Back to Basics: The COVID Effect
COVID-19 and the subsequent social distancing protocols that prompted shutdowns across the nation, has caused a large amount of uncertainty in our day-to-day life and month-to-month planning. This effect looms large over youth sports. Seasons have been canceled. There are new safety protocols requiring physical distancing. The ability to compete in team sports, the way we knew it before, is no longer the same.
Is it a bad thing that sports have shut down and changed so much for our youth? There are arguments across the board that discuss the negatives about youth sports being sidelined. Arguments include the impact of social and mental health for young athletes not having an emotional and stress release, not having social time with other peers, and being limited in the options for physical exercise in a modern era of rising childhood obesity. Those are significant arguments for adults to consider amid a pandemic and the longitudinal health of the young people they oversee.
What if there was some good that comes from this? There most certainly can be some positive. The physical distancing protocols and youth sport sideline has led to some potentially positive changes. Let us examine. First, the amount of structured play has increased. The only “play” kids have been getting is structured and organized. There becomes no room for creativity for young kids to develop their own games, learn new tricks, or police themselves the way “free range” children once did when locked out of the house and not told to come home until the streetlights came on! Second, with structured and organized play came the decrease in practice and increase in games. Obviously, games are more fun, but the quality of games have dwindled because skill level has dropped. The drop is a result of less practice. The sideline of sports will lead to increased costs, which could, in turn, lead to less games and more practice. Not a bad thing! Better skilled players and athletes lead to higher quality and more competitive games. Third, the focus now shifts from the coach being held accountable for the improvement of the child, to the child (and the parent) being accountable for the development of the child. Kids now must decide how much they want to do on their own to improve! This will help develop personal interest and ownership for their own decisions, a tremendous life skill. Fourth, this is for coaches. Coaches, myself included, had to shift focus. The pattern of consistency now changed, and coaches had to adapt to new guidelines. This taught coaches to get back to basics of skill development; skating, puck skills, athleticism, passing, shooting, the list goes on. The focus became improving each player on their own timeline to be prepared later for impending decisions on games.
The uncertainty of life over the last five months, and more than likely the next 6 months, is what is causing most people to develop anxiety (and anger). There is no doubt that the situation is frustrating, we are all creatures of habit and like consistency and routine. However, we cannot always dwell on the negative, as we must look to improve the positive and embrace what we can control. This will better improve our situation moving forward and make us stronger when the consistency we crave once again returns. Until then, simplify, let us get back to the basics, and enjoy the day-to-day of what we can do, and stray away from thinking about what we cannot do!