Marc Stocco Explains How Athletes Can Maintain Positive Mental Health Amidst a Pandemic

As a young athlete from Surrey, B.C., Marc Stocco has had to work hard to maintain peak physical condition during a baseball season with regular delays and cancellations. But according to Marc, the most difficult part of the current COVID-19 pandemic for his team has been maintaining strong mental health.

Student athletes draw significance and purpose from team camaraderie and physical goals. When routines keep shifting and these athletes become isolated, it’s more difficult to maintain positivity and determination. Here are six ways to stay mentally healthy during the pandemic.

Set a New Routine and Stick to It

When the desired routine falls by the wayside, one’s brain and muscles will transition better by creating a new routine right away. That routine should include physical, mental, and social activities. It should also include adequate rest.

Athletes that return to practice and games having set their morning alarms, refined personal aspects of their game, and embraced new hobbies are not just in shape, they are more positive and resilient, notes Marc Stocco.

Embrace Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness practices teach the body to release anxiety and employ radical self-awareness. Many famous athletes use mindfulness meditation and biofeedback to control how their bodies respond to stress, both on and off the field.

College athletes tend to prefer novelty to sitting quietly listening to their breath and heartbeat. But disciplining one’s mind to complete 15 minutes to an hour a day of mindfulness practices can greatly improve one’s mental health and help muscles perform better during workouts, practices, and games.

Avoid Rumors and Stay Informed

When people become afraid, rumors abound. In some parts of the country, COVID-19 has become politicized and a point of contention with regards to how best to deal with the present crisis. The economic impact has forced families at home to lose their jobs and students have to complete their coursework online.

In the midst of the fear and confusion, says Marc Stocco, it’s critical for athletes to avoid rumors about canceled seasons or other negative consequences from the pandemic. Instead, one should choose their sources carefully and stay informed. Information accuracy can reduce fear of the unknown and help one remain level-headed during a crisis.

Maintain Teammate Relationships Virtually

Just because players can’t meet up in person doesn’t mean that they can’t hold virtual team meetings or remain engaged through various online channels.

It’s critical to maintain these relationships during lockdown. The isolation will cause one to forget their value or how critical they are to the group. Teammates can continue to encourage one another and come around any teammate that is having an unusually difficult time (i.e., separation from family, depression, etc.).

Establish Personal Accountability

When one is alone, it can be difficult to stay disciplined. But personal workouts, good diet, and other health practices are critical for an athlete’s mental health.

According to Marc Stocco, one of the best ways to hold oneself accountable is to establish a rewards system. After achieving certain goals each day, athletes can reward themselves with a fun activity, purchase, or snack. A reward system helps people stay focused on growth without shaming themselves for missing goals on occasion.

Explore How-To Online Seminars/Videos from Professional Athletes and Coaches

Thanks to social media and search engines, there are thousands of low-cost or free workshops that teach athletes to develop their skills. Some athletes watch clips of their favorite professional athletes over and over to observe technique and gain a better understanding of the game.

YouTube alone carries hundreds of professional baseball clips focused on the fundamentals of the game. Athletes can use some of their downtime to absorb the instruction and keep their interests alive until the season resumes, says Marc Stocco.

Student Athlete, Baseball Player