It’s easy to forget how much our lives have been impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic, yet as Zoom powers up for an interview with Trinity Sports new Recreation and Sport intern and Olympic athlete Charlotte Wingfield, our new reality becomes even more apparent. The sports and recreation industry is one of the sectors that has arguably been hit the worst by the Government’s response to the pandemic: which has been felt by all who work in the industry, including Wingfield. As a result, there has been a big push by Trinity Sport to improve their social outreach and also their emphasis on how training can help mental health especially during these strange Covid times and Wingfield has continued to emulate this in her new position. She speaks to Trinity News about some of the new initiatives she has enacted in Trinity, how these can benefit people, and how the pandemic has been directly affecting her time at Trinity.
A Maltese Olympic athlete, she began her sprinting career at a young age: “In year four at primary school, I started racing the boys in the playground. There was this one lad who was the fastest in the year and all my friends told me I should race him, so I did, and I ended up beating him.” From there she ended up being scouted to represent her club, which she did until Year 10 when she earned her first England Vest. It had always been a dream of hers to go to the Olympics, “I wrote down my goals on a scrap of paper. Olympics was the one word on the page and it was something I had dreamed of doing my entire life.” After competing for a few years she was struggling to qualify for Great Britain and as her Dad is Maltese and she has a Maltese passport, she switched her allegiance to Malta and after winning some major championships for them she qualified to represent Malta at the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.
“‘My final year in University was also the year of the Olympic Qualifiers. I had to do my dissertation while also training non-stop and my social life went on hold.'”
The pressures that come with high level athletic performance and also maintaining an academic life is something that Wingfield has a first hand experience of as: “My final year in University in Wales was also the year of the Olympic Qualifiers. I had to do my dissertation while also training non stop and my social life went on hold.” As a result of her achievements, including obtaining a Masters in Sports Management and Behaviour, her approach to her new position is based on her own personal experiences as an exceptional athlete.
“I find people tend to always look at sports scholars as their role models and those individuals who are decent at their sport and do well academically and managing to balance the two tend to be overlooked, when they can sometimes be the most relatable aspect for some people,” she said of her motivation on implementing the new Trinity Sports Role Model programme which is aimed at providing another link in the support chain that Trinity Sport supplies to athletes who may be struggling with their work and college life balance. Speaking about her time in college she mentions that “some of my friends were too afraid to go to the welfare officer because it is just jumping straight in, if someone just looks friendly and is also much more relatable to you, then hopefully people who are struggling will be much more likely to reach out for help.” This is where the new Role Model programme will provide a vital service in breaching the gap between those who are struggling and the measures put in place to help people: “an important initiative as we head into yet another lockdown and people may begin to get lonely.”
Mentioning the candidates who applied, she speaks of how she was delighted in the take up including that of the lads. “I’m delighted to see that so many guys applied! It can be so difficult for men to talk about how they feel and there has always been so much stigma surrounding this. Hopefully now that they have another guy to talk to it will make it much easier!” To help increase accessibility, each successful candidate will get a synopsis on the website with their email and a uniform so that they are available for anyone who needs them.
“‘Trying to continue engagement over Zoom is something that has presented itself as a challenge time and time again. This is where I hope having people such as the Role Models will also increase the visibility of people who are there to help.'”
Unfortunately due to the lockdown and the increased restrictions which were announced on Monday night, Wingfield’s job has become increasingly more difficult. “Trying to continue engagement over Zoom is something that has presented itself as a challenge time and time again. This is where I hope having people such as the Role Models will also increase the visibility of people who are there to help.” She speaks of how sometimes the lack of engagement can be disheartening, but that one of her favourite times during the week are when the TCPDI students come on Zoom with her, “They make my week as they arrive on Zoom and are just so bubbly and excited to be there, its moments like that, that make this job so amazing.”
Speaking of her plans for the future it is obvious that the uncertainty which has been cast over the sporting world has affected her too as the future of the Olympics is called into question. She agrees that “while it does make it harder to train with so much uncertainty, it is likely that the Olympics will be moved to behind closed doors with no spectators allowed, if they were to cancel it it would only be the second ever Olympics to be cancelled after World War 2.” Despite all of the uncertainties, she continues to remain optimistic and to train hard.
While her time at Trinity has been impeded due to the pandemic, Wingfield still remains hopeful for the future of sport in Trinity, “I think and hope that by next semester we will have some semblance of normal life and by then we can actually start to implement our initiatives in person instead of it all being on Zoom! There’s a lot to be said for being able to see people in person rather than just as a box on a screen!” Her approach to her position within Trinity Sport is something of a welcomed change in structure and she has paved the way for a new approach to mental health in sport. When asked what her best advice would be to people who are pursuing sport in any capacity she states: “Don’t let anyone change who you are and do what you know would be the best for you. If there’s something you’re unsure of make sure that you do it, nothing is ever permanent.” It will be exciting to see how these initiatives help Trinity Sport and also to watch how one of Malta’s rising stars will take the Sprinting world by storm.