Planning A Wellness-Centric Future For The Sports Industry

We have seen that several global events were cancelled in 2020 and even when sporting activities resumed, they were held in empty stadiums and players had to remain in strict bio-bubbles in the leadup and right through tournaments

It has been more than a year since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. This global crisis has had a profound impact on every aspect of our lives - as individuals, families and a society as a whole. And especially so as a workforce. Workplaces across the world have been battling against the unending repercussions of the pandemic. Businesses have scaled down, pivoted or ceased operations. The very nature of working has undergone a radical transformation.  

Covid-19 has touched nearly every workplace aspect, from the risk of transmission of the virus in workplaces to occupational safety and health risks that have emerged as a result of measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. As a result, safety measures for employees, customers and all stakeholders are now at the forefront of workplace policies as witnessed in workplaces across the world. With work-from-home the norm rather than the exception, corporates have had to be nimble and quickly adjust to new forms of working arrangements like the widespread reliance on teleworking. 

And with recurring waves of the pandemic likely to persist, businesses – irrespective of the space they operate in - will continue to have to be flexible as they anticipate, prepare and respond to crises adequately to ensure the safety of all parties. 

Focus On Health & Safety Measures

The primary focus for workplaces has been health and safety measures. Whether you are a retail chain, a software company or a restaurant, this has now become a priority more so than ever before. 

The sports industry too has not been untouched. We have seen that several global events were cancelled in 2020 and even when sporting activities resumed, they were held in empty stadiums and players had to remain in strict bio-bubbles in the leadup and right through tournaments. Even at the ground level, when it came to academies and coaching classes, there were sea changes. Some of the key changes and developments we have seen in this space include:

- The manner of engaging with key stakeholders has changed. For example, coaching classes moved from the offline to online module as training protocols has to be adapted. Curriculums had to be swiftly reworked as well – making them ‘home-friendly’ and at the same time ensuring they were as exhaustive as possible

- Academies and coaches had to figure out novel ways of keeping their students engaged – whether it was issuing weekly fitness challenges on social media or getting their students to meet their favourite stars virtually, practices and events that were previously considered part of branding exercises now became a key way of engaging with the students

- All age groups are vulnerable to the mental and physical impact of social isolation and quarantines. We have seen that companies across the globe have started providing their employees the option of signing up for mental health therapy sessions. This also became a key part of the conversation between coaches and students.   

Keeping Things Running During The New Normal

When the lockdown was lifted and on-ground training sessions were briefly permitted, once again it was safety and health issues that came to the fore: 

- Strict protocols including mandatory temperature checking, masking to and from the venue, washing hands and no socialising post training were enforced
 - Physical distancing during training, staggered training times, non-contact activity and minimal equipment handling were some of the other measures

- Trackers, GPS Monitors and Heart Rate Monitors now became part of training and fitness regimen

- Sanitisation of venues, equipment, bathrooms, were strictly enforced
 - A constant dialogue between parents and coaches/management became the norm to ensure everyone was on the same page 

Technology, The Gamechanger 

From coaches learning how to use Zoom for training sessions to using sound effects to create a pre-Covid stadium atmosphere for viewers watching a match, technology has emerged a key player. Some football clubs have even got their fans on video call and projected their images on the giant screen during the matches. The idea has been to get key stakeholders as close as possible to the ‘actual’ game experience without compromising on their safety.
 Covid-19 has led to a change of habits across all stakeholders and across all industries. Employers need to be mindful of the changing workplace culture and seamlessly adapt. Equity in safety and health is central to our recovery. And this will likely be the driving force in workplace policies across all industries for the foreseeable future. 

The author is Gaurav Manchanda, Founder of Nimida Group

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