A nation benched: how Aussies are coping with the ban of sports as part of COVID-19 restrictions

Many Australians are struggling with the impact COVID-19 has had on their active lifestyles. (Photo source: Football Federation Australia)

By Viki Ntafillis | @viki_ntaf

Aussies everywhere have taken a hit since the government’s Covid-19 restrictions banned all public gatherings and, in turn, organised sport.

Sport Australia revealed 63 per cent of Australian children participated in organised physical activity outside of school hours, while 83 per cent of adults played sport at least once a week before the ban.

While it is evident that social distancing measures have been implemented for the greater good, the separation from sport for many has taken its toll.

For 20-year-old Hayley Bonython, A-Grade catcher at Walkerville Softball Club, this has meant an indefinite pause on her sporting career.

“Our softball season was cancelled on March 18, the week before the women’s Grand Final,” Hayley said.

“In early January, I was granted a scholarship to Labette Community College in America, to play softball and study.

“I was looking to go over around August for the 2020/21 season … however, even if they do lift the restrictions and colleges start up again, there may still be bans on international flights.”

Pre-coronavirus, Hayley dedicated over 35 hours a week to softball with games, training, and coaching the under 12s team at Walkerville and the years 9-12 team at Immanuel College.

Hayley also played for the Sturt Saints Baseball Club, worked in school baseball clinics and for the Baseball SA offices.

As for 20-year-old Breanna Schultz, women’s footballer for Blackfriars Old Scholars Football Club, coronavirus has taken away an important social outlet in her life.

“I’m really missing my teammates and our team mentality as well as the physical aspect,” she said.

“Footy is such a team sport and you need to work [together] to be successful. You create a lot of bonds.”

As a physiotherapy student at the University of South Australia, Breanna said participating in sport motivated her to do well in her studies.

“A lot of the girls also study at university, so when we catch up, we discuss what we’re doing,” she said.

“It helps to know that you’re not alone or the only one who has a big workload at the moment.”

Christos and Yana Boundris, 13 and 11, would normally engage in organised sport four times a week as a minimum.

Both children play soccer for West Adelaide Soccer Club and learn Greek dancing at the Greek Lyceum of South Australia, while Yana also dances recreationally at Just for Fun.

For Christos and Yana, giving up all physical activity was not an option.

“My coach emailed us a list of activities and drills to do, and we’ve been going to the park with our dad at least five times a week to do them,” Christos said.

“Our Greek dance teacher emailed us some YouTube links for our dances, to practise from home.”

Yana said, “My other dance school sent an email with stretching tips and a Google drive link with videos of the dances.”

Hayley has also found ways to stay in touch with her sports.

“With the other Immanuel coach, I filmed instructional videos which focussed on functional strength and conditioning,” she said.

“I’ve also helped Baseball SA film instructional skills videos and take photos for a four-week workout plan for players.

“For the under 12s awards ceremony, I got the players … to each send in a video saying something they enjoyed, something they learnt and their favourite memory of the season.

“At home, I’ve been working on my fitness and agility with whatever equipment I’ve got, and I recently started mountain biking as a kind of cross-training.”

In terms of keeping fit, Breanna also said there has been “a definite shift” in her approach.

“Before [COVID-19] I would go for designated runs or workouts; now my workouts aren’t as rigorous or scheduled,” she said.

“I go for a lot more walks, just to get out of the house and have a change of scenery.

“I find that doing anything active is great for my mental health.

“You have to find your own, individual niche, regarding what sporting works for you and doesn’t add more stress to your life.”

Since restrictions, Yana and Christos said they miss trainings and hanging out with their friends.

“It’s important to stay active and keep in touch with people that are close to you,” Yana said.

Fast facts

In Australia, the top three organised sports for boys are swimming, soccer and Aussie rules; for girls, swimming, recreational dancing and netball.

As for adults, the most popular sports for men are recreational walking, gym/fitness and running or athletics; for women, walking, gym/fitness and swimming.

Overall, Australians pay a total of $10.7 billion per annum on sports participation ($2.3 billion for kids and $8.4 billion for adults) excluding uniforms and equipment.

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