Crises show us how vulnerable we are. As in the current corona crisis. Routines are broken and freedoms are restricted in order to save lives, everyday structures fall away completely or change noticeably. And at the latest now we realize: we have much less under control than we would like. Let’s look ahead: what can we learn from the crisis for the time after? And what role will sport and play be given in the post-corona age?
Naturally, in times like these, we focus all our attention on the threat, which makes it seem far worse and more frightening than it might be. And yet the thought of one’s own vulnerability and the threat to one’s family triggers stress, anxiety and sometimes panic. Is there a positive side to this? Absolutely, because people are crisis-resistant. We have the resources to deal with such extraordinary circumstances and to adapt to new circumstances. In the best case scenario, in a crisis we realize how resilient we are. Resilience describes the ability to survive difficult life situations without lasting impairment. How long this process of adaptation takes varies from person to person, however, and for some it does not even begin.
PSYCHOSOCIAL HEALTH AS A SERIOUS FACTOR
It is also such crisis situations in which we perhaps wish we had already done more for our mental well-being in a preventive way. Until now, the implementation of psychosocial programmes has often been underestimated, considered unmeasurable or even unimportant by many actors in international cooperation. It is to be hoped that the issue of psychosocial health will be taken more seriously in the international context, as in other areas of life and work. Learning strategies for maintaining the psychosocial balance, i.e. resilience, is relatively easy. Its benefits are noticeable in coping with everyday life, but above all in crisis situations, in which it is even essential for survival.
PROMOTING RESILIENCE THROUGH SPORT AND PLAY
COVID-19 has had a negative impact on the psychosocial health of many people. These should be supported in regaining mental health. A universally applicable instrument for the promotion of psychosocial health is the concept of sport and play, which the Swiss Academy for Development (SA4D) pioneered and continues to apply in its work. The approach is based on the assumption that people are playful beings and are willing to learn about sport and play. This is primarily experience-based, action-based learning, which has been proven to lead to changes in cognition and behaviour. For about 10 years SA4D has been using sport and play to promote psychosocial health. Participants learn and practice experience-based life skills related to psychosocial health and resilience through sport and game-based exercises. They experience an exercise; it is reflected upon in the group. Afterwards, the participants build bridges to their lives and try to apply the learned competence in their everyday life. But we also benefit from this exchange, because many of the participants are crisis-tested and can contribute their valuable experience in dealing with resilience.
USING SPORT AND PLAY SUCCESSFULLY DESPITE DISTANCE
In the context of corona discussions, one hears the argument time and again that sport or games are only badly suited, since physical closeness is considered a prerequisite. In our experience, however, this is only partly true. Sport and play can be a catalyst to promote psychosocial health during and after the corona crisis. A central characteristic is not necessarily the type of sport or game or the physical closeness, but the attitude and method with which sport and play is applied. With a clear goal in mind, in this case psychosocial health and a structured use of sport and play, according to our many years of experience in the field, the approach is ideally suited for the promotion of psychosocial health or the management of psychosocial problems.
HOW DO ORGANIZATIONS IN THE FIELD OF SPORT FOR DEVELOPMENT REACT TO THE CRISIS?
Now the question naturally arises as to how other organisations in the field of Sport for Development are dealing with the corona situation. The International Platform for Sport and Development, sportanddev.org, which is run by SA4D, provides regular information on its website.