Change is an incessant constant and the Covid-19 pandemic is undoubtedly a marker for a major change in all aspects of life, of methods of living and working and of lifestyles. Hit hard by the lockdown imposed across India due to the pandemic the sporting fraternity too will need to incorporate many changes that will have long term implications on the way games are played.
There is a lot talked about how many sections have been affected by the pandemic. However, not much attention has been paid towards sportspersons, athletes, coaches and their supporting staff including nutritionists, physiotherapists, sports psychologists right down to groundsmen who have not only hit hard by the lockdown imposed across India due the pandemic but the effects of it are very damaging for them in many ways.
The huge fear that they face is not being able to do what they love to do and that is playing the sport. The situation is quite challenging especially for competitive athletes who have been training hard for years to participate in global events like Olympics etc. For these people lack of activity is a major challenge as their entire day is mapped out for every minute right from when they wake up to the minute they go to sleep.
Thousands of athletes have had to put their dreams on hold following the lockdown the stress of the delay could take a toll on the mental health of athletes. Health experts warn that prolonged isolation could take a big mental toll on people whose livelihoods and self-esteem are intrinsically linked to the competition.
Along with these athletes, a lot of other people too are equally involved and are in a shock phase, probably confused due to all the chaos that the situation has caused. They see themselves as athletes and are very tied up in their involvement with the sport and their inability to participate in training activities they find themselves in a hopeless position.
Coaches and psychologist who work with professional athletes are worried about their coping strategies one is the competitive edge that they have and the other being able to really push themselves physically for six-seven hours a day. They don't that anymore, which is making it very difficult for all concerned.
Many sports bodies have reacted by offering support to these athletes and their supporting co-workers. However, for some sporting associations due to other priorities, these sports bodies also have to make spending cuts reducing their ability to help.
The big setback came with the BCCI announcement to suspend IPL 2020 until further notice in the wake of COVID 19 outbreak and subsequent extension of lockdown till May 3rd by Indian Government. It has had a major impact on players & fans.
Being deeply connected with athletes, the IPL is not only an important source of livelihood for many thousands and the potential loss is having a huge impact on those associated with it.
The high-level, high-profile professional athletes can handle this loss of income but there are a lot of athletes on the fringe. For the supporting staff, a few months of loss of activity will have a significant loss of income as well as their well-being.
The government must extend support to all those supporting the athletes in this critical time or increasing private sector participation by allowing incentives under CSR scheme to those supporting sporting activities or making it attractive for them to contribute to a sports body through tax breaks.
Currently, the supporting staff is faced with a daunting challenge of staying relevant in their respective sport even as they stare at a bleak future.
A certain economic downturn and its potential fallout is looming as many are facing uncertainty about the year ahead. The only positive is that there is some predictability that big events like IPL and T20 World Cup might actually take place after some rescheduling.
The government should consider permitting training and allied sporting activities with strict implementation of the social distancing and hygiene norms. Many associations are requesting the government to allow these in low-exposure-risk areas, even if the lockdown has been extended with a plan to gradually exit in phases.
The short and medium-term changes have affected everyone across the sporting world. Adopting the right attitude is a key underlining factor that will determine the ease of change and its effectiveness. It is critical that we have confidence in the future. Half the battle needs to be won in the mind. Positivity will beget the right decisions and hopefully, everything will return to what it was before the global coronavirus pandemic hit the sporting world.