Covid-19’s impact on young athletes has been holistic, simultaneously impacting their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.  They are undertaking an unprecedented challenge in returning to normalcy in the face of a global pandemic.  They may, however, be better off in the long-run as this experience has engendered unique life lessons kids will carry with them throughout their lives.


Sports have the ability to transform kids’ lives – to alter the trajectory of their lives in ways not always recognized or fully appreciated in the moment.  It’s inherently why we want our kids to participate in youth sports and why we make the time and financial sacrifices for them to do so.

Athletics force kids out of their comfort zones.  They test their ability to achieve success and persevere through failure, on full public display of their friends and family.  But the true value of youth sports is that no matter the outcome, kids grow.  Victories prove that they do belong amongst their peers and failures are not really the end of the world, just opportunities to improve and do better the next time.

It’s this imparting of confidence and poise, almost through osmosis, that enables bigger and better things outside of sports.  The confidence to know they can ace the math test at school, the composure to actively participate in social settings, the willingness to take on something new, or the resolve to apply to college or get a job.  It can all stem from participation in youth sports.

It’s in this way, too, that sports aid in the development of a young person’s identity and sense of purpose in life.  Setting goals, working hard to achieve them, and overcoming adversity on the field are the same journey’s they will embark upon as adults off the field.  It’s through this process that kids will uncover a perspective on who they are, who they ultimately want to be and how they fit into the world around them.

And that’s transformational.


What happens then when young lives are suddenly interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic?  When athletic programs are turned upside down or, in many cases, taken away entirely?  What happens when all of those wonderful dividends are derailed in the blink of an eye?

The weight of that burden has fallen on parents over the last two years, who have been forced to adjust to constantly changing program conditions, irregular stops and starts and frequently revised protocols in an attempt to keep kids out on the field.  In the absence of pre-Covid youth sports, parents have had to find new and creative ways to replace the transformational processes sports customarily provided.

Like the Six-Million-Dollar Man of our childhood, this generation’s ‘Covid Athlete’ can be built to be stronger, more resilient, more well-rounded, and better prepared to face life’s challenges than any other generation before it.  In fact, with the right influences, they may be better off in the long run for having endured the hardships of the pandemic.

Early shutdowns had the devastating impact of stripping away an entire year of sports from many young athletes.  The chaotic days of school followed by over-scheduled afternoons and evenings were suddenly replaced with home learning and huge gaps of unstructured time.  Time once allocated toward athletics and which prioritized preparation, consistency, teamwork and work ethic, suddenly ceded to isolation, loss of motivation and a massive yearning for a return to normalcy.

These disruptions also influenced young athlete’s sense of identity, purpose and self-esteem.  In its place came many of the things we try to protect kids from – uncertainty, anxiety, and fear; and without seasoned coping mechanisms, most young athletes struggled to process this major upheaval to their lives.

Recall the immense pressure adults felt at that time too.  They were forced to work from home while educating and entertaining their children at the same time.  Not to mention the enormous burden of keeping their families and loved ones safe from a virus that early on no one knew very much about.


Many took advantage of their new found family time by re-engaging with kids and re-opening lines of communication.  If we’re being honest, the time available for those calm, one-on-one conversations are few and far between in our hurried daily lives.  The downtime provided parents the opportunity to

convey the shared nature of the pandemic and that even we, as parents, were uncertain about that was happening.  Gaining a broader perspective on unforeseen events, along with recognizing and accepting emotions as normal, were learnings uniquely afforded by the pandemic.

Parents also found Covid an opportune time to help kids expand their sense of self-identity and purpose beyond the playing fields.  We understand that kids are much more than just athletes, but many character traits and personal identifiers can be underappreciated since sports play such a dominant role in many kids lives.  Covid provided young athletes the environment to discover unrecognized qualities about themselves which added to their full sense of identity.  Being a great student, a loving brother or sister, a loyal friend; that they are kind, patient, generous or funny.  Covid turned out to be invaluable time that enabled kids to perceive their full value and significance as young people.

Perhaps more fundamentally, however, the extended time without sports helped kids rediscover why they play sports in the first place.  Regardless of what the scoreboard says, it’s not actually all about winning and losing.  Kids play for the competition and sense of achievement that comes from improving on the field.  They play simply for themselves, their teammates and for the pure fun and enjoyment of it, nothing more complicated than that.


In many ways, today’s young athletes have had their individual growth and development put on hold as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.  But they’ve also developed more mature perspectives on the world, stronger senses of personal identity and purpose, and an unrivaled resilience to persevere through adversity.

It’s in this way that Covid, as with youth sports, has been transformational and altered the trajectory of kids lives for the better.  From an unprecedented period of unease and uncertainty has emerged the bigger, faster and stronger ‘Covid Athlete.’

The latest information and updates on Covid-19 can be found on the CDC website.

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