University of Wisconsin School of Medicine did a survey attempting to measure the impact of the quarantine and potential loss of high school sports is having on the health and wellbeing of high school athletes.
The study showed that many athletes are experiencing depression and anxiety over the future of their athletic careers. The study tells of players worried about the loss of their seasons, the loss of college opportunities and the fact that they miss engaging with their teammates and coaches. All these concerns are legitimate as we try to sort out the future of sports at all levels.
Many schools have returned to competition with restrictions and rules designed to make participation as safe as possible. Other school districts have attempted to start seasons and had to suspend or cancel. And yet others have decided to cancel seasons before they even attempted to start. This added to the high number of athletes who were already impacted when spring seasons were canceled when Coronavirus first changes our world you have a very high number of athletes affected.
The UW study discusses how all these variables are adding a level of stress to all the athletes regardless of which group they fall into. The kids who are practicing and playing are scared that they will get cancelled. The kids who never got to start are frustrated and feel it is unfair that some get to play while they do not. The bottom line is that the unknown of the situation is adding to the number of athletes who are struggling with depression and anxiety.
We all hope that a return to sports for all kids is on the horizon but in the meantime we need to do some things to help our kids avoid mental health problems.
First, we want our kids to exercise, whether that is with a team or not, to improve their physical and mental well being. Let’s get involved as family with exercising together.
Second, get creative with your workout ideas. Making things competitive, keeping things fresh and coming up with different ideas will help with the anxiety that kids are experiencing.
Third, encourage teams to keep working together remotely so that they still feel the connection to their teams and coaches. Finally, keep it fun. Parents have to avoid the temptation to try to take over the “coaching” responsibilities for the kids. Too often this adds another level of stress which is counterproductive.
Sports are important to kids, parents and communities. We know it will be a challenge for the coming months but just because it is a challenge doesn’t mean we can’t overcome it. We need to for the sake of our kids.