NOCK rolls out program to ease strain on athletes’ mental health

NOCK rolls out program to ease strain on athletes' mental health
FILE PHOTO: Eliud Kipchoge, the marathon world record holder, takes part in a team building exercise during 2019 Athletes Annual Conference in Eldoret, Kenya. December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi

The National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) will begin hosting online conferences in order to provide psycho-social support to athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down global sport.

NOCK said it recognises that enforced changes to athletes’ routines may result in anxiety and depression as they grapple with ways to deal with disruptions on their training and competition calendar.

According to NOC-K Acting Secretary General Francis Mutuku, the program is set to engage athletes and coaches in a host of topics.

The committee thus seeks to conduct a weekly conference with the first session slated for Thursday which will dwell on mental health in the wake of the postponement of the Olympic Games.

“The first two sessions will be on mental health and fitness. We can all agree that it is not only physical health that is important at such a sensitive time, but the cancellations of events could also bring about anxiety due to the uncertainties. Furthermore, the social isolation of people who are used to working with teams and being outdoors could take a toll on mental health.

Experts in the mental session will, therefore, be answering some of the obvious questions such as, how to cope with the global lockdown. They will also be talking about the effects of the lockdown on behavior and breaking down on what is happening to the athlete psychologically,” said Mutuku.

The panelists will include NOC-K president Paul Tergat who will open the conference, Kanyali Ilako – a Sports and Performance Psychologist with experience managing professional athletes in football, swimming and para-athletes, Rosemary Owino— Davis Cup captain, award-winning coach and high-performance sports mentor, and Julius Yego – the 2016 Olympic javelin silver medalist.

Strength and Conditioning expert Geoffrey Kimani will lead the fitness session alongside Malkia Strikers head coach Paul Bitok and Sinaida Aura – Kenya Lionesses and sprinter Mark Otieno.

Mutuku explained that the aim of the sessions is to get athletes to speak up about their struggles, if any, and to create a platform where they can know that help is available and to reach out if they need it.

Similarly, they also aim to empower coaches to be able to reach out to their athletes and offer the required assistance.

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Story By Gilbert Kiprotich
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