A Performance Athlete in Lockdown: Blog Takeover with Beth Doughty

As my self-imposed exile manifested into a government-enforced necessity, I felt confident that I’d have enough things to tackle and enough support around me that “I would be fine”.  

Let me not delude you into thinking I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by uncertainty and stress – I was. Psychologists say that isolation has profound effects on the body and mind – anxiety, paranoia, depression etc. But I promised myself I must keep a strong sense of perspective throughout these changes.

An essential constant we all have, which I wish to emphasise is community.

While the pandemic has physically isolated us from each other, our ingenuity and resilience ensure that we can still forge a sense of community with each other. No matter where I am geographically, or the limitations I have, I am still a member of my communities; my family, my friends, my teams, my university, and my workplace, to name a few. 

While travelling back to Wales to be with my family – for an indefinite period of social-distancing – I began planning.

I set my agenda for each day, and week. I found this simple process of tracking my targets for the day an easy resource to keep me sane. They say Newton incepted his theory of gravity, Shakespeare wrote his best plays, and Hugo finalised Les Misérables in a time of quarantine. I knew I wasn’t going to emerge from lockdown with any ground-breaking new theories, but I pledged that this will be a time for reflection and revision (something I am not very good at).  

As a hockey player for Wales and the University I felt betrayed that my season had been cut short and cheated out of the international Hockey scheduled for the summer.

But as I reflected, I reminded myself of my good health and the physical condition I was in. I reminded myself of the goals I had set and how these were transferable and adaptable to the current climate. I focused on my original goal for the season and created a “plan for quarantine” – to get fitter and keep getting stronger.

Beth’s home-gym set up!

I miss the pitch; I miss the atmosphere and dynamic and I miss the team environment. But I am lucky that this is something I am coming back to and I reminded myself that this is only temporary. 

In the interim, everyone’s desire to keep the momentum of our seasons going has meant that both coaches and athletes in the squad are using their imaginations to set wild and wonderful targets and challenges!

We all sympathise with each other’s seasons coming to a halt and these humorous, yet valuable, engagements have allowed us to keep some consistency within the squad. As athletes, we do not train because people are watching and tracking our success. The motivations for me are internal, and I train to achieve my own goals. It is at times like this – when my training is behind closed doors in my family home in Newport – that I can focus on my own personalised training programme.

My educational endeavours have now shifted online.

As a final year student, I am in a huge phase of finalising my degree and moving onto my law conversion in September. This is obviously extremely stressful, but I am confident that the University will install measures to prevent anything out of my control causing detriment to my hard work. Circumstances aside, my dissertation is not going to write itself and it gives me all the more motivation to steal my place on my MA!

It is a peculiar time not to be receiving emails about lost property items or upcoming fixtures of the week from the Staff Team. The support of S.E.H is something I will welcome with open arms as this all settles down. Yet, there is no feeling of disconnection – technology connects us! In all of this I recognise the power and feeling community brings, no matter the size and no matter the affiliation. Be it virtual gym sessions (or online pub trips) it’s all a matter of making the time to stay in contact and ‘normalise’ the situation in this unprecedented time.

As I think about my future, I break it down into short-term and long-term goals and expectations.

In all of this, my strive to achieve is internal, but also driven by external factors and fuelled by my engagement with my communities. Academically, as I look to go onto my masters come September, the University and the Squad act as a major support network in securing this. The Performance Squad is not just a collection of achieving athletes, but a foundation and team where, as individuals and as a group, we can grow and develop to become the best student athletes. This is both in our sporting successes, academic performance, mental growth and as an ambassador for all that we represent – the University, the Squad, our sporting teams and ourselves.

Juggling both academics and training priorities at a time of uncertainty is of course difficult to maintain. With consistent distraction and anxiety, it is easy to take your foot (or stick, in my case) off the ball. Within the Squad, we have a phenomenal sense of accountability for each other – this is complimented with compassion and determination, which ensures we always have someone to confide in. It is the bizarre circumstance we are currently in, where the Squad can be seen at its best with an overriding togetherness and amity.

“When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there”

Zig Ziglar

During a difficult time in my sporting career this has reminded me to broaden my perspective and step into reality. Every athlete has difficulties, every student has things to manage, every colleague is balancing demands and priorities. But everyone in my communities have things they desire to achieve. When external controls change your ideal path, it is essential to re-calibrate and find a new one.

My goal to go to the Commonwealth Games will never change, but my path to get there through these current circumstances, has changed. All in all, it is about acting on what I can control; communicating with my team and managers, training to the best of my ability with the resources I have, and always learning and growing wherever possible. Sport is all about physical attributes, but equally about your mental ability to lead, cope with stress and manage. It is in this time we can all grow as individuals and as athletes with the people around us.

As the Easter break comes to an end it’s a time to keep up the momentum of my goals, to keep encouraging my squad and peers, and to keep learning, developing and reflecting (and raiding my bookshelf)!

As of yet, I still have an U23’s invitational this Summer for Wales Hockey, I have a team to go back to, and I am where I need to be in these circumstances. I still have a degree to complete and masters to achieve, and a University where I will thrive and develop academically and professionally as a student and athlete.

Beth 🙂