Covid-19’s devastating impact on sports

England’s cricket tour of South Africa came to an abrupt halt on Monday as an SA player and hotel staff members tested positive for Covid-19. This is a disappointment not only for fans, but also for the athletes who were hoping to make their mark on the international stage.

It is a story that has played out everywhere in the sporting world and includes the postponement of this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. Rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have been an unexpected game-changer for many in the sporting world – from clubs that have lost much-needed revenue and are struggling to survive to disruption in the development of school-level talent.

It is a blow in my own home, where my 17-year-old son – a talented hockey goal-keeper with international aspirations – is deeply disappointed his dreams have been put on hold. He has maintained a strict training regimen using various pieces of equipment, from bar-bells and a bench press in the laundry to a pull-up bar on his bedroom door and an old rowing machine next to his bed.

But he has missed out on valuable game time and some days it can be a challenge for him, as it undoubtedly is for many others, to maintain optimism about the future. This is a point brought home by a whole body of research that has erupted in journals on the negative emotional impact of Covid-19 containment measures on people in the sporting world.

Cricket officials cited concerns about the mental health of cricket players as a reason for pulling the plug on proceedings in SA this week. Not letting the show go on has adverse consequences, too.

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