Top sportsman gives advice on coping with COVID-19 pandemic

Former British number one tennis player Tim Henman met virtually with Newcastle University students and staff to discuss how best to stay physically and mentally healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tim Henman during his playing days

Tim took part in a Zoom Q&A session where he was asked a variety of topics, such as coping with fears and pressures, how to stay motivated in taxing times and tips on keeping fit.

The 45-year-old was delighted to take time out of his busy schedule to meet the Newcastle University group for his motivational session and impart advice on key ways to cope during these unprecedented times.

Focus on times ahead

Tim said:“It was great to be asked to speak with Newcastle University students and staff on the topic of wellbeing.

“Sports psychology has always been an interest of mine and the link between mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing goes hand in hand, not only with sports but with life.

“COVID-19 halted play at Wimbledon this year, but, as everyone is finding, we have to adapt and focus on the times ahead as our lives are currently disrupted.

“I hope that some of my experiences I shared with the group can help others during these challenging times.”

Tim was the first British tennis player in 30 years to reach the semi-finals of the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Championship and he reached six Grand Slam semi-finals and won 15 career ATP titles.

During his stellar career, the father-of-three was ranked British number one in 1996 and again from 1999 to 2005, reaching an impressive career high ranking of number four in the world.

Tash Fothergill Misbah, Ex-President at Newcastle University’s Tennis Club and a Postgraduate student in Public Health Research, said she was honoured to hear from the tennis legend.

She said: “During my eight years as a student at Newcastle University I’ve constantly felt pressures to perform both on the court as a tennis player for the University team, and within academic life. It was an honour to hear from Tim about how he managed similar pressures during his life and career.

“Tim gave some pearls of wisdom from his time as a professional tennis player: firstly, that ‘practice makes permanent’, not perfect, and secondly, that we should try not to worry about the things we cannot control in life.

“I think we can all relate to this second statement, in particular given the COVID-19 pandemic where many of us have felt stressed and out of control at times.

“Tim encouraged us to focus on setting achievable, but challenging, goals and targets in daily life as he did during his career, in order to maintain our mental and physical health.”

Mental and physical health

There is now growing evidence that people’s mental and physical health has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the importance of looking after our general wellbeing has never been greater.

Janet Patterson, Co-Manager of Occupational Health at Newcastle University and Director of Occupational Health Services at Black and Banton, who organised the event, said: “It was an honour to have Tim spare us some time to promote wellbeing in such adverse times and everyone learnt a lot from his great advice.

“Having had the pleasure of meeting Tim, I can honestly say I find him a really down-to-earth guy who is genuinely interested in wellbeing and the importance of balancing our physical and mental health.”

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