World Triathlon Coaching and Training Guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic period

3. Social considerations

Severe cases of the Novel Coronavirus pandemic (pneumonia or breathing difficulties) do require hospital care. As healthcare systems have limited capacities in this respect all around the world both in terms of equipment and in human resources, countries must slow down the spread.

Image showing a narrow high curve representing 'without protective measures' and then a wider but shorter curve representing 'with protective measures'

Figure 1 - Illustration of the importance of protective measures (adapted from CDC / The Economist)

As previously discussed, the virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person. Therefore, one of the key measures in controlling the progress of the recent pandemic is rapidly adopted social distancing.

Image showing an exponentially increasing graph

Figure 2 - An illustration why social distancing needs to be implemented quickly (adapted from Tomas Pueyo).

Based on the above National Federations and coaches do have the responsibility to make the hard call to cancel event participation, traveling, training camps and even suspend training sessions.

  • Competitions are normally public gatherings with several hundred participants (including athletes, coaches, organisers, officials, visitors, etc.). This is already a magnitude that is considered as mass gathering, which represents significant risk in the spread of the virus. This is exactly the reason behind the recent cancellations and postponements of international events in endangered areas.
  • Training camps usually require travelling and temporary relocation for several weeks. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic so far shows patterns where the number of cases could change dramatically within only a few days. For this reason, it is simply not predictable how events evolve or what measures will be taken at the location of the training camp in 1-2-etc. weeks. Examples so far show that in territories where the number of confirmed cases show a rising trend, authorities do take the measures suggested by WHO and close facilities, limit gatherings or even lock borders.
  • Under these circumstances travelling to a training camp (or even travelling in general) not only means breaking the basic requirements of social distancing and isolation, but additionally exposes travellers to unpredictable situations, such as facing a lock-down abroad and/or being quarantined for weeks upon trying to return home.

We are facing a situation, where the normal life of our athletes is / will be dramatically changed. The closing of schools, universities, facilities and the cancellation of travel and public gatherings has / will have a major impact on their social lives. The role of a club, a coach and co-athletes therefore changes emphasis and needs to be guiding and supportive, trying to engage young athletes, aiming to fill in the new gaps in their social relations. All this needs to be done with maximum respect to health and safety guidelines.

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Coaches have a responsibility in educating their athletes regarding the fight against the virus spread, while athletes are responsible to comply with restrictions, coaching advice and new regulations.