It is no secret that lockdown has taken a toll on the mental health of the nation, from which even professional athletes are not exempt. Not being able to continue training or competing as usual after an exciting season was cut short prematurely is not an easy matter to deal with.
For this reason, and as part of our ongoing Be Brave campaign that we launched when we signed up to The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation, developed by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Professional Players Federation and Mind, GB Snowsport has been taking the following steps to take care of our athletes’ and staff’s mental well being.
At the beginning of lockdown Sarah Cecil, Lead Sport Psychologist at the English Institute of Sport hosted a number of well-being sessions, via video calls, to ensure athletes were coping with the adjustment, and giving them the opportunity to discuss any issues they were facing and find comfort in sharing their experiences. GB Snowsport has also hosted Yoga and pilates sessions via video calls to help calm the mind.
All World Class Programme athletes have been undergoing Mental Health and Self Care Assessment screenings with Sarah and Professor Mike Loosemore (GB Snowsport Chief Medical Officer), as well as Performance Lifestyle screenings with Kearnan Myall, also from EIS.
To ensure there is a regular check in with the athletes, a buddy system was established. Athletes identified two GBS staff members with whom they have a good relationship with to check in regularly and flag any issues.
For longer term management of living with the virus in the current climate, it was important that our athletes became familiar with the PDMS athlete app to track Covid symptoms. The app allows athletes to give feedback on how they are feeling and coping, which is monitored daily by the performance team. This is an important app to have available to us as it allows GBS to be aware of any issues, especially when the athletes return to snow.
Plenty of athletes have expressed the positive impact of different disciplines attending the same video call sessions during lockdown for building team spirit. With our athletes training and competing all over the world, the disciplines do not normally get the opportunity to train with those from another discipline, so it has been a great opportunity to catch up.
We understand the importance, and actively encourage, our athletes to talk as a team about mental health issues. We will continue to promote open discussion as well as look at ways that we can continue to increase awareness of this issue, in and out our sport.
With the gradual loosening of lockdown in the UK we are actively encouraging our athletes and staff to read the Mental Health Guidance to Support the Return of Sport and Physical Activity put together by Mind.