London Lions star Andre Lockhart says pandemic has been hard on young athletes
- Credit: Archant
London Lions point-guard Andre Lockhart admits he can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is for upcoming athletes or anyone with sporting aspirations during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The third lockdown announcement has crushed any hopes of a return to recreational sport, with restrictions set to be in place until mid-February. It means the continued closure of gyms, leisure centres and outdoor facilities as well as a ban on team sports.
For millions across the UK, sport plays an integral role in their lives, having undisputed benefits for both physical and mental wellbeing. For many it is not only a way to stay active and keep fit but a means to socialise, relieve stress and cope with the adversities of the pandemic.
To put it in perspective, a staggering 30per cent of Brits believe the ability to play and watch sport aids their mental health more than any other mental health aid, with these figures increasing to 37pc in BAME communities.
In addition to this, more than a quarter of Brits feel most included within their community and peers when playing sport, again increased to 37pc among BAME people.
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“I can only imagine how hard it is for so many young people right now because personally, if I put myself in their shoes I don’t think I would have coped well,” Lockhart admitted.
“I grew up as an only child, I would have just been at home with my mum, and I wouldn’t have known how to cope. Thank God for technology but I think there is a lot more that we need to do to help these kids.
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“The virus is just so out of control, especially in the UK, and you can’t even begin to know what to expect. It’s like rolling a dice with your life at the moment.
“I think it’s more that we need to look into when the pandemic slows down what we can do for them.
“No one saw this coming, not in January and even in March. We thought in two or three months we’ll be OK, but we’re in 2021 and still at the same point we were in March, or maybe even worse.
“We must now plan and prepare for the future.”
The 34-year-old has said it has been extremely challenging for him in terms of keeping youngsters motivated when coaching.
“When life was normal before the virus came, the usual thing was to try to get kids and people all into sports or activities, but right now it’s really hard,” Lockhart said.
“I’m coaching my academy at New City College and we have a lot of young aspiring athletes and right now they’re just so demotivated. I can just tell by having conversations with them about it.
“They don’t know if they’re going to have a basketball season, can they train. It’s very hard.
“For myself it was very hard as during the first lockdown I couldn’t see an end in sight or when I was going to be able to use an indoor facility again to work on basketball.
“I was of course hoping, but if you don’t have a strong core of people around you, then it can go very bad for a lot of people.
“I try to be a strong mentor for my kids off the court as well as on, particularly this year, as it could be very easy to fall astray.”
He added: “It’s very hard for them as most of them were technically allowed to still train because being part of the academy was part of their education but this lockdown is more intense and the schools being closed, it’s an online course.
“I’m trying to keep them engaged online by doing different things and watching films with them.
“Right now we have 90 kids in the academy. Saving all of them will be challenging, but it’s a task that myself and all the coaches are trying our hardest to do.”
The experienced basketball star knows the government have helped out when it comes to sport but believes they need even more support to come out the other side after this pandemic.
“I think that’s such an important thing. I grew up, as most kids do, wanting to be a part of something so it’s hard for kids that have worked so hard to become something as it feels like it’s being taken away.
“For example I have a kid called Tyresse, he is in his final year of college, he has aspirations of going to America and getting a college scholarship but now he is in limbo right now.
“I would love the government in the future to help pushing grassroots sport as much as possible, they’ve done a lot already, but in this pandemic we need even more help.
“We need to help pick up a lot of them with hope.”