What kind of post-viral symptoms can athletes expect following a Covid-19 infection and what are the implications for a return to sport?
As our understanding of Covid-19 has evolved, it has become abundantly apparent that this is a virus that primarily affects the elderly (over 60-70 years of age), and particularly those with underlying serious health conditions, which have been shown to increase the risk of mortality by around 2.5 to 12-fold regardless of age.
By contrast, fit and healthy individuals under the age of 60 years are largely only mildly affected or may not affected at all. For example, the US Center for Disease Control data shows that in the 18-30 age group, the risks associated with Covid-19 are 100 times less than in the 65-75 age group and 600 times less than in the over 85s age group.
POST VIRAL RISKS
Despite the very low risk of serious illness in Covid-19, younger and fitter individuals can of course still contract the illness mildly, and like all viral infections, there exists the risk that post viral effects (‘Long Covid’) may be experienced.
Source: Sports Performance Bulletin August 2021
Are there risks for early specialization in young athletes, and if so, is there a better developmental pathway?
Practice makes perfect – or so they say. However, when it comes to youth sport, can athletes have too much of a good thing?
When high levels of performance in a particular sport are desired, athletes need to spend more time training for that sport. In young athletes,
time constraints (due to the demands of school, exams etc) invariably means focusing or even specializing in that sport to the exclusion of other sports or physical activity pastimes. Indeed, researchers have suggested that the process of specialization is the key mechanism for attaining elite performance in a particular sport, due to the increased volume of time spent in intensive training for that sport.
Source: Sports Performance Bulletin August 2021
The WTA and ATP are teaming up with Tennis Clash, the world’s most popular tennis game for mobile platforms, developed by Wildlife Studios, to launch a new co-branded in-game tournament, Tennis United. All participating Tennis Clash players will be able to compete in the Tennis United tournament from 19-23 August.
The tournament gives participants the chance to compete, show off their skills and win prizes in a brand-new virtual arena. The event is the latest in a series of co-branded marketing initiatives between the Tours and runs parallel to the 2021 Western & Southern Open, a WTA 1000 and ATP Masters 1000 combined tournament in Cincinnati.
Qualifying rounds of Tennis United will be held from 19-21 August, where players will compete in 10 matches to reach the finals. The top 50% of players in each bracket will advance to the final round which will be held from 21-23 August. Every player who reaches the final round will be awarded an in-game prize. These prizes will become increasingly rare the higher the tier level the players compete in.
Sam Stosur and Nick Kyrgios have some new friends in Naomi Osaka (French Open) and gymnast Simone Biles (Olympics). Athletes who think that they have failed to live up to expectations—whether it be parents, peer group, coach or media.
Regrettably media these days have jumped on the band wagon wanting to label it as “mental illness”. It’s not, it never was.
Competitive sports put athletes under pressure to perform. And any major championship increases the pressure exponentially.
My good Scottish friend, Johnson Brown, put it succinctly: “you’ve got to ask the question”. What Johnson meant was to give your opposition a chance to miss. Equally, you are often asking the same question of yourself.
On a personal note I well remember scouting an opponent with my coach before a major championship final. Says the well meaning coach — “The guy can’t play, you’ll have no problem…”. Fast forward to next day’s final. There’s a big crowd. It’s 5 all in the third set! Enter my demon: “the guy can’t play” — not a subtle message demon —clearly I can’t play either!! And I, and the crowd, know it! Or that’s what my demon wants me to believe.
Choking, jitters, twisties and baulks in major competitions are part of the game. It happens to all athletes from time to time. We all succumb at some point, under pressure — and particularly when the competition is beyond our level of experience. It’s very difficult to win a Grand Slam and particularly at your first go. Closer to home recall Bosko playing Rimmo in the club singles final. Bosko confided he knew what to do but couldn’t execute on the day against a more experienced player.
Quoting Olympic gold medal-winning rower Kim Brennan: “Everyone has their angel and demon sitting on their shoulder,” she says. “The demon is always going to be there. You train yourself to accept that everyone’s got them. I bet Ariarne Titmus has her demons. But you get comfortable with it. You say, “Hi old friend, I knew you were coming. That’s nice. But I’m going to keep doing what I’ve trained myself to do’.”
Therein lies part of the answer (training/process) about how to handle competitive pressure.
Research shows us that our minds contain two systems. The first acts instinctively and requires little effort — it’s based on our evolutionary fight or flight tendencies—and easily fueled by our demon. The second (our angel) is more deliberate and requires much more of our attention.
Our thoughts and actions vary depending on which of the two systems is in control of our brain at the time. The key question then is how to ‘reset’ Mildred to Angel mode when competing. By the way, part of the solution is to ‘name’ your fears and move the goal posts. Mildred is the name I give to my mind, really the first brain that ‘runs the system’.
