Mohamed Azar and Prabhakaran both said that they have never dealt with a similar delay to a season. They’ve dealt with late starts due to raining persisting into late October or November and have had complications due to flooding. But never a full shutdown like the one they’re experiencing this time.

Prabhakaran has continued to hold the team together by posting team challenges and encouraging them to continue working during this break.

“I believe that the uncertainties caused by COVID-19 will pull us closer together as a team — the next few weeks or months may suck, but I know we will get through them together," he said, adding “I think that the social distancing makes sense, and I would rather not have a season than risk further spreading a potentially fatal virus. Some things are bigger than sports.”

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