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What the pandemic does to the athlete

Our Live Score apps have been wiped clean. They have now been replaced by scores from the latest FIFA 20 matches. Futile scrolling through sporting events is only met by the words postponed, suspended and cancelled. As the world continues to adapt to the changes which were brought about by the pandemic, our athletes are left in limbo. Despite the fact that resources may be limited, many athletes have begun finding alternatives on how to keep themselves fit and in touch with their sport. Nevertheless, whilst these efforts are a demonstration of their tenacity, the reality is that they are attempts of making the best of what is.

Psychologically, this time represents a sort of indefinite injury in which the date of return is still to be established. Whilst mental skills such as visualisation, reflection and journal writing are all techniques which can still be practised at this time, the real psychological challenge is an existential one. Will I be back? When will I be back? Will I be the same? Will things be the same? Am I training hard enough? These are all questions which perhaps have crossed our athlete’s minds. These questions are also ones which relate to our athlete’s identity. Whilst in injury, an athlete’s rehabilitation period is an attempt at preserving his identity as an athlete, during this pandemic athletes are being asked to stay inside not for their personal goals but for the greater good of society. But what’s the price to pay?

Last week the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro) published the results from its study entitled Mental Health Symptoms in Professional Football during the COVID-19 Emergency Period. Notably these results allude to a significant increase in moderate-to-severe anxiety symptoms of professional footballers (from 1-8% to 23%) during the Covid-19 semi-lockdown phase. The majority of them (57%) believe that training should be resumed in small groups under strict hygiene rules and the large majority of them (70%) want to finish the season, if necessary, even in the Summer period. Moreover, the research showed that 66% of these footballers are concerned about their careers and future as professional footballers.

Unfortunately, these staggering percentages continue to reinforce the insecurity which torments individuals who aspire to be or are currently employed as professional athletes. Moreover, job insecurity has often been cited as one of the pressures and challenges athletes carry throughout their careers (Roderick & Schumacker, 2017). Injuries, de-selection and fluctuating wages are some of the most common sources of these anxieties. However, whilst athletes are usually mentally accustomed to these possible risks, they certainly never expected something like Covid-19.

Yet regardless of these statistics, many would say that it’s ludicrous to even consider resuming training for now. Many will insist that sport is a subordinate issue right now. Unfortunately, whilst one can understand why people are taking this precautionary role, we sometimes fail to see what these measures imply. Although at present nobody can offer solace amidst this time of doubt, let us not de-prioritise sport and trivialise its role. After all, let us remember that behind those athletes lie people who have built huge parts of their identities around their sport. Additionally, many are athletes whose sole income comes from their job and who are the bread winners of their families. In these dire times, it is important to empathise with our athletes and to accompany them in their doubts. Let us not give false hope but rather let us support them in whatever means they seek to reconnect with their sport. Let us remember the role sport has played and will continue to play in our lives.

Daniel Abela

About Daniel Abela

Daniel holds a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Psychology, a Master’s degree in Contemporary Western Philosophy and a Master’s in Counselling from the University of Malta. As a counsellor, Daniel has worked with athletes, children and adolescents in different sports clubs and schools in Malta. Daniel adopts an eclectic approach, believing that the style he adopts during sessions should suit the client’s needs. His work has shown him that our unique narratives and life stories contain the seeds which help us grow in our own unique ways.

TherapyPacks Terms and Conditions

1. TherapyPacks come in bundles of 5 or 10 sessions. Prices of bundles:

  • 5 sessions – €270 – must be utilised within 3 months from date of purchase
  • 10 sessions – €520 – must be utilised within 6 months from date of purchase

2. Bundles are not transferable. This means they cannot be used by, or gifted to, anyone else but the person whose name is listed as the TherapyPacks bundle holder.

3. Bundles which are purchased for Couples Therapy and Family Therapy can only be used by members of the couple or family with one therapist. If members of a couple or family decide to take up individual therapy with another therapist, the bundle will only apply to sessions with the therapist originally referred and cannot be also used for the individual sessions with another therapist. Exceptions will be made if the original therapist is unable to see the client or family and the couple or family are referred to another therapist. After referral, the same conditions will apply.

4. Bundles are valid for a limited time period, as listed above. This means that the bundles will expire once the respective time period has elapsed. Any sessions not utilised within this period will be lost. This means that a refund will not be given for unused sessions. Start date commences on date of purchase of bundles.

5. Bundles are only valid for full price sessions (charged at €60) and not for sessions with trainee psychotherapists, reports or assessments.

6. Full payment needs to be made on purchase, via bank transfer, cash or credit card.

7. Management reserves the right to terminate or suspend the use of the bundles. Reasons for such are at the discretion of the clinic.

8. Refunds or extensions of time period within which bundles may be used is at the discretion of management and will only be granted in exceptional circumstances.

9. Management reserves the right to modify or replace the terms and conditions. In such circumstances, clients will be given adequate notice and time to adhere to such.

10. The clinic’s cancellation policy is applicable also to bundles. Late cancellations or no shows will result in the forfeit of a session within the bundle allocation.

11. Responsibility for ensuring timely use of session bundles remains that of the TherapyPacks bundle holder or, in the case of a minor, their carer/legal guardian.