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Keep the Team and Your Sanity Together in This Interrupted Sports Season

Written by Dr. Marianne Engle

This is a strange and unexpected time for child and adolescent athletes, parents, and families. Connections with teammates, coaches, and opponents have been curtailed, but we have an opportunity to make this a time for growth, developing strength, and teamwork.  

Coaches can continue to lead and train players by staying connected to help athletes maintain a sense of team and keep some training going for when the season begins again. 

Athletes can apply success mindset techniques to the circumstances in which we now find ourselves. That deep breathing exercise and focus you practiced to prepare for a game or deal with a disappointing performance?  Use that to help get through any stress you might be feeling today.. Stay grounded, keep a positive attitude, stay connected via social media, cheer on your teammates. 

Parents can help children stay focused on the true meaning and value of team sports by putting the spotlight on staying fit for its physical and mental health benefits, its camaraderie and leadership opportunities.

Here are some specific steps you can take to help weather this storm. At their best, these are opportunities for teams to feel that the season still is important.

  1. Coaches can establish group chats to maintain contact with kids and their parents. Having digital “team meetings” once or twice a week will maintain the team connection. Use the time to identify strengths and areas that can be improved for the whole team and individual players. Ideally, the coaches can offer these possibilities in a positive way to motivate and give definition to the activities.
  2. Coaches can encourage parents and players to set up daily training routines that include 10 to 30 minutes a day for technical work and another 15 minutes for sit ups, stretches, pushups, etc. to maintain their strength.  
  3. Players, find time to run laps outside, if possible, or run in place if outdoor access is not available. 
  4. Athletes, depending on your sport, find ways to practice as many of the team moves as possible.  
  5.  Kids can keep notes of their activities and send them to the coach each day.  
  6. It would be great if coaches (with help if needed) can assign the team some clips from earlier recorded games, kid games, or high school, college, or provisional games that the kids could watch to learn more about team and position processes.  
  7. Coaches, players and parents can use this as an opportunity to have fun understanding sports in a way that might take too much time in more active times. This “found time”  is an opportunity to add fun to team learning and discussion. 
  8.  Give some recommendations for physical and mental improvement.  Not only is that good for team learning, it also keeps the players engaged and helps rule out an irritability or depression that could easily develop.  
  9. Let the team discuss and choose a team-building activity they can perform individually and share at a future “meeting”. This could be anything from a physical challenge of some sort (for example, create a brief workout routine or new exercise for the team and share it via video) to identifying a volunteer service activity to reading a specific sports-related article or book, or watching a sports movie.

The hardest hit during this time are the parents who also need to maintain their mental and physical health. Daily routines, activities, and adult supervision can continue learning and growth through this disruptive time.

Use this as an opportunity to create positive experiences and make sure that the kids are still strong, healthy, and learning. That way, when this period has passed, the memories will be sweet and the time will generate some positive outcomes.

Learn more: inCourage delivers research-based solutions for improving the culture of youth sports.

Our engaging videos and informative educational resources are available, at no cost, to anyone who wants to create better communications and outcomes to keep kids happy, healthy and in the game. 

The inCourage Playbook is your go-to resource for informative articles and links to videos, downloads and other free, sharable content. Sign up now, and never miss a post.Marianne Engle, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and a sports psychologist. Her clients have included professional athletes and teams from the NBA, PGA, and the America’s Cup sailing race in addition to elite athletes in ice skating, baseball, tennis, soccer, water polo, squash, dressage, volleyball, etc. Marianne has written a sports psychology program for youth athletes and coaches to enhance commitment, physical and mental skill building, and group dynamics. She is currently on the faculty of the NYU Langone Medical School. She has held faculty appointments at Harvard, MIT, and UCSD in addition to being a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Sport and Society. She is a board member of the NYU Sports and Society program.

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