Dr Lindsay Woodford explores Strategies for Coping With Stress in Athletes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Dr Lindsay Woodford published her doctoral thesis with her supervisor Dr Lauren Bussey from Teesside University. Their research explored the perceived impact of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures on athlete wellbeing. 

Fourteen elite athletes who were unable to train or compete due to government-imposed lockdown measures in April 2020 were recruited to participate in this qualitative study. Utilizing the photo elicitation method, participants were asked to take a series of photographs that represented their experiences as athletes living in lockdown. These photographs were used to guide discussions in follow up unstructured interviews.

Three main themes captured the athletes’ experience of the lockdown measures and the implications for their wellbeing:

(1) threats to wellbeing

(2) adapting routines and maintaining motivation

(3) reflecting on participation in competitive elite sport.

The initial sudden loss of sport in the athlete’s lives posed a threat to their wellbeing, but over the duration of the lockdown period the athletes developed numerous strategies to protect their wellbeing. Furthermore, their time away from sport encouraged them to reflect on their athletic identity and to make life changes that would protect their wellbeing during the rest of the lockdown period and when they returned to sport.

A number of immediate practical recommendations were offered for athlete support personnel working with athletes during the crisis, these included developing self-care strategies and social networks, adapting routines, setting new goals and encouraging the pursuit of dual-careers. Future research is encouraged to investigate how practitioners can deliver effective psychological support through tele-consulting, and to consider whether their support is best focused on therapeutic counselling or mental skills training if further lockdowns are enforced.

The article can be accessed here: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.624949/full

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