01 July 2021

Elite athletes paired with Covid sufferers for recovery promotion project

Elite athletes paired with Covid sufferers for recovery promotion project

Athlete Eilidh Doyle

A new programme where international elite athletes, coaches and sports figures share their experiences of unexpected setbacks and coping strategies with people who have been negatively impacted by Covid has been launched by Abertay University.

Sport v Covid connects individuals who have been directly impacted as a result of the pandemic with a range of high-profile sportspeople from across the world, harnessing their ability to offer motivational techniques that have worked for them personally in promoting recovery.

Stars involved in the project to date include former tennis internationalist and coach Judy Murray, five-time Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Olympic track and field champion Eilidh Doyle, former Team GB Olympic basketball captain Kieron Achara, Olympian and British javelin record-holder Goldie Sayers, former American NFL player Aaron Taylor, synchronized swimming Olympian Miyako Tanaka-Oulevey and former ice hockey player and athlete investor Jyrki Louhi.

Led by Abertay University’s Professor of Duty of Care in Sport, David Lavallee, of the Division of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Sport v Covid matches people for one-to-one conversations, via live video calls.

'It’s all about finding a way through and I love that the Sport v Covid project allows athletes to share their experiences with those who have been most affected by the pandemic' - Judy Murray

The elite participants share their experiences as athletes, including how they’ve dealt with uncertainty during their sporting career, stayed motivated during long periods of rehabilitation, and navigated the waves of significant changes and unexpected career transitions.

The project is supported by a host of sports organisations around the world including the World Players Association and also FIFPRO, which recently released its own report into the impact of Covid-19 on the football industry and professional football players.

Other supporters include the Danish Football Players Association, Professional Footballers Association Scotland, Professional Cricketers Association, Scottish Rugby, Gaelic Athletic Association, Professional Footballers Australia, National Rugby League, Rugby League Players Association, Australian Cricketers’ Association, Netball Players Association, Rugby Players Ireland, Sport Fund, Brownlee Foundation, Australian Athletes Alliance, Women’s SportsNet, International Rugby Players, New Zealand Cricket Players Association, and Scottish Student Sport.

Eilidh Doyle said: "This has been a fantastic project to be involved in and I’m delighted to be using my own experiences to help the recoveries of those who have suffered from Covid. Being able to share experiences and coping strategies to help manage set-backs and challenges is so important and it was great to be able to feel I’m making a tangible difference to someone on a one-to-one level."

Judy Murray said: "Sport forces athletes to get to grips with winning and losing. Winning is, of course, easier to handle and although defeats and disappointments are tougher to deal with, they build resilience and persistence. It’s all about finding a way through and I love that the Sport v Covid project allows athletes to share their experiences with those who have been most affected by the pandemic."

Participant David Bellingham, who was hospitalised through Covid earlier this year, said he was struggling to find motivation given the uncertainties surrounding his recovery and had become frustrated with the fallout of having to be off work. He added: “Having a one-to-one conversation with someone as credible as Eilidh Doyle really helped me put things into focus. Hearing about her experiences of coming back from injuries was perfect timing for me and really beneficial in helping me get back to work.”

Kieron Achara said: "As an athlete, my sport has helped me develop so many life skills and qualities that I believe should be shared with the wider community. The past year has been a very testing time for us all and this initiative is a perfect opportunity for sport to play its part by sharing our knowledge and aiding in the recovery."

Professor Lavallee said: “Sports people have never been more aware of the role they can play in their communities. This project was inspired by the incredible ability of sports people to care and pass on their experiences in positive ways to others across society. We hope the findings contribute to the fight against COVID-19 in helping promote recovery.”

As the project rolls out Abertay University is keen to hear from sportspeople and organisations who would like to get involved. Visit the Sport vs Covid website for more information.

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