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Life in Moderation (By: Darcel Dillard-Suite)

As we are all still navigating being inside more and outside less, the word that has kept me going is “moderation”. Not too much Netflix, not too much news, not too much ice-cream, not too much exercise, (even though overdosing on some tennis right now would be so much fun) and certainly not too much alcohol! While wine sales are off the charts during this home sheltering season, one thing athletes in particular have to guard against is over consumption as they think about reintegration back to their routines. We all do. The “new normal” associated with a COVOD-19 world, and its impact on all sports can’t be ignored. Although we have been inundated with lots of information, images, and daily reminders of how uncertain, unpredictable, and anxiety-provoking life can be, we haven’t seen much yet on how athletes will handle their “new normal”. Every major professional franchise from baseball to basketball to hockey are literally behind closed doors on “zoom” conference calls worried about protecting themselves and their athletes when the world re-opens for business again. Many sports have already reported they will play their sport with no spectators. That’s a new twist on “moderation” from a few fans to no fans!

But finding ways to remain resilient in the midst of loss, trauma related to the un-expected COVID-19 and the resulting apprehension poses a constant daily challenge as we search and wait for answers. Life in moderation. It’s hard to imagine coaches, trainers and athletes not worried about this “new normal” and what it will look like to make contact again with their teammates. Sports are made to be played with someone. There is constant contact no matter what. This contact that has produced millions of dollars in revenue thanks to fans and sponsors and now lost millions during this crisis. What else have we lost? Will we see new designed PPE sports uniforms, face masks, gloves retrofitted for all sports so that athletes are protected from each other? The vaccine can’t come soon enough!

For some of us, the answer to the stress we are all feeling caused by the reality of COVID-19 is found in a glass of wine—or perhaps something a bit stronger—especially when we have had one of those “days from hell”. In a way, “off season” started early. And what a strange off season it has been since athletes can’t really hang out on beaches in the South of France. Or do some of the sports camps they have ran over the years. Off season is also when nutrition and habits are more relaxed and trainers worry about an athlete gaining too much weight or drinking or smoking too much during this time. Again, “life in moderation”. I know the first thing I did was make sure my wine supply was ample for the weeks of home sheltering.

But as we dig in for the long haul, under a quarantine, and prepare for reintegration the “days” are turning into weeks, and we now find ourselves at risk for adopting potentially harmful behaviors and habits.

To be fair, the stress we are all under due to COVID-19 is higher than anything we may have ever faced. And alcohol does provide a relatively safe and “perfectly legal way out”. There’s also some truth to the idea that alcohol (because of its sedative properties) can reduce stress. In fact, alcohol’s effects can be similar to those of anti-anxiety medications. There have been many evidenced based studies that discuss the impact of alcohol and substance abuse by athletes, so they too could come out of this quarantine lifestyle needing guidance, interventions, balance and moderation. So, as we look at the days ahead, spring is popping up everywhere, flowers, trees, and allergy season too, have arrived. Let’s remember while life is different, sports too will present some differences. Even though I can’t play tennis right now the time will come for that, all sports will be back-- my job is to be ready, your job is to be ready, our athlete’s job is to be ready. Until then, practice smart and healthy decisions and life in moderation.

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