It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty in the elite sports world. Major international sports events like the Olympics, The Euros and Copa America were all moved to 2021 and almost all major national sports leagues have been postponed, or, in the case of top level sport in France and the Netherlands – cancelled. We are, however, already seeing leagues starting to take the first steps back to normality. The Korean K-League was the first to return post lockdown, while the German Bundesliga, Australia’s NRL, and the Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby teams are all planning games in the next month. ‘Project Restart’ looks set to release plans imminently on English Premier League football.
The world of elite sport post Covid-19
14 May 2020
While it’s exciting to see the return of some competitive sport, and while the basic fundamentals will stand the test of time, there will be unavoidable challenges for everyone involved to navigate.
SHORT TERM CHALLENGES
Return to training
When they were first sent home, most players will have been hopeful of returning within a few weeks. Each team will differ, but many will not be in control of the training and fitness that their players will actually have been undertaking, and those with injuries will have had little hands-on attention for some time. What shape will the players be in when they come back into the training ground again for the first time?
Training sessions will look different to what they used to. With a number of clubs having opened up their grounds so players can train on a ‘one player per pitch basis’ and others looking to start training in small groups, new clear protocols will be needed to minimise contact and interaction. New ways of doing things for staff and players will be needed, and quickly. How do clubs do this effectively while maintaining the important social interaction of players? What new safety precautions are needed?
Players will undoubtedly be feeling a certain level of stress and uncertainty when training and games resume. How can clubs best help to ease the difficulty and help plan for whatever the remaining fixture list requires?
In all likelihood, if games do resume, most will be played ‘behind closed doors’. This brings questions like how playing levels will be affected when there are no fans to feed off? If teams are in another city for a number of weeks, how do they manage players and keep them safe when they are not at the stadium?
LONG TERM CHALLENGES
The pandemic has further emphasised and significantly fast tracked the need for more effective and efficient communications between staff and players. Whatsapp, SMS, emails, noticeboards as well as simple scheduling platforms that staff and players rarely engage with are not only ineffective but can be a hindrance. How can teams use this terrible situation as an opportunity to transform one of the most fundamental necessities of elite sport – effective communication amongst players and staff?
Time will be an all the more precious commodity in elite sports teams. In many clubs the pandemic has highlighted that because of poor communication channels and practices one of two things has happened:
- Club coaches and practitioners are working longer and harder than ever to help players train, and indeed live, remotely
- With time on their hands, staff are frustrated at how extremely difficult it is to properly engage with plans and guidance for players, both collectively and individually, while training remotely
What systems and procedures can be implemented that maximise the valuable time of staff and players? Are there opportunities to implement new practices and systems to not only manage the transition players back to full training amidst COVID-19 but help players and staff through the day-to-day?
Every player is different. Some players need a lot of input and guidance on what is required for rehab, prehab or just to keep conditioned. Other players are very aware of their personal requirements and can plan and execute their own individual plans without the need for significant input. COVID-19 has highlighted the need to be able to tailor communication with players based on their specific needs, and especially remotely, such as out of season when players need to at least maintain conditioning, but for many focus on recovery or development areas.
BUILDING EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS WITH KAIROS
When COVID-19 started to bite and the huge impact on lives as well as sport was beginning to be felt we at Kairos felt it was time to take a step back and like everyone else on the planet take time to observe sensitively what was happening. As time passed we realised that our solution was actually in greater demand than ever from top tier sports teams across the UK, Ireland and the US – not only to help clubs with the transition of players and staff back into training but to have a positive impact in the week-to-week running of the club through our scheduling and communications platform, the only platform built specifically for elite sports teams.