An MDX Sports Psychology Practitioner has been helping to maintain morale and wellbeing among Fulham FC players during the COVID-19 crisis by holding virtual cycling sessions with the footballers.
Danny Holmes, a consultant for the EFL Championship side this season, has kept in regular contact with the players and created resources to help them cope during the pandemic.
In March, the Football Association suspended professional football and there’s no indication when the current season will resume because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Obviously the health of the players is the most important thing and for this current period before the season hopefully resumes, the club is keen to ensure they maintain the players’ wellbeing both physically and psychologically," said Danny Holmes, MDX Sports Psychology Practitioner.
Danny, a programme leader on the Sports & Exercise Psychology MSc programme, has been running cycling sessions to keep spirits high among the players who have been prevented from training and competing regularly.
On a weekly basis, Danny will speak with the club’s head of performance, Alastair Harris, to understand what type of physical markers he wants from the session and he will plan this alongside their individual running programmes.
Each week the players have been meeting in a virtual world using a training app called Zwift and competing in cycling endurance races on exercise bikes, while communicating through Zoom.
The club’s head coach Scott Parker, a former England international midfielder who played for Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham, Fulham and Chelsea, has also been joining the players on the cycling challenges.
“We think it’s great for maintaining morale and capturing the team and competitive element,” explained Danny.
“Scott joins the sessions and he’s strong on the bike so it’s good to see.
“Players don’t know when they’ll next be playing a game, however one thing we do know is that exercise is good for wellbeing.
“It’s been an unfamiliar scenario for the players because they’re used to being given a lot of structure and exercising most days and suddenly they are in this foreign and potentially stressful scenario.
“The head coach, head of performance and medical team were quick to move to develop a new structure during lockdown.
“We know it’s important to look after everyone’s wellbeing and maintain morale throughout this period, so I’ve been supporting the club on some strategies for this.
“That’s ranged from chatting with some of the guys 1-1, developing resources, to running the virtual group bike sessions for some competitive team workouts.”
Players have also been taking part in group yoga and Pilates sessions.
Originally from Devon, Danny has previously worked for Fulham as a Performance Psychology Lead and also for Sunderland FC as a Sports Psychology Lead.
With just nine games left to play, Fulham are third in the EFL Championship and in a strong contention for automatic promotion or a play-off place.
“Obviously the health of the players is the most important thing and for this current period before the season hopefully resumes, the club is keen to ensure they maintain the players’ wellbeing both physically and psychologically,” added Danny.
“So once they are back they can hit the ground running.”
Danny has been conducting research on mental health perceptions and support systems in professional football for the past 18-months.