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When Hugh Jackman says "As a teenager, I was explosively angry; I think rugby saved me", I understand exactly what he means. I have worked through the same kind of anger which was well channelled through playing football and rugby. From the little things like a quarrel with a friend to serious body-shaming, my aggression was better channelled because I could play my favourite sports everyday with my teammates. Now that all of us need to cope with the uncertainties, anxieties about this pandemic, those of us who relied so heavily on sports for our mental and physical well-being feel at a loss. What should we do now? 

While staying home or even as we unlock, I need to figure out my coping strategies. Throughout the lockdown, whenever I felt grumpy, frustrated, stressed, anxious, low, I did a quick little workout and found a slight calming feeling. But can the home workouts be a substitute for that beautiful banana kick I scored goals with? That first impactful tackle I made? Clearly not, so, let's try to see what can!

I am proposing that we take cue from the time we sports players have been forced to stay home: injury, recovery from injury, off-seasons. I am using strategies that I used during my 3-9 months of injury and recovery times. 

When I was injured, I desperately wanted to get back to the field, but for my own safety, I couldn’t and I didn’t. Now, the stakes are even higher with the pandemic, my going out potentially threatens everyone’s health.

Back when I was recovering from my ankle injury, I spent a lot of time watching my heroes play. Now, I have access to not only freshly restarting live action but also, I have come to depend upon the social media workout posts all the elite athletes have been putting up. I have learnt so much from them in terms of skills as well as fitness regimes.

At our level, competitive athletes and recreational players alike will have to wait to play the sports full strength with all our teammates. Our competitions, resumption of training is delayed, and rightly so for the safety of all. What can we do till then? Let's challenge ourselves and learn new skills, the ones we didn't really specialise in till now.  

We can identify our weak spots and work on them with more focus. We can practise techniques we really wanted to work on. Since passing is my ultimate strength, now, I am practising my juggling skills to improve my ball-control. Sine the home workout is no substitute for sport, I try to include sports-based drills and fitness in my routines that makes me feel like I am still playing my sport at least in some way! 

We can dig up trivia about sports, players and update our knowledge about how the games have evolved too! While looking up Hugh Jackman’s quote on rugby, I ended up finding out 20 famous celebrities who also played rugby, that was such a pleasant surprise! I won’t ruin the surprise for you, can you look it up yourself, but a hint: it ranges from actors to politicians.

For more fun things, explore skills, techniques from other sports. Have you watched the Indian cricket teams warming up with a short game of football? They also borrow techniques from different sports to improve hand-eye coordination, agility and such skills. Find out if you can learn new skills which are useful for your own sport by trying out another sport, which you can try from home. 

While I write this, I constantly think about my teammates and how much I miss passing the football or rugby ball with them. So, what can we do about this? They must be just as frustrated as you and struggling in a similar manner since not everyone understands why we miss sports so much! Reach them in whichever way you can: text, call, video-chat, share what you are going through!

Playing sports has been a coping mechanism for me almost all my life. I know that sports play an important role in physical and mental health for not only competitive athletes but also recreational players. I have noted some ideas such as following elite athletes, learning from them, improving and developing new skills that can help us endure while wait to play when it is safe enough!

- Prof. Avani Sabade, Adjunct Faculty – Logic & Philosophy

*Views expressed are personal.