Tuesday, 23 Jul 2024

Six Ways Coaches Can Support Their Athletes During COVID-19

As a coach, you may be feeling unsure of how to support your athletes during these challenging times. While in-person practices and games may not be happening, there are still many ways you can keep your team engaged and prepared for when sports resume. In this article, we will explore six effective strategies that coaches and experts recommend to support your athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Host Virtual Practices

Virtual practices have become the norm for many coaches across the U.S. Sabrina Alimi, a lacrosse coach in New York City, shares her experience of hosting virtual practices for her high school and youth league teams. Using platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime, coaches can conduct practice sessions online. These virtual practices may not involve actual playing, but they focus on essential skills and tactics that will benefit the athletes when they return to the field. Alimi also includes video analysis of old games to provide valuable insights and discussions among the players.

Understand Limitations

It is crucial to recognize the diverse circumstances that your athletes may be facing. While some may have the opportunity to go outside and engage in physical activities, others may be confined to their homes due to various constraints. For instance, in New York City, many athletes are unable to go outside for walks or runs due to safety concerns. As a coach, you can provide alternative options for those who cannot engage in outdoor activities. This could include recommending indoor exercises or skills that can be practiced in limited spaces.

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Ensure Everyone Can Participate

Not every athlete has access to the same resources at home. Some may lack reliable internet connections, computers, or even basic sporting equipment. As a coach, you can assist these athletes by helping them acquire necessary equipment or finding creative solutions. This could involve loaning out equipment, sourcing tablets or laptops, or even dropping off items at their doorsteps. By making it easy for athletes to communicate their needs, you can ensure that everyone can fully participate in the practice sessions.

Create Routines and Structures

Maintaining routines and structures is essential for keeping the team connected and motivated. Scott Campsall, the lead instructor at Okami Kai martial arts studio in Ontario, shares his experience of offering classes via Zoom and requiring students to wear their uniforms. This not only adds a sense of connection but also reinforces the group dynamic. If your team does not have uniforms, you can encourage athletes to wear specific colors or find other ways to foster a team-like atmosphere. By establishing these routines, you can help your athletes stay disciplined and engaged.

Focus on Underserved Skills

The current situation presents an opportunity to focus on skills that are often overlooked during a typical season. For example, soccer practices usually revolve around gameplay, but there are numerous smaller skills related to ball handling that can be practiced at home. Additionally, athletes can incorporate new activities into their routines to improve their strength and conditioning. Tristan Wenzig, a hockey coach in Pittsburgh, explains how dry land training can be beneficial for hockey players and recommends using a golf ball for stick handling to enhance hand-eye coordination.

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Let Kids Make Their Own Decisions

It is important to remember that not all athletes may feel motivated to participate during these challenging times. According to Nadia Kyba, a TrueSport Expert, it’s okay to respect their decision and not pressure them to engage in every session. Encourage any type of movement that keeps them physically and mentally healthy until sports return. As researcher and clinical social worker Kathleen McIntyre suggests, any form of exercise, no matter how short, can help alleviate negative emotions and contribute to overall well-being.

FAQs

Q: How can coaches conduct virtual practices?

A: Coaches can use various online platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime to conduct virtual practices. These platforms allow coaches to interact with their athletes and focus on essential skills and tactics.

Q: What can coaches do to support athletes with limited resources?

A: Coaches can assist athletes by helping them acquire necessary equipment or finding creative solutions. This could involve loaning out equipment, sourcing tablets or laptops, or even dropping off items at their doorsteps.

Conclusion

Although face-to-face interactions may not be possible at the moment, coaches can still play a vital role in supporting their athletes’ well-being and future success. By hosting virtual practices, understanding limitations, ensuring inclusivity, creating routines, focusing on underserved skills, and respecting individual choices, coaches can keep their athletes engaged and prepared for the return of sports. Remember, your support and guidance during these challenging times will make a significant difference in the lives of your athletes.

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