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Play Like A Child: Sport in Lockdown

The latest Amazon advert shows a ballerina preparing for a performance, in which she will play the main role. However, her performance is cancelled due to lockdown, so instead, her family and neighbours organise for her to perform in front of all the surrounding flats. Amazon’s “product placement” comes when one of the heroine’s neighbours buys a torch from the Amazon app – she is put under the spotlight and her mesmerising performance is watched by her community. If we take away Amazon’s product placement in the touching advert, there is much to learn from it. We too can continue to play sports and shine under the spotlight in lockdown or isolation, but that requires your touch of creativity. 

Most professional athletes have continued to compete through the November lockdown. There is much we can learn when we watch them. First, watch professional sports on TV, and identify why they are the ones on your screen. In lockdown, watching sports might be more important than ever. Before, we might have watched IPL cricket, UFC mixed martial arts fighting, or Premier League football purely for our own enjoyment. We can still enjoy watching sport and use it as a past time, but in lockdown, watching sports becomes even more important. For us to be the best possible sports player when isolation periods end, we must know the sport. So, we should intensely watch and analyse the particular movements, positions and techniques of each sports star we watch. Our analysis seems to be hugely important for our own success in the sport. In fact, we might even treat the sports star on our tellies as an artist, who themself will develop and improve, or change, the skills of past artists. So, we must build upon the traditions and techniques of past sports stars. Roger Federer perfected the one-handed backhand in tennis, used by various iconic players like seven-time Wimbledon-winner Pete Sampras. Robin Van Perside also added greater swagger to the first-touch volley, a famous trait of the legendary Dutch striker Marco Van Basten. Tiger Woods self-improved his own golf stroke, coaching himself last year to then win the Masters. The best not only learn from the best, but master the best. Lockdown or isolation is the opportunity for you to know your muse better than they know themself. 

The second step is to mimic the idol. This step in the process is perhaps more complex while in lockdown. An aspiring hockey goalkeeper, for example, might idolise Team GB Women’s Maddie Hinch, who saved four penalties at the Rio 2016 Olympics, crucial to helping them win gold. They might have extensively unpicked her best attributes; they might have noted it down, but are unsure of what to do next. Foolish it might sound, it might be worth standing in front of the telly and copying the athlete’s every movement, following their every movement. So, lockdown or isolation might be that ideal time to refine technique and perfect your skills and techniques. It may be in the form of quickly stretching your legs across the room like Maddie Hinch on the hockey field. It might also be that you learn an interesting technique of another sport which you could employ in your current one. For example, you might notice that a long jumper’s spring in their step lets you leap that extra centimetre higher when you slam-dunk in basketball. Or instead, Mike Tyson’s boxing stance and quick feet might inspire you to better approach a tackle in American football or rugby. It does not necessarily matter what sport is being shown on TV. At the end of the day, something significant or insignificant can be learnt from all.

After some time, you might think there is no other fun and creative way of remaining active. The possibility of effectively applying skills to your game while in lockdown is gone. It is true that there is no way of safely rugby tackling someone in your bedroom, wall-balling with a lacrosse stick in a tiny university room, or swimming 200m with only a bottle of water by your desk. But, with a creative touch, many things are possible. 

What is in your room? An Oxford University student will likely find plenty of books in their room. This might be used as weights, or perhaps as a way to build a pile from which you can balance on and try different things, such as keepy-ups with a football or tennis ball. A new in-room sport can be invented. Is there a table in your room? You might get a ping pong ball and bat from somewhere, and play ping pong against your wall, watching the ball rebound off it before you hit the ball again. If you are not a fan of ping pong, you might better your beer pong skills. With another light ball, you might simply throw it against a firm wall, and practise your catching. Or, with that light ball, you could improve your throw’s aim and try to hit cups off a table in the fewest possible number of attempts. In all these instances, you can count your scores and share them with other households or housemates. 

Another individual sport possible to be done is boxing. A punch bag can be created with different clothes, towels and blankets in your room. Tie them up together and hang them from your wall. Then, you will be ready to punch the bag and feel as though you are fighting a hybrid of Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury. Time yourself, and see how many punches you can get in that time limit. You might go as far as adding in crowd noise, as Sky or BT do for football matches on TV. Your room is your arena. There is an infinite number of ways you can keep sporty and competitive individually, all that is needed is to “think outside the box”. In fact, on the issue of boxes: why not put holes through the box and practice your golf putting skills? 

You might be looking to do something more enjoyable, perhaps something along with your housemates or support bubble. You might even wish to keep up the competitive element with them. ‘@honeyhouse’ has gone viral on TikTok for creating competitive mini-games between members of their household. The boys went up against the girls in a series of small, in-house events. The activities they did together over lockdown were fun games which all household bubble groups could likewise do. For example, they rolled cans down the corridor and played their spin-off version of curling. As the can or tin rolls down the corridor, with the team’s roller aiming for it to land in the zone which achieves the highest number of points, other team members scrubbed dust off the floor, just as a curling team scrubs the ice in order for the throwing stone to slide further. Another mini-game they shared on Tiktok was throwing pairs of socks into different baskets from different distances. A large variety of other mini-games were played; spoon and egg races, blowing candles from different distances, walking across a room with cups acting as “landmines” while blindfolded, throwing paper airplanes and matching coloured pairs of socks as fast as possible were just some of the games they competed in. In the end, the “homies” (boys) won the first “season”, but the second season is coming soon. Their house found their inner “childishness”, and so your house can too, maybe even with added stakes. 

Lockdown, or isolation of any sort, might put a halt to team sport, but should not stop the way you play sport yourself. It goes without saying that being active and sporty is crucial for both physical and mental health, so we should find any possible way to do so, whether alone or with our household group. While most professional sport on TV continues, we sit and watch them with a slight envy. Yet, we should also, perhaps more than ever, want to learn from them and put into practice what they do. If competitive sport is not your thing, then at least the mini games, as they do in the ‘honey house’, might be the best way to stay active in lockdown. So, just as the ballerina in the Amazon advert is able to find a way, there should be a way for everyone. The only task is to find what you can use in your room or in a park to do what you need to do. Lockdown is not the limit to playing sports. As the slogan from the Amazon advert goes, the show must go on. 

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