Athletes are getting back to training in a team setting as the reopening plan for sports has been revealed and lockdown restrictions are lifted. One of the biggest challenges are the new rules to prevent the spread of the virus.
The temptation is to “trust” your teammates, and the desire to reconnect with hugs and high fives is strong. For some, all they want is to train and play the way the sport was intended, such as running in packs and engaging in physical contact with offense versus defense.
The reality is that some will not want to follow the new guidelines. Others will make innocent mistakes. The rules are impossible to enforce 100%. So, the decision to go back to sport (and how) is really about your own personal risk tolerance. Some are willing to be more social and risk illness. Others choose caution and lower health risks, willing to sacrifice social and other areas of living. The choice is personal, and the challenge is to be firm in your own boundaries without crossing another’s.
This is an opportunity for coaches, athletic directors, and administrators to demonstrate strong leadership. Go beyond rules and education. We know people in every group will test the limits defined by the team/organization, particularly if they have a higher risk tolerance. It is up to leaders to communicate their care and concern for players, and then back it up with actions and natural consequences for those that do not cooperate with team rules and culture.
Dr. Eddie O’Connor is a nationally recognized clinical and sport psychologist, and has traveled the country speaking to schools, universities, teams, business organizations, and academic conferences about how to overcome obstacles to excellence.