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The Waiting Game: 'It's OK to come out of this not having learned three languages and mastered yoga'


Lisnagarvey and Ireland hockey player Jonny Bell

Lisnagarvey and Ireland hockey player Jonny Bell

�INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Jonny Bell

Jonny Bell

�INPHO/Presseye/Freddie Parkins

Lisnagarvey and Ireland hockey player Jonny Bell

We are asking our sporting personalities how they are dealing with action coming to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected their daily lives. Today, we speak to Lisnagarvey and Ireland hockey player Jonny Bell.

Q: How are you keeping?

A: Well, thanks. It has been strange not being able to see friends and family. I have stayed away from my parents, who live in Lisburn, and haven't been able to see my siblings and nephews and nieces, who live in Edinburgh. My sisters Jane and Katie both live there with their husbands and all four of them are doctors in the NHS. I have great admiration for them working on the frontline, giving a great service to the public, while managing their family life which has been a juggling act for them with schools closing. They all seem to be happy and in good health which is the most important thing.

Q: How have you been affected?

A: I am working from home in my job as Head of Land and Sea Policy for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds NI. Initially it was a shock to the system adjusting to the slower pace of life and spending a lot of time at home, but I have settled into the new normal quite well.

The slower pace of life has also allowed me more time to appreciate the natural environment and I think people in general have a new found appreciation for the role that nature plays in keeping our spirits high during challenging times. It's also been great spending a lot of quality time with my fiancée Ashley, although she might not agree!

Q: How are you keeping fit?

A: From a hockey perspective, we have had to train mainly at home and I've done a lot of long distance running which has been great. When the season was still in limbo, we had fitness plans and a running programme to adhere to. More recently, it's been less structured and a matter of ticking over and taking personal responsibility to keep yourself in shape. With Ireland, we haven't been able to do any training as a group but our coaches and strength and conditioning coaches have been keeping in touch and offering guidance.

Q: How are you maintaining morale, yours and the team?

A: We still keep in touch and continue to foster the team culture, at both club and international level. We have a close-knit squad at Lisnagarvey and everyone has been staying in touch via WhatsApp and the odd Zoom quiz. Having time away from each other and the hockey pitch tends to clear the mind, so hopefully everyone will come back with new energy and desire.

However, I think by this stage people are getting tired of Zoom quizzes and seeing each other from behind the manufactured setting of a computer screen and we can't wait to get back on the pitch together.

Q: Where are you drawing your personal strength from now?

A: While I have really missed the camaraderie of team-mates and pursuing a sporting goal or ambition, having a bit more time on my hands has allowed me to stay active in a way that hasn't entailed being in a gym or being on a hockey pitch which has been refreshing.

It has been uplifting to hear less traffic, breathe cleaner air and hear the buzz of the natural world. I gain a lot of strength from the natural beauty around us, whether it's in the garden or my nearest green space. I have always had a thirst for adventure and, working in the area that I do, it has highlighted the importance of the work of the RSPB to protect and restore the natural world upon which we all depend, but so often take for granted.

Q: Can you recommend a book, film or box set you think stay at home sports fans might enjoy?

A: 'The Barcelona Way: How to Create a High-Performance Culture' about achieving a winning culture through sport is a fascinating read. I also enjoyed 'On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal' by Naomi Klein, who is a well known climate change commentator. Next on my reading list is 'The Natural Health Service' by Isabel Hardman. Like a lot of sportspeople, I enjoyed 'The Last Dance' series about basketball legend Michael Jordan and I've rewatched 'Homeland'.

Q: What life lessons are you learning from this?

A: As a high-performance athlete balancing a full-time career, time was always at a premium and I am used to a very strictly timetabled life, so it has taken a bit of getting used to a more unstructured lifestyle. I think we all need to accept that it's OK to come out of this crisis having not learned three languages, mastered yoga and started a new business as social media might lead you to believe that's what everyone else is doing. I've learned to better appreciate the value of wholesome things in life, like reading a book, spending time with friends and family, taking a stroll in nature or a run on the beach. It's about staying fit and healthy and doing what you can to help others.

Q: What is the first thing you will do when all this is over?

A: I am looking forward to catching up with friends and family and it will be great to get over to Edinburgh to see family. I am also looking forward to getting back on the hockey pitch and resetting goals and objectives for next year.

Q: And your message to sports fans?

A: Manage your amount of daily screen time, get active outdoors, stay positive and stay socially distanced and we'll be back on the pitch soon.

Belfast Telegraph