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Athletes Feel the Toll of the Pandemic

Marion Charatan

Posted on March 23, 2021 12:35

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Not being able to compete has created challenges for athletes on both recreational and professional levels.

Athletes can be ranked as 'special people' because they exhibit extraordinary capacities that exceed the norm. Competition feeds athletes--it is part of their essence and promotes overall health.

Excelling in a sport takes extreme mental as well as physical stamina. I think of athletes as superhuman or superheroes. Athletic competition began centuries ago, dating back to 776 B.C. when the Olympic Games were introduced in Greece. An interesting historical footnote is that the Greek states delayed putting together an army to defend themselves against invading Persians because they were so involved with their Olympic Games in the summer of 480 B.C.

In the original Games, women were not allowed to attend or compete. There was an exception, however, and that applied to chariot owners--not the riders. With this loophole, owners could be declared Olympic champions and anyone could own a chariot. Kyniska, the daughter of a Spartan king, claimed victory wreaths for chariot events in 396 B.C. and 392 B.C. as an owner.

The Olympic Games also inspired a religious service and huge 24-hour community barbecue. Athletes had the opportunity to show off their skills and compete while the public observed, celebrated, and socialized--quite similar to today.

Sporting events can certainly be unifying. The Super Bowl Half-time Game is always great entertainment. Ratings prove that even non-sports fans tune in. Particularly now, in the era of the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to find common ground. It has not been a peaceful time, to put it mildly. 

Even at the student-athlete level, shutdowns of practices and scheduled games have caused an avalanche of anxiety and depression amongst athletes. At least technology connected coaches to students so that kids could continue to get support from adult mentors. And online workouts have been a great source to remain in tiptop shape for the time when competitions may be rescheduled. Being involved in school sports improves academic test scores and reduces disciplinary problems in kids.

According to articles in Time magazine and on Yahoo.com, sports shutdowns have had a profound effect on elite athletes as well. In February of 2020, a major outbreak of Covid-19 in Italy was tracked to a soccer game. In Tampa, Florida of June 2020, a recreational hockey game resulted in the super spreading of the disease. Those events triggered decisions to close down major spectator sporting events.

The number of athletes reporting depression symptoms has been staggering. In a survey from Stanford University, nearly one-quarter of athletes questioned said they were feeling blue. Athletics release endorphins that fight depression, so the rise in mental health issues is not surprising.

Shutting down sporting events has depressed the general public, too. Going to a baseball or football game is an outlet and distraction that has been sorely missed. Major League Baseball and the NFL have returned with limitations.  And good news- the Olympics will take place in Tokyo this summer, beginning on Friday, July 23--offering some hope for the future.

Marion Charatan

Posted on March 23, 2021 12:35

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Source: BBC

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