As disappointing as the Covid-19 lockdown is for sport, it has now become a crucial month of opportunity.
Crucial for competitive athletes, and if this lockdown is continued, it will also become increasingly important as time goes on, for the development of all young sportspeople.
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For the competitive athlete they need to quickly adjust to the new routine of training from home. They need to organise the support of a quality strength and conditioning coach, get positive and get excited about the opportunity they have.
In terms of their physical capacity one of three things will happen: 1) they go backwards, 2) they stay the same, 3) they improve. The choice is theirs.
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This, then, has become a vital month for the athlete. With few other distractions getting in the way, it's a great opportunity to focus on some quality training at home, and a chance to get ahead of the opposition – as many local athletes already are, training under the guidance of the Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust.
It's not just about performance, this is a great opportunity to get on top of niggly injuries, and to properly prepare physically, so to prevent injuries when sport does take off again.
Even our high school sport competitors need to be organised and get into training. They need to be ready to go, as we may not get much warning for the recommencement of sport.
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With all sport having stopped, and schools in shutdown, it's a real worry for the developing young sportsperson. One month is not too bad, although even then there should be some good physical activity to keep them busy. But if this non-sport life continues any longer, things become quite serious, and some other quality physical development activities will be needed to fill the void.
To have our young sportspeople missing months of winter sport, and all the physical movement and growth that goes with it, means a big gap in their long-term development.
From primary school through to high school, we need them engaging in some good-quality and structured physical activity.
And what is emerging is that some families will have the capacity to engage with the professionals to plan and provide their child's programme, whereas for others less fortunate the cost may be more difficult – so we will need subsidised support for those communities, too.
The added bonus of engaging in a home-based programme is it helps establish some much-needed structure, to the days and weeks in isolation. For our general wellbeing we need some purpose in our day-to-day activities, and having a clear training plan can certainly help with that.
Any good training plan will be designed in a structured, planned, purposeful way – designed to maximise development, be it over one month or six months, and be it for junior sportspeople or the competitive athlete.
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So whatever it is, we all need to organise ourselves some focus and purpose.
One thing we do want to avoid, is an unhealthy surge in device usage among our young people, especially among "would-be" keen outdoor sports kids, resulting in them being locked up inside, frying their brain with hours of TV and gaming. It won't be easy to keep them off it, especially with so much of the school learning going online, but something we need to fight against.
I am constantly amazed when I hear "so-called" experts talking about initiatives to keep kids entertained, and their solution involves sitting the kids down in front of a really neat Netflix series. Come on, surely we can do better than that.
Who knows how long this will go on for, but even if it is only a month, do some research and be prepared to support our young sportspeople, serious athletes or not, into some age- and stage-appropriate development.
Our professional athletes will be well supported, and should be well prepped when their sport kicks off again.
However, the average youngster is more of the worry, there is no way we can just lose a whole winter season of development for all our kiwi kids – we have to get them into something.
• Marcus Agnew is the health and sport development manager at Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust and a lecturer in sports science at EIT.
• Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website