A sporting life during lockdown

  • NewSportPic
Jewish sportsmen are coping with the demands of the COVID-19 lockdown in broadly similar ways, although each brings to the pandemic an adaptation of their own.
by LUKE ALFRED | Apr 23, 2020

Zac Elkin, the Western Province cricketer, for example, has headed off to the family apple farm in Elgin.

As far as fitness is concerned, Elkin has opted to be gentle on himself. He’s been playing cricket continuously for 18 months, he says, so the lockdown period has provided an opportunity to “re-charge the batteries”.

“I walk on the farm for 45 minutes a day,” says Elkin, “and I meditate for about 20 minutes in the morning because I feel that the lockdown is more of a mental rather than a physical battle. Other than that, I’ve made a deliberate effort not to do any strenuous exercise.”

Elkin, a frontline batsman who is thrilled to have been awarded a professional contract by Western Province for a year starting next month, says that looking back on this past season, he realises he was running on empty during what turned out to be WP’s last match of the season. “I was pretty knackered [against Eastern Province] in Port Elizabeth,” he says. “I felt pretty jaded.”

In Elkin’s case, the 18 months of constant cricket occurred because the last two South African seasons sandwiched a season playing professionally in The Netherlands, something which has fallen away this year because of the lockdown.

“There are financial implications in that, obviously,” he says, “but all this down time has given me time to reflect and consider how I might have done things differently. I’ve been thinking a great deal about going out for 96 against Gauteng in a match in Durbanville in February, to be honest,” says Elkin. “I tried to go to my century with a four, but the ball went straight up in the air and I was caught.”

For those who know their cricket history, 96 was a bewitched number for Adam Bacher. He went out four short of what would have been a debut Test century on two occasions – against Australia at home and Pakistan away – scores that still rankle.

Looking back on his time as a professional cricketer brings both pride and mild heartache for Bacher, the latter because it would have been handy if he had known then what he knows now.

“As a younger player, your mind is always all over the place. You’re either lingering on your regrets or thinking too far into the future. Nowadays, meditation helps calm me down and root me in the present. As well as meditation, I do a mid-morning exercise routine for about 30 minutes most days.

“We’re very fortunate to have a long 15 to 17 metre-long driveway with a slope,” he says with a chuckle. “It’s a good place to run. When I’m not running, I’m throwing to our eldest son, Dean, although that’s quietened down as the lockdown has continued. I’m not sure, to be honest, if all that throwing to him is good or bad for my arm.”

About 14 years ago, Bacher picked up a copy of Robin Sharma’s The Secret Letters of the Monk who Sold his Ferrari and read it through the night. He was playing for the Cobras at the time and living by himself in Cape Town, and the message in the book hit him with the force of a thunderbolt.

As luck would have it, he retired two months after he read it, so never had an opportunity to practise its lessons as a cricketer. He has, however, practised them as a human being, a husband, and a father – and, in a general way, is using them now.

He has found transcendental meditation invaluable in lockdown. It keeps him mentally balanced and for that, in these challenging and frightening times, he is exceptionally grateful.

Colin Nathan, the boxing trainer, gym owner, and member of MTK, the boxing management company with a global reach, has found the enforced rigours of the lockdown useful because now he can’t be tempted onto an aeroplane.

As a result, he’s confined to home, and can spend more time with his wife and family. “This is a very spiritual time for me, coming out of Pesach and thoughts about the ten plagues,” he says. “I’m thinking we could still be in for quite a rough ride, so what’s the rush?”

Nathan exercises for “pretty much an hour every day”, skipping, shadow-boxing, and doing weight-training at home. He watches what he eats, stays away from carbs and highly processed food, and generally eats a protein-rich diet full of meat and vegetables.

He’s in contact with his boxers on a daily basis, often via WhatsApp, but confesses that he’s chomping slightly at the bit. “I really miss the live fighting,” he says. “I also miss the fighters, the hussle and the bullshit because, let’s face it, boxing attracts its fair deal of bullshit, doesn’t it?”

“That aside, it’s been precious not to be on the road.”


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