The past 12 months have been full of uncertainty and anxiety, as we learn to live in a COVID-normal world.
Youth athletes are amongst the most disproportionately affected by mental health issues at the best of times.
These times have brought great uncertainty for coaches, clubs and administrators, but the truth is, it’s been even harder on the players.
As players return to sport, many will be looking forward to seeing their coaches again and getting back into regular training and competition.
Some athletes are returning to play and having to cope with the reality of having lost a whole year of competition.
This is particularly tough on players from 12-16-years-of-age, who are in such a critical phase of technical, physical and of course mental development.
It’s important that coaches have a plan in place to help ease players back into training and ensure that their eagerness to make up for lost time does not lead to added strain on mind and body.
Here are five simple things you can do as a coach to avoid physical and mental burnout in your players.
Take it easy!
When we stop being active, our physical condition declines. This is known as “deconditioning”.
Studies show that significant decline in muscle mass, physical function, strength, aerobic capacity and metabolic function in as little as 10 days of inactivity.
There’s no need to go chasing personal-bests straight away.
It is recommended that for the first month of post-pandemic training - or any return to play after an extended period without physical exercise - training loads should be no more than 70-80 per cent of what they were before the break.
For many youth athletes, half the fun and joy of being able to return to training is simply going to be the opportunity to see their coach and their team-mates.
Use this as an opportunity to incorporate some light-hearted games into training that will keep the kids happy and smiling.
Some soreness is normal when returning to play after an extended break.
Make sure you monitor player training levels and make sure your players are reporting any soreness.
General soreness is more than likely a normal outcome of any return to training, but if players are experiencing anything more than that, they should take a break or be given some alternate, light exercises to perform.
Make some time at training to pull your players aside, even in a one-on-one setting, to ask them how they are feeling.
Are any of the players struggling to integrate back into the team?
How is their body language?
These are some simple signs that a player may need some assistance.
Downloading Arete as a team is the simplest way for coaches and players to monitor their mood, sleep, soreness and training intensity.
Players perform daily check-ins with their custom-built Wellbeing Coach to help them understand the various factors that affect their mental and physical health.
Coaches are given access to a Coaches Dashboard for their team, allowing them to monitor players physically and emotionally.
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