Another personal note: “I’ve never beaten Jimmy Parker” says my dubs partner before we have to play a USTA dubs championship final. Parker has just won the World singles championship for the age group. You mean ‘Jimmy Buffet’ says Pam, using humour to diminish the power of his name before we take to the court. It was a hard match but we managed a win.
You’re more creative and intuitive when you’re in a better mood. When you’re in a better mood (Angel), the part of the mind that is alert and analytical tends to relax. That cedes control of Mildred to her more intuitive and quicker thinking capacity — key to competitive tennis!
So how do you reset Mildred under pressure. You’ve got 25 seconds between points, 90 seconds when changing ends.
Rhythm is the key here. Normal sinus rhythm is 60 beats a minute. This is the rate when your breathing and heart rate are in sync. Under stress, this can change dramatically — eg shortness of breath in panic mode.
Most players have a natural playing rhythm. Agassi played very fast, Djokovic and Nadal much slower than Federer. Barty plays fast.
Serving is the one time you actually have control of the point — witness Djokovic’s 12 plus ball bounces during a tie breaker. He is trying to sync his rhythm. So apart from ‘buying time’ by bouncing the ball, what are some other ways to reset Mildred.
Several years ago, we had the ‘Russian Ritual’. Recall Sharapova turning her back to the court/opponent and adjusting her strings for a few seconds. Or more recently Nadal’s approach which is to adjust his gear and brush his ear before serving.
A better way is to monitor/relax your breathing. Recall from above that you’re trying to keep your heart and head (no pun intended) in sync.
I teach a basic 4/7/8 breath schedule to calm Mildred down when players feel under pressure. Breathe in to a long count of 4, hold for 7 and breath out, stretching your diaphragm for a count of 8. Repeat as often as necessary.
Lastly, you have to learn to ‘play’ rather than to ‘hit strokes’. Recall our Olympic rower Kim Brennan’s comment above about ‘training yourself’. Perfection is to learn to ‘play on the other side of the net’ which few achieve.
Too often we are so focused on our own game (and particularly strokes) that we forget that we are competing against other players. Hence the old adage: ‘a good player will always beat a good hitter’. But that’s a much bigger topic for another day.
How Walking, Dancing, Tennis Can Build Up the Brain
Exercise can freshen and renovate the white matter in our brains, potentially improving our ability to think and remember as we age, according to a new study of walking, dancing (tennis) and brain health.
The unseeded Krejcikova, 25, whose name was on no one’s mind at the start of the French Open, was crowned its champion after a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 victory.
The brilliant Justine Henin and Martina Navratilova, with 25 Grand Slam singles titles between them, looked on from the stands.
Her late coach, Jana Novotna, surely watched from above. And following along from home in the Czech Republic was Barbora Krejcikova’s mother, who gave her daughter the courage to knock on Novotna’s door as a teenager and ask the 1998 Wimbledon champion for help with her tennis. Krejcikova, 25, had drawn inspiration and strength from all these women since childhood — and never more so than Saturday at Roland Garros, where she weathered a tough patch midway through the French Open final to claim her first Grand Slam title with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in Paris.
It was only fitting that Krejcikova used the glorious moment, microphone in hand, to honor all the mentors and role models whose presence — whether in body or spirit — gave her strength and inspiration. “Pretty much her last words to me were, ‘Just enjoy and just try to go win a Grand Slam,’”
Krejcikova told the crowd during her on-court interview, recalling the difficult time she spent with Novotna, losing her battle with cancer, as she slipped away in 2017 at age 49. “I know somewhere, she is looking out for me. This happened pretty much because she is looking out for me.” Krejcikova’s name was on no one’s mind at the start of the French Open.
Nor was Pavlyuchenkova’s, apart from avid tennis fans who might have remembered her promise as the world’s top-ranked junior at age 14. But a tennis lifetime had come and gone since then. One month shy of her 30th birthday, the 31st-seeded Pavlyuchenkova was as unlikely a French Open finalist as the unseeded Krejcikova, known until recently as strictly a doubles specialist.
- Annual Club Championships Entries Now OpenSeptember 28, 2021
- COVID-19 102 cases | Manly, NSWSeptember 23, 2021
- Club Newsletter – 20/9/2021 | MLTCSeptember 20, 2021
- Two Golden Slams in One Day | NYTimesSeptember 19, 2021
- How Much Water Do You Actually Need? | NYTimesSeptember 19, 2021
- COVID-19 UPDATE 17 Sept | TNSWSeptember 17, 2021
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