Athletes’ mental health key during pandemic

Dr Vernice Richards a Human Performance Specialist believes that the current mental stress and challenges placed on athletes during the Covid-19 Pandemic should be treated like a physical injury.

Richards who is Mental Health Counselor and a Sport and Performance Psychology Consultant was speaking in a wide ranging Webinar hosted by the Athletic Association of Barbados.

She mentioned that a more in depth approach is needed and one should look at multi-dimensional ways to ease the athlete back into the sport both physically and mentally.

With so many athletes forced to stay indoors more often Richards said that it has brought the mental aspect of the sport more to the fore as there is more time to reflect, consider and evaluate the mental side of sports.

However even before the onset of the pandemic she pointed out that the mental side was very important to the athletes.

This is because of the many different ways and advances of physical training which has levelled the playing field more now than before. In order to get the extra bit or the extra mile the mental aspect of the athlete is what will give them the edge.

Because of this need for the extra edge she believes that the mental skills training is just as important if not moreso than that of the physical.

For this to be effective athletes should be working with mental skills coach before they are set to travel and the stress of the competition comes in as well during and afterwards.

This is so that a proper assessment can be made and the mental skills programme can continue to evolve for that athlete as it is not a static program.

In this pandemic team sports in the region has been hit the hardest as they have not been able to train together an Richards believes that continuous communication would help to keep some of the chemistry among the team alive which can hopefully translate into the sport later.

“The challenge is now to educate and pay attention to how we can be creative and innovative through the mediums that we have available,” said Richards as it relates to way to keep certain athletes going in isolation.

With many athletes questioning their path and goals during this time and struggling to stay motivated Richards said that two mental skills will be very important and they are Imagery and visualization.

To stay motivated athletes will have to remind themselves “why they are there  and reidentify their purpose and intention and what it is they really want to achieve.”

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