It has now been almost a year since the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to sport at university. Sports teams had their seasons disrupted and ended abruptly in the middle of March and now, for many, they have still not been able to resume. The pandemic has forced sports teams to adapt to a new challenge: maintaining team relations digitally.
The disappointing news of the BUCS 2020/21 league being cancelled brought a new wave of disappointment to university sports teams who have been out of action for some time now.
While the lack of exercise clearly impacts physical health, it is important to recognise the toll it can take on mental health as well. Sport and exercise offer huge benefits to our mental health by helping us to manage stress and anxiety. Further to this, training with a squad helps to combat loneliness for individuals who may live alone or simply thrive being in a team environment. It can also just be frustrating when you cannot continue doing something you enjoy!
The heightened stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic and a constant influx of upsetting news can start to have a negative effect on an individual’s mental health and without an outlet beneficial to mental health such as training or playing, other options must be pursued to keep your team feeling supported. Keeping up team relations reminds people they are not alone and have the backing of their team behind them.
The phase of Zoom quizzes seems to have passed us; however, with face-to-face meet ups not looking likely in the near future, communicating online is, for now, the only way forward. It can be easy to lose momentum as these intense lockdowns continue and turnout to these online sessions can be sporadic, but providing these sessions and pushing to keep up team relationships are as vital, if not even more so, than during the first lockdown. Throughout the winter lockdowns, online platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have enabled us to provide online sessions to ensure the continuation of good team relations and implement the positive impacts that sports teams and exercise have to offer. It also has provided a short outlet for many away from day-to-day life. Some examples of online sessions you could hold are below:
Online workout classes
Whether it be a gentle yoga session or a 20-minute intense HIIT, any form of movement or heart-raising activity increases endorphins and helps to relieve stress. Group workouts are motivating and create a sense of community when you are doing them together.
An outdoor or indoor challenge related to your sport will give your team motivation and continue to make the players feel they are a part of a team. For example, hitting 10,000 steps every day for a week, or a competitive challenge between two groups.
Coaching and learning does not have to stop because you are not out on the pitch; this can be the ideal time to perfect the basics as well as look at potential new tactics that can be implemented once training and playing can resume.
The perfect time to strengthen relationships and who doesn’t love a quiz every now and again? It is also a good idea to see if you can convert some of the annual socials into digital socials, which can generate the same excitement, even though they are not in-person.
The most important thing to take away is to let your team know you are there if they need someone to turn to for support or advice. This is a tough time for everyone and communicating with teammates and friends can provide some relief, even if just momentarily. We can hope that it will be safe for university sport to return soon but for now, digital communication is the way forward.