By Freddie Bennett | Sport Editor
Sport has adapted in many ways to these unprecedented times in order to bring fans a viable product during the pandemic. One of these adaptations has been the emergence of bio-secure bubbles for competitions, or even leagues themselves. But the concept of being constantly locked away in isolation for long periods of time has had its critics, and some of the effects of bio-secure bubbles on athletes are starting to emerge.
The bubble works as a way of isolating the players and staff surrounding the game from the rest of society for the length of the tournament which enables them to keep the pandemic at bay. Those within the bubble are subjected to rigorous testing and are restricted by who they can see and what they can do within their enclosed bubble space, which in most cases is a hotel or a larger resort. However, the strict testing and limited movement has enabled sport to get underway in a pandemic.
This year the Indian Premier League (IPL) looks a little bit different. The largest domestic cricket tournament is taking place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the players are isolated away in lavish Dubai hotels.
For players around the world, this is the new life. Moving from bubble to bubble. In particular, cricketers such as Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer have had busy seasons, first playing test matches for England, then heading to India for the IPL and after this all three are off to South Africa for a series later this month. The inevitable mental effects of feeling isolated and alone for a large period of time could take its toll on the players, and perhaps more should be done to manage their time in the bubble. These three in particular are in high demand as three of England’s best cricketers. But spending months on end in this bubble environment feels for Archer like a waiting game until he is ‘’free again’’.
The NBA is another sporting product that shares this uncertain future. In the most recent season, which the LA Lakers won last month, the bio-secure bubble concept was used to the ultimate excess. The bubble for the NBA was based in Florida at the World Disney resort in Orlando.
For many, this situation would be a childhood dream come true, being locked in at World Disney. Yet, the challenges of being locked down in the bio-secure bubble is having an effect of the mental well-being of some players already. For players like Paul George of LA Clippers fame, the bubble has taken him to places of anxiety and feeling alone. With such a high-profile player speaking out about the impacts of the bubble, hopefully in the future of NBA bubbles, more can be done to limit these kinds of mental health effects.
Much like in cricket, the life of a professional basketball player does not leave time for many breaks. Even though one season has just finished, training camps for the next season are due to be starting November 10, then the games for the regular season will come thick and fast.
There has to be some level of player management at this time.
Also, tennis is getting used to its future in a bubble. It was used earlier in the year at the US Open and it will be used at the Australian Open in January 2021. According to the organizers, there will be five bubbles dotted around Australia which will be open six weeks prior to the event. Due to improvements in the pandemic in Victoria, it looks like the Australian Open may allow some supporters as well which may allow the athletes to view more easily the positive impact they have on people which could make the bubble life easier.
These sportsmen and women are only human and much like the rest of us, may find being in lockdown in a bubble deeply challenging. If this is the immediate future for many sports if they wish to keep continuing, more needs to be done to support player well-being as without the necessary care and attention given, the mental health of the players could become a serious concern.