What has COVID-19 taught us about sport?

2 Sep 2020

Eight months ago, life was simply flying by at the frenetic pace it seems to set for us all. Then suddenly, everything stopped. Using a sporting phrase, our normality was thrown a curve ball. Everything we had become accustomed to had now been put on hold. What would this mean for sport? 

Training sessions, competitions, and entire seasons were slowly lost. As professional leagues around the world continue to develop bubbles, hubs and amended fixtures, school and community sport remain clouded in uncertainty.

We have been gifted a chance to re-calibrate our sports programme and why we offer what we do. We must take the opportunity to re-emerge stronger for the experience. 

Do we need to shift the way we think about sport?

As restrictions saw the closure, termination and indefinite postponement of our favourite sports, what did we all miss? 

Was it the early mornings, cold sidelines and pressure of representative selections? Or the rush of getting between games, finding that impossible car spot, eating in the car on the way to school, running late to warm up, or the increasing pressure of winning and losing?

In speaking to our students as they slowly returned to campus, I heard the common themes of social interactions, physical activity, laughter and enjoyment of playing that were most lacking. We all just wanted to be back playing again.

Have we forgotten the fundamentals?

Increasingly as we become involved in many more before and after school activities, have we forgotten the influence of free play? Many experts believe that this overlooked element of childhood is the key to increased sports performance. The ability to dodge, hit, run, fall, skip, hop, balance, roll, swim, ride, slide and jump are the building blocks of movement. As parents, this is how we spent our own childhoods, and these hours upon hours of free play assisted us across multiple sports. We were generalists and had the overall skills needed to participate, even excel, across a myriad of sports fields and courts. We played until we were called in for dinner and did it all again the next day.

Sport versus an active lifestyle.

The one area within our NGS Sporting Framework that remained standing during the extended period of sporting hiatus was that of Active Lifestyle. Hitting the pause button on Sport and Sport Excellence only highlighted the significance that an active lifestyle plays on our physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. 

Probably not all that familiar to a lot of Australians is the Canadian Sport for Life model. This programme is a country wide initiative dedicated to the active lifestyle of all Canadians highlighting the link between physical literacy at a young age, later sporting performance and an active lifestyle for all. 

We are fortunate to live in an area synonymous with physical activity. As sporting opportunities were reduced, it didn’t take much to be able to find an online workout, take a bike ride, a run with a friend, or a swim or surf to clear our mind. 

There must be a model we at NGS can employ to harness the power of an active lifestyle, as well as the considerable benefits competing in sport at any level can offer. Perhaps we just need to be courageous enough to take the leap?

To transform or not to transform? 

Given what we have learnt over the past few months, it makes sense to make fundamental changes to our programme and philosophy. Re-directing our emphasis and resources to those areas that tick certain boxes could make us an avenue of overall sporting development. There are obvious arguments for and against any change, especially in sport, however the goal here at NGS has always been the excellence of our students, and the meaningfulness of their experiences. 

Perhaps COVID may just be the catalyst for a change that has been needed for a long time, we just haven’t had the time to see it.