Mental strain of no sports hurts same as physical strain

High School Sports
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There are lots of stories regarding how athletes are battling the physical challenges while cooped up at home waiting out Covid-19.

The mental strain is underdiscussed, but should not be underrated.

“I think we really have to recognize that this is a loss. I think there’s going to be a need for the student athletes to get through the emotion of that,” said Craig Cypher, a sports psychologist with U of R Medicine.

Staying connected is a priority. Cypher recommends teams continuing workouts together in whatever manner they can.

Many high school athletes already chat 24/7/365 thanks to texting and social media. Cypher says one on one conversations aren’t enough. Athletes need regular exposure to the whole team.

“You’re used to seeing everyone at lunch or seeing them at practices, as we’re getting ready for games, having those kind of connections,” he said. “The challenges that we need to think about are how do we use the technology at hand. Video conferencing, we want to emphasize that just over phone calls or just text or messaging.”

Athletes who were already dealing with a mental issue are particularly at risk.

“Whether it’s an injury or going through mental health issues or family issues or other mental stresses that come up, that can peel back your armor,” Cypher said. “Then, you don’t have the normal armor you’d have for this big corona virus pandemic and all the cancellations and all the things that have hit with that. It can hit you a little harder.”

There are many who have had careers ended prematurely because of the Covid-19 shutdown. Hundreds of seniors in Section Five still hoping there will be a spring season may soon have to face this reality.

Cypher believes examining the reason an athlete loves sports, the “why” that motivates, can help that athlete handle the loss of a final season.

“Is it the connection with other teammates? Can they find ways to do that? Is it the progression and seeing themselves get better and be better? There’s multiple outlets for that as well,” he said “If you dial it down to that why, what drives them, that can be replicated. That, we can do right now. That, we can do looking into the future.”

In many ways, surviving and even thriving during this pandemic is not much different than dealing with the normal stresses of every day life. Cypher reminds his athletes to simply “control the controllables”.

“The things that are in our control are the same things that are always in our control,” Cypher said. “It comes down to E.A.R. It’s our effort and our attitude and how we respond to things.”

For more information on Cypher’s work and his thoughts on the mental difficulties for athletes during this crisis, you can visit

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