Athlete survey reveals next generation’s inner drive during pandemic

March 31, 2021 | by Matt Halfpenny


The dedication, resilience and adaptability of Great Britain’s most talented young sports stars has shone through in SportsAid’s annual athlete survey as they look to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The findings, delivered by Nunki Solutions, highlight the impact of lockdown on the lives of athletes with a heavy focus on training adjustments, competition cancellations and changes in spend.

The survey also reveals how they’re feeling about 2021 – with restrictions starting to ease for both indoor and outdoor sports by mid-April – and whether their future ambitions remain the same.

Those supported by SportsAid include boxers Prince Dubois (pictured), Holly Heffron, Sameenah Toussaint, Jimmy Dean Wood.

There was a total of 327 survey respondents – each having received financial support from SportsAid in 2020. These athletes are the country’s brightest prospects having been nominated to the charity by the national governing bodies (NGBs) of more than 60 sports.

The survey was completed by athletes in December 2020 and January 2021 to allow respondents the opportunity to reflect on the year as a whole. This provided particularly strong insight on the differences between the first lockdown (23rd March to 3th July) and the period which followed afterwards (including the second lockdown).

The survey reveals how athletes reacted to lockdown by setting new short-term goals as they continued to train twice a day and moved their sessions to more sociable hours – rather than the early starts and late nights typical of pre-pandemic times.

As expected, the findings show how the amount of miles travelled for training and competitions dropped significantly, major costs changed and that average spend was way down on previous years. Interestingly, more respondents were looking for advice from their NGBs on how to spend their SportsAid award with a notable increase in specific kit and equipment being bought to maintain fitness levels at home.

Athletes said that balancing the different areas of their life was the biggest challenge they faced. Many had to adjust to home-schooling, GCSEs and A-Levels being cancelled and uncertainty around university degrees – on top of the obvious impact on their training and competition schedules.

SportsAid hosted over 40 online workshops for athletes in 2020 to support them during this time – as well as providing them with free access to BelievePerform – the world’s leading source of performance psychology, wellbeing and mental health content for the sport community.

The outlook of talented young athletes is overwhelmingly positive for 2021, despite the ongoing challenges of the pandemic.

Nearly half of the athletes stated that they are feeling more committed and determined than ever to achieve their sporting ambitions with a large proportion having worked through their initial doubts to keep striving forward.

Naturally, there is still an element of nervousness and apprehension for what the future may hold, but they have big hopes with the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics being a key target for many. The pandemic has also seen many athletes putting more of an emphasis on their education and alternative career opportunities.

To view the survey results in full, click here.