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Covid, Confinement and Sportsman Wellbeing

By Elena Lario

All the things that athletes have not thought about until now will be raised during the current situation. There is going to be a re-planning of sports careers, from risking to start a career abroad to preferring to stay close to their relatives," explains Luana Prato, a sports psychologist who works at Club Natació Sabadell, the nursery for the Spanish women's water polo team.

"Nothing will be the same after the pandemic", is constantly repeated during these weeks. Nor will it be in the world of sports.

Although it is still difficult to know what face it will have afterward. What is clear is that the role of psychologists will be essential in this transition. EFE has spoken with two of them to shed light on the matter.

"We are not going to return to normality, society is going to change, the way of doing sporting events is going to change, the way we train as well, the way we touch, hug each other ... it may be that not all athletes see each other wanting to go to the training immediately when the confinement is over, "continues Prato.

"These days the fears suffered by some professional athletes have the point of view placed at the base of the pyramid: not to lose work. Questions arise such as the day I return to competition will I be at the same level as before the break? In case of not being at the same level, will my club understand it or will it dispense with my services? Will, I will ever be able to return to the level I had? ".

And she explains that the negative thoughts that are affecting us all these weeks also appear to athletes, whether they are elite or not.

"We are in an exceptional situation and, therefore, the thoughts and ideas that we have are also exceptional," says Prato.
The psychologist predicts that this pandemic will change the way athletes see things and life, and of course their priorities.

"Suddenly a virus appears and dismantles the life that the athlete had planned. Furthermore, he now lives with the uncertainty that a similar situation will happen again in the medium or long term."


What are the possible consequences?

"For example, that tomorrow the athlete will value more a five-year contract offer and little risk in a mid-level club than a three-year offer in a first-level club in which he may not succeed ".

Another possible consequence is that athletes "learn to think more in the short term than in the long term," says Prato. "Perhaps they will no longer think so much about becoming the best in their category in a given period of years as about the challenges that can be encountered in three months," she adds.

Prato warns that in the case of athletes who combine their sports careers with an academic career after confinement "there can be an overload in all areas:
So consider that sports organizations should take into account the mental health of athletes when planning a return to the supposed normality.

The problem is that "many times the sports federations are not coordinated with the academic part; there is no dialogue. And both are going to put their respective calendars without taking each other into account." And remember that "the person is only one, he cannot unfold, and he will have many challenges once he overcomes confinement".

For this reason, Prato recommends that during confinement athletes "be advised both regarding their sports career and psychologically". He considers it essential to "avoid anxieties, depression or abuse of substances such as alcohol."

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