What is the mental cost of the return of sports?

What is the mental cost of the return of sports?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It has been over three months since the sports world came to an abrupt halt. People who would have said they couldn’t live without the drama and competition have been forced to do just that.

As athletes are now returning to college campuses and professional sports organizations and leagues are either back at it or making preparations to do so, the fans are ready, but at what cost to the athletes?

Dr. Vanessa Shannon is the Director of Mental Performance at Norton Sports Health and UofL. She works with many of the Cards student-athletes.

Are those athletes worried about their safety?

“That is not their primary fear or concern,” Dr. Shannon said. “I think they’re trusting the adults in all of these situations to lead them in terms of safety. If anything they’re concerned with kind of the mental safety of returning to sports, meaning they have not been practicing in the way that they know how. They’ve been limited in terms of facilities and things like that.”

“I don’t think I had any reservations,” UofL defensive back Anthony Johnson said. He is one of the UofL football players who returned to campus.

“Being home a very long time, I was ready to get back with my guys,” he added. “I was really excited to get back, even with all the COVID things going on. We’re handling it accordingly, we’re not meeting up in each others rooms. We’re trying to stay distant as much, but just being back working out at the stadium is a very good feeling.”

Like everyone, confidence is built through successful repetition.

“It’s easy to see how, if I’ve not been doing what I typically do, I may have some concerns about returning to my sport, worried that I may not be at the same level,” Dr. Shannon said.

Perspective is a valuable, underrated gift, a gift that Dr. Shannon’s experiences have afforded her and allow her to use to benefit her athletes.

“I was collegiate athlete, a Division I volleyball player,” she said. “When I was 18 to 22, I think I had a little bit of a Superwoman complex, so I think I was maybe less concerned about those things than maybe my parents and my coaches were, so I think it’s a little bit that. I also think it’s that, at the University of Louisville as an example, we’ve redesigned resocialization and a reintegration plan that protects their health and their well being and I think they’re confident in the design that we’ve put together for them.”

Are the athletes voicing any concern about playing with fans in the stands? Who knows where the guy in the front row has been in the last few weeks, but he may be up and yelling for the entire game.

“I think honestly, if anything, they have more concerns about not playing in front of fans,” she said. “I know that sounds strange to people our age, but I think our student-athletes are fairly focused and they live in a little bit of a bubble at times that allows them to trust the people around them to protect them. If the NCAA decides that spectators are an acceptable thing to do, I think that they’ll embrace that. I think, if anything, most of our student-athletes are used to playing in front of large crowds and so if that goes away, that actually would be more of a disruption to them.”

The virus and our ability to contain it will determine if and when those college athletes are on the field this fall and if we are able to watch the games in person. A decision for the student-athletes to make and the fans as well.

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