The WinSport curling bubble is going to be a marathon for athletes taking part in multiple events.
While curlers acknowledge they’re lucky to be competing, it’s admittedly a mental grind at times.
It’s common for them to enter an event and be given a directory of resources should they get physically injured- doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors, etc.
But this time — they also noticed a mental performance consultant on that list.
“This is the first time that I can think of that we’ve had someone on the mental health side of things,” Laura Walker, who is competing in the Mixed Doubles championship after collecting a Scotties bronze metal, said. “This has been a really tough year for everybody, curling or not.”
Clare Fewster, who works with the Canadian Sport Institute and Canadian Center for Mental Health and Sport, is providing mental health supports to athletes for the duration of the bubble.
“Most of them are probably coming in really excited with a few unknowns and this uncertainty,” Fewster explained. “We hope that once they get on the ice and they’re with their teammates and they’re in a competition that some of that goes away and that they can really focus.”
“But that’s what happens with mental health… sometimes it doesn’t go away as easily and we need some strategies to manage that.”
Because of patient confidentiality, we don’t know whether anyone is utilizing the service, but the curlers say they’re happy it’s there.
Their lives are limited to being at WinSport, their hotel, and getting some outside time by doing laps of the parking lot.
Thankfully, the lovely spring weather has allowed them to spend time on their balconies, and many curlers are leaning into books, yoga, candles, and other comforts of home to practice self-care.
“I think it’s also recognizing our own internal thoughts, our own emotions, and trying to be as aware of them as we can be,” Fewster said. “We can’t prepare for every situation, but if we’ve prepared for several, then we can kind of give ourselves the confidence that ‘Oh, I’ve prepared for this and I’m going to be okay through this even if it’s going to be hard and challenging. I have someone who I can call if I need to.'”
Even if they don’t use the service, Fewster says simply having the option can provide a sense of comfort — or a safety net, in a way.
“I can’t thank them enough really for doing something like that, and having that available to us and also just helping to remove the stigma around that by making it so available rather than us having to seek it out,” Walker added.
“I think, if a lot of people had to seek it out like that… they might not do it.”
It’s one change Fewster and the curlers hope stays after the pandemic- in hopes of keeping Canada’s top athletes on top of their physical and mental game.