Coronavirus and mental health
Tennis has always been a sport that requires both physical and mental stamina, but the latter is being tested like never before, especially among the game’s teaching pros and facility owners/managers.
“Thankfully, more and more coaches are returning to the courts on a daily basis, but at the pandemic’s peak, more than 90 percent of the teaching pros in the U.S. were away from their coaching duties,” says PTR CEO Dan Santorum. “Many coaches are feeling isolated with their inability to teach tennis. When you take away something that you love to do, that has a tremendous negative impact. Also, add in the loss of income that most pros are experiencing, and you have a mentally taxing situation.”
PTR did a webinar recently with sports psychologist Dr. Jim Loehr (available on www.ptrtennis.org) in which he talked about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being associated with COVID-19. In addressing the most concerning aspects of pros’ mental health during this time, Dr. Loehr, who serves as Mental Performance Coach for USTA Player Development, says, “Specifically, the potential for the loss of loved ones, losing jobs, isolation and restricted ability to leave home, along with the uncertainty of the future, are creating fear. The change in lifestyle and the fear of the unknown are significant stressors and should be treated as such.” Dr. Loehr suggests that we should all look out for one another by communicating with those who have lost jobs, are struggling or could be struggling, and letting pros know that mental health resources are available.
Toward this end, USPTA CEO John Embree says his organization has taken a number of steps, such as setting up an internal USPTA task force to deal with the pandemic’s effect on pros. Initiatives include a Facebook support group; a landing page on the USPTA website with links to government and agency programs, information and resources; and a best practices document that focuses on how to deal with issues related to coronavirus. The USPTA has also committed to providing education at no charge that is available to members and the Club Management Association of America [CMAA].
To help deal with the emotional impact of the pandemic, the USTA is offering a free National Support Hotline through its health provider, Aetna. Users can call 1-833-327-2386 and reference the USTA. (For a complete listing of services and resources, click here.)
Craig Morris, USTA Chief Executive of Community Tennis, reports that all of these resources have been well received. He and others are also finding that despite its wide swath of devastation, the virus has brought the tennis industry together, and going forward the mission will be to get people to feel comfortable about coming back to the game.
“People have been going through a tough time, locked away in quarantine,” he says. “Physical and mental well-being are tied together, and being able to get back and be active is critical.”
Judy Leand is a Contributing Editor for Racquet Sports Industry magazine and a freelance writer specializing in sports and business.