College of Health and Human Performance

Supporting Athletes During a Global Pandemic - An Athlete Development Perspective

Laura J. Barnes, a UF sport management graduate student, considers the athlete-development perspective during the COVID-19 pandemic.

by Laura J Barnes | Sport Management Graduate Student

With everything happening in the world right now regarding the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s easy to fall into the rut of watching the news, scrolling social media, and trying to maintain your sanity while also kind of losing your mind. And in the U.S., sports have been pretty much shut down on all levels — professional, collegiate, and even high school and recreational leagues. This is a completely unprecedented situation and for those individuals working in athlete development, it is likely both challenging and a unique opportunity.

Since no one knows exactly how this pandemic will evolve and what the aftermath will look like, there is a lot of uncertainty in every industry. The unfortunate side of sports is that it falls under the umbrella of “entertainment/discretionary spending” for most families and businesses. It is likely that leagues, teams, and venues will struggle once things level out because so many families will be hit by the economic upheaval of this virus and will have to trim their budgets for weeks or even months following the “return to normal.” Because of this, thriving organizations may also be forced to downsize their rosters and staffing levels. Athletes who were considering retiring, or collegiate athletes who were about to graduate and complete their final year of NCAA eligibility may be forced into early retirement as a result of what is happening in the world on an economic level. The unfortunate side of sports is that it is highly dependent upon the global economy. 

If you work with athletes, or if you are an athlete, the range of emotions is probably quite widespread. There’s fear over the uncertainty, boredom because no one likes being quarantined, a feeling of isolation since teams aren’t meeting and that brotherhood/sisterhood element is not quite the same, and many individuals are likely facing the “can’t quite describe it” feeling that accompanies phases in life when your routine is thrown into a topsy-turvy tailspin trying to establish a “new normal.” The following tips can help athletes who are dealing with this scenario.

Create a New Routine

  • Wake up at a normal time, go to bed at a normal time, and try to keep some semblance of normalcy throughout your day 
  • Begin substituting new activities where previous ones used to exist  
  • Discover new at-home workouts if your training facility or gym is closed 
  • During times when you might normally be at practice, use the time to expand your mind instead
  • Build time into your day for self-reflection and personal discovery
  • Take time to connect with people who don’t normally hear from you during your busy season (hint: grandparents love hearing from you!)  

Build Meaningful Connections

  • Take time to have a conversation with someone you might have lost touch with over the years  
  • Reach out to someone you admire and ask for an informational interview to learn more about their world (career, family, personal values, etc)  
  • Connect with people in the industries that interest or inspire you and try to learn more about those industries
  • Lay the foundation now through meaningful connection to help create opportunities in the future

Focus on the Future

  • Think about what you want your next chapter to look like — career, family, personal
  • Allow yourself time to daydream (because you have more time on your hands now anyway)
  • Create a ‘bucket list’ of things you want to do and places you want to go
  • Meditation is a great way to create the mental space for brilliant new ideas to show up that might help you create the next chapter of your life
  • Allow yourself to look forward to the future — this can be the best way to ward off the fear and anxiety that might be creeping in

Use Your Time Strategically

  • Learn a new skill — like cooking or dancing or meditating. Find tutorials and how-to videos on YouTube and get lost in learning
  • Watch Ted Talks on topics that interest you
  • Revamp or build your LinkedIn profile
  • Update your resume
  • Explore certification courses that might help you with your life after sports
  • Find an organization you want to get involved with and schedule a call to learn more about how you can help
  • Journal about your experience and the ways it is impacting you — be present to how you feel during this time and what you’re trying to accomplish in the grand scheme of things
  • Do your taxes (or learn how to do your taxes)

Athletes are amazing learners — think about the number of things they had to learn in order to get where they are today. Plays, workout techniques, nutrition, time management, the list goes on and on. While this time may be unnerving for many, and even scary for some, it is also an amazing opportunity to create opportunities outside of sport. Athletes who choose to invest in themselves during this time will likely find that they are more marketable and have greater self-awareness following this pandemic. Wishing you, your families, and your clients health, happiness, and continued safety!

>> Republished with permission — view the original article on LinkedIn.

Contact Laura Barnes ( / 970.379.4727)

About the Author: Laura Barnes is a coach and speaker, focusing on athletes — specifically communication skills coaching. She is also a student at University of Florida, pursuing her master's in sport management with a specialization in athlete development.

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