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Mental health was the lockdown focus at Inverness Caley Thistle

By Andrew Henderson

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The ongoing pandemic has taken a toll on pretty much everyone in one way or another.

SOCCER Dunfermline
SOCCER Dunfermline

For Inverness Caledonian Thistle, the most obvious was that all football was cancelled, meaning the 2019/20 season was brought to an early end and all training was cancelled.

Only this week, six months after sport was brought to a standstill, are Caley Thistle’s players back to work, but the club had a different concern during their time away.

Football has been making efforts to safeguard participant’s mental health, with the Scottish FA rolling out training to their coaching network back in May and English lower league clubs all sporting the logo of mental health charity Mind on their shirts for the last couple of seasons.

Keeping players’ mental health in good shape has been a priority for ICT in recent months too as part of an effort to get them in the best shape mentally as well as physically ahead of this week’s comeback to the pitch.

“We had a wellbeing programme that was very good for the players,” manager John Robertson explained.

“They came in voluntarily twice a week to chat about how they were feeling.

“We wanted to have a look at the mental health aspect of lockdown to make sure that after three months they weren’t feeling down. One or two of them were.

“We got the players talking, and we said they would have down days. That’s how it was, and the staff were the same.

“The general public have all been put into a position that we’ve never ever been in – apart from possibly people who survived World WarII when they were going into bomb shelters and underground to avoid the bombing, they were only allowed out at certain times.”

Efforts were made to keep players active through cycling and hill walking.

There were also yoga, golf and tennis sessions – but the social aspect of those were just as much a priority as physical fitness.

“All that was just to get them out in the fresh air, and most importantly get them chatting to each other,” Robertson said.

“When you’re locked up in the house and you’re only speaking to your wife and your kids, sometimes you can run out of things to talk about.

“We managed to do that, and then we just left them to it for the last four or five weeks.

“We were kind of winging it, everybody was.

“You couldn’t do any football-related stuff, so we decided to try and do other activities to keep them going, and a large percentage of players managed to make these days and quite enjoyed them.

“It was a chance for them to get out of the house and do different things, so from that aspect we felt we did our best to keep the players engaged mentally, because we knew physically they would be doing their own thing anyway.”

Robertson himself was affected too, suddenly being forced to sit at home when normally he would barely have any time off.

“Probably the most down I got was sitting waiting, wondering when we’re going to be back,” he added.

“They said the first game back would be in October when we had already been off for three months that seemed like forever, and there was still three-and-a-half months that we would have to wait for.

“I must admit, I did feel pretty down.”

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