Those who follow particular sporting events, or sports in general, can witness situations and read news that would have seemed impossible before COVID. It is definitely not easy for athletes; however, professionals responsible for athletes are also in a tough situation because, just like athletes, they sacrifice and make compromises for good results. Now that they are responsible for the athletes’ health and lives, they are facing the greatest challenge of their lives. Meeting these simultaneous expectations is not easy at all.
Courage and endeavours
We often hear about professional athletes, teams, and national teams dealing with cancelled matches because the spread and presence of COVID-19 are unpredictable. We all know that certain mutations made the virus more dangerous than ever, so teams rightly withdraw from world competitions, championships, and international cups. However, there are many conflicts regarding this attitude because the great sports industry still has to operate. There are expectations for the coaches and teams as well. In addition, there are drastically different approaches at the national team level. Understandably, the situation is completely different if the world’s top two teams are missing a tournament. Overall, we can say that “courage” pays off because it is easier than ever to win important titles. We should not forget that the Olympics are approaching, which are very likely to be organised under fairly safe circumstances, as vaccination has already started, and the athletes can be protected before the start of the Tokyo Games. However, it still does not mean that athletes from different countries can prepare for the competitions under equivalent conditions. There are countries where the number of new cases has significantly decreased, while records are broken day after day in other countries. Even if we do not consider the mental consequences, it is clear that there will be athletes starting from an advantageous position, while others will be at a disadvantage. There are already preliminary signs of this phenomenon at world competitions or Olympic qualifying matches. There are great surprises, and it would be quite hard to find out the reasons. What is the appropriate behaviour? Protecting the health of the athletes under all circumstances? Not letting them lose 1.5 or 2 years of their sports career, which is not that long anyway? Athletes at the beginning of their careers think completely differently from those at the end of their careers. And we have not even mentioned the sports leaders, a lot of whom belong to groups more at risk for the virus.
Attitudes of Athletes
Of course, we need to consider the other side: the results. There are tragic events as well, when national teams miss the Olympic Games because, for example, half of the team cannot compete due to being infected with COVID. Some club teams have no other option but to postpone championships and international cup matches, and they cannot train for weeks. It can also happen that starting line-ups cannot be utilised during the entire tournament. Outrage and anger of not being able to do anything are understandable. However, we need to mention the other camp that comes out on top from this situation. Those athletes who suddenly earned easy qualifications, can significantly improve their championship positions, and go deeper in tournaments than ever before. They emphasise the argument that with or without a pandemic, there are those athletes and teams who can show what they are capable of under such mental conditions. We definitely cannot do everybody justice in this matter. Nevertheless, we will have to do one thing at the end of this crazy period. We should not take these results for granted or too seriously when planning our futures because a new era will come. Now it is imperative to know how realistically we can assess the results. This objectivity can help us reach the results of the upcoming 4-5 years.