April 05, 2021

SportsAid survey reveals resilience of next generation of athletes

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.

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 (23 March - 3 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.

Balancing act

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.

A positive outlook

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.

At a glance

  • Athletes found balancing the different areas of their life (70%), money due to the cost of sport (46%) and performance pressures (25%) to be the three biggest challenges they faced.
  • Athletes each travelled 2,594 miles for training and competitions throughout the entire year. That equates to just 50 miles per week - in comparison to 373 miles per week in the 2018/19 survey.
  • Nearly half (43%) of the athletes are feeling more committed and determined than ever to achieve their sporting ambitions following their experiences during the pandemic. 26% revealed they had initial doubts but had managed to work through them whereas 13% said they had felt no impact on their future goals at any point. However, 18% stated that they have been left confused and uncertain about their future in sport.
  • Over half (51%) of SportsAid athletes have the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics in their sights as a key target. This is a particularly big goal for disabled athletes with 83% striving to reach the Games in three years. The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are also on the radar for 32% of respondents and 31% of disabled athletes are still pushing hard to compete at Tokyo this summer.
  • The outlook of athletes is overwhelmingly positive for 2021. They feel determined (72%), motivated (68%), committed (60%), excited (57%) and optimistic (39%). However, there does still remain an element of nervousness (22%), apprehension (20%) and concern (16%). The pandemic period has also encouraged 52% to become more focused on their education or alternative career opportunities.


What will you do to #SupportTheNext generation of British sporting heroes? SportsAid needs your help to ensure talented young athletes can continue receiving the backing they rely on. You can make a regular donation to the charity and have a significant impact on the country's sporting future.

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