COVID CONVERSATIONS: TINE

A conversation with Tine

Tine van Bossuyt is one busy bee. Besides working with sport federations to optimise their way of working, you can also find her in the gym: 10 to 12 hours a week. As a gymnast trainer she has travelled all over the world and has helped youngster make a lot of perfect somersaults and push their boundaries. We asked her how she’s coping with the crisis and how she sees the competitive sporting industry evolve over time. Ready? Set. Go!

First of all, how are you doing in these weird corona times?

Pretty good actually. The day before the lockdown, I underwent surgery on my shoulder. So I already prepared myself to a semi-quarantine. I just didn’t expect the whole world to join me. (laughs). The last six months were insanely hectic. I didn’t really have time for myself or my friends. I’m using this lockdown to slow down the pace, or at least try.

Did you see the lockdown coming or were you surprised?

Very surprised! You only see this in movies, right? I have the feeling we’re in some weird scouting game where we all have to go on survival route, by ourselves. Honestly, this goes beyond what I can imagine. Who would have ever thought sitting on a bench would be illegal? On the other hand, I’m not completely surprised, I did have a strange feeling back in February. When I shared my worries with my friends, laughter was often the response. And look at us now: the whole world is suddenly looking a lot different.

What do you miss the most or what will be the first thing you do once the Corona measures are lifted?

Looking ahead! Or does that sound crazy? I can handle things being different from what I had planned. That’s part of life, I have learned to deal with setbacks and turn them into opportunities. Even if your situation is really shitty, you can usually still look at the future and make new dreams or plans. Unfortunately, nobody knows where all of this is headed to. I’m very anxious to make plans, just to avoid any disappointment in case they fall through. 

First thing I’ll do when all of this is over? Having a beer with my friends, lots of beers. Preferably en route to Ibiza on a sail boat. Or, being on the Vlasmarkt at 9am during the Gentse Feesten. Plans that fell through, will be experienced more intensively next year. That’s for sure.

Are you adapting your way of working to the crisis? Are you approaching things differently?

Definitely. For me, as a coach, it’s very challenging. I try to use this moment to gain more insights. So, I’m back reading my study books and try to take some online classes. Beside the technical aspect of the profession, I’m also very interested in the mental aspect of guiding athletes. So, this is the perfect time to learn more about this. I’m actually getting inspired by coaches from other sport disciplines. Thanks to their phone calls, emails and movies, I’m staying stimulated and it pushes me to be better. I do see some opportunities in the video trainings we’re currently doing. I never thought giving training from my couch would be possible. Very handy!

What do you predict the first concessions will be in topsport?

Honestly, I have no idea. We have to travel a lot for international games, but that will be less convient in the future. We have to see if organisers will even the find courage to set ups such big events. But I do believe in the professionalism of these international sporting structures.

Perhaps our sport will get a digital version, although that won’t be easy since it’s a jury sport. Camera angels play a very important role into how the performance is being perceived. I would find it sad if there will be less physical events. Meeting people and experiencing these games together is very satisfying and is what makes the sport so beautiful. That of course will be missing in the online part.

How do you experience the crisis on a professional level?

Currently, I’m still on sick leave due to my surgery. I’m not working a lot but I do follow everything very closely. For my colleagues it’s a very busy time since there’s so much uncertainty concerning sport activities. The sector is being hit hard and need to be fully reorganised. They’re really trying their best to create a safe exit strategy with the government and experts, and to guide sporting federations and clubs in this uncertain time.

How did your gymnasts respond to the measures and cancelations of competitions they’ve been working so hard for?

They realise it’s hard for everyone. My gymnasts are really hard workers. Despite the fact we have a lot of fun during trainings and competitions, they’re really ambitious. We’ve just had an amazing year. After being selected for the World Cup in Tokio and received third place with the youth division, we were really set on the EK in Sweden, this May. That’s not happening.

You have to realise that these young people are all studying full-time, and go to the gym everyday after school. Then they go home, study some more and go to bed. Suddenly, all these short term goals are disappearing and there’s not much to look forward to. The first really big international competition, that we know for sure, is the World Tournament in November 2021. Even the World Games that were planned for the summer of 2021 have been postponed for a year. Luckily gymnastics is well structured and organised on an international level. The FIG is doing everything they can to lock down new dates as soon as possible. But they’re taking it day by day.

Besides the competitions, the training sessions are also canceled. I really, really miss those! Not only the sessions but also my gymnasts. Last weekend, my girls even biked 20km to come and wave at my door. That was so incredibly sweet.

What does a training session look like now?

The gymnasts are currently training four times a week. They don’t have any equipment at home, so they’re focusing on condition and coordination training. This was actually one of the things they wanted to do either way, to feel stronger. They receive a weekly schedule with all the details of each of their sessions. Of course, they’re working independently at the moment, but we also introduced some online classes. Not that there’s much you can do. But you can say shout out some motivating words! (laughs) I do emphasize the importance of maintaining visualisation trainings, to make sure their brains stay stimulated for more complex exercises.

Usually we only have 2 weeks off during the entire year, so it will be pretty intense to start again. But everyone is really looking forward to it. It might sound weird, but in some way, every athlete will have to make their come-back.

Is social distancing in gymnastics an option?

It’s definitely possible in our discipline. Especially since you train in small groups when you go to higher levels. We will have to find creative solutions for the personal coaching, but I’m positive we’ll work that out.

The hardest part, in my opinion as coach, is to find a solution for the pat on the back, the high five, the hug after a successful game. Sport is emotion, and we express our emotions via physical contact.

How do you think people will change their behavior in your industry in a post-corona era?

I do think we will live a more conscious live. I know, I will. The last international we entered was in Japan, in the brand new Olympic stadium where the games would have happened this summer. You can’t imagine how many times I watched the training tapes we did over there. It’s almost that I now just realise how amazing those three weeks were. A few days after our big trip, we did three sold out shows in a Lotto Arena, and that was also such a blur. There was no time to rest, because the EK tests were still on the program in Belgium.

Now I have taken the time to let that all sink in. You can be sure, next game I will enjoy double as much. That I have promised myself.

And finally, any tips for your colleagues or some comforting words for professional athletes (to be)?

A few weeks ago I met up with Seppe Smits (pro-snowboarder) in the park – sporting that is. He inspired me with these wise words: “I have stopped making plans. I trust in the fact we all have to get through this together. And we just have to make the best out of it. Day after day.” Thanks Seppe!