Because the current COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for all, it is easy to underestimate the extent to which this has profoundly impacted young people. The situation with this pandemic is unprecedented in their lifetimes and our athletes are experiencing something they never expected. Some common feelings they may be experiencing are fear, anxiety, loss, relief, confusion, disappointment, exhaustion, frustration, and anger.
The situation is most certainly a great loss, however, there are ways to both maneuver through this and find the opportunity in this predicament for our children to flourish. Life is a team sport and the positive principles learned on the court, field, and ice are just as relevant when practiced remotely or even virtually.
There are some approaches you might consider in particular that can help offset the disappointment and improve positivity. The most important of all is empathy. All kids are different and each is coping with this in their own unique way and varied degree of difficulty. As a coach or a parent, you need to be aware of their emotional state and their specific personality to properly connect with them.
Showing that you understand and respect the difficulty of this predicament for its limitations is an opportunity to validate how they are feeling. You could say, "It’s OK to be disappointed if you’re feeling bad" or "It’s not fair to have your season postponed or canceled—that’s understandable and you’re right to feel that way." Also sharing your own personal struggles with the situation is an opportunity to be a role model and begin to shift the focus together to undertake activities that might be more uplifting. This could include a long walk, a game of kickball or even just relaxing on your porch. Embracing empathy also means understanding what interests them and what they consider fun in order to make suggestions in line with their preferences.
The second approach is to maintain a steady and healthy routine. Structure is critically important to the well-being of young people. Be sure that it is a regimen you create together to establish the appropriate flexibility and buy-in for each day. Scheduled items can be something as simple as an easy task around the house like getting the mail, having them make their own breakfast or even a pet project of their own.
This positive structure should be beneficial to those adhering to it. This means that when planning school time, break it up with recess or even a creative task. Part of this regimen should also be to reinforce healthy eating habits and behaviors. Continuing with the empathic approach, it is important to empower your children to re-evaluate the daily routine and have them collaborate with you and evolve it together.
The third approach is central to what PCA stands for as an organization. We passionately believe that life is a team sport and know that kids feel valued when they are part of a team. The pandemic has meant the loss of the athletic season and the connective culture of the school year which has made this so particularly devastating. This truth is equally relevant to coaches as it is parents. Even though a coach may be separated from their kids physically, the team still exists, and with it the opportunity to help all of their athletes to elevate their game from home. Athletes can be taught to be good teammates just by checking in with each other. It could be from across the street or over a video chat. Generally, screen time is perceived to be conducive to a lack of human connection, however, with group-based virtual applications like Zoom and TeamSnap, there is the opportunity to have weekly team conferences, share daily motivational messages and even challenge one another remotely to gamify certain activities.
Finally, regardless of how interminable this stay at home pause has been, we do know with certainty that sports will eventually return. For coaches today, there is an opportunity to engage their players to begin to talk about what they want their team culture to look like next year. This time at home is also the chance to work on skills for the next sports season. As a coach, you can help them set goals to work on skills like agility, speed, flexibility, and an overall positive mindset?
There is no doubt that this time has been challenging for young people. It is also, however, an opportunity to reinforce to our kids that we are all in this together and to ask ourselves, what do we want to get out of this time?