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BPS News

Supporting Young Athletes during Lockdown

13 July 2020

The BPS has developed guidance for parents and caregivers of young athletes in response to the radical changes they have experienced since the onset of the Coronavirus.

Psychologists in the BPS Division of Sport and Exercise (DSEP) have outlined three core principles to promote positive wellbeing in support networks for young athletes involved in competitive sport, as this unexpected interruption to strict training schedules continues to impact on their mental health.

Chair of DSEP Rob Morris said

“Parents and guardians play a crucial role in supporting their children throughout their sporting career. Now, more than ever, that support has an impact on the health and wellbeing of their children as they miss training and competition.”

The principles are:

  • Self-management for parents and guardians – parents and guardians are encouraged to manage their own psychological self-care. It is well documented in research that behaviours and perceptions exhibited by parents are likely to influence a child’s behaviours.

  • Navigating uncertainty - young athletes’ emotional responses to uncertainty are likely to be amplified due to their psychological stage of development. In life before Covid-19 there were daily or weekly updates in the scheduling of events. But with many events and competitions postponed indefinitely, and no certain confirmation of when some will resume, there is a likelihood of increased amounts of distress in the mind-set of young athletes.

  • Motivation and goal setting - children may have begun 2020 with a sense of sport purpose and clearly defined performance goals; in turn, carers may have created plans of how to help them achieve them. The disruption to competitions and some training means that their goals may no longer be attainable, at least in the short term. This can lead to demotivation, a sense of loss, and a lack of focus. Caregivers are advised to discuss with their young athletes what they want to achieve and set measurable targets. Also to create attainable goals within the constraints of recent government guidelines, and to record and set reviewable time-frames.

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