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Magpies in the Community coach hopes second national lockdown proves to be short-lived

Maidenhead United’s Magpies in the Community coach Mark Nisbet hopes the second nationwide lockdown proves to be short-lived as he’s seen first-hand the impact it’s had on children.

Nisbet, who helped run school holiday camps and in-school and after school football training across all ages, worries about the long-term impact the lockdowns have had on children’s health and mental wellbeing.

While being frustrated by the cancellation of coaching sessions, he understands it’s being done for the greater good, to bring down the infection rate and protect the more vulnerable in society. That said, he thinks the knock-on effect of doing it could also be damaging.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “But we have to stick to the guidelines and the Government knows best. The safety of the children, their parents and grandparents is the most important thing. We need to bring the R number back down.

“But we saw how much the sessions were desperately needed after the first lockdown. It was a massive lockdown. Everything was closed and, when we were finally allowed to do our 1-5pm sessions the feedback was excellent.

“However, the look of the children coming back in was disheartening to be honest. Some of the children came back in looking drained from being inside and playing so much Playstation, X-Box and watching TV, instead of being allowed out in the parks or playing football.

“Some of the children had also put weight on and there’s also the mental health point of view to consider. It’s tough, but we know there’s a bigger picture and we have to do what we can to keep everyone safe and healthy.

“Hopefully, what we do this month will help with that and then the Government can look at it and put some measures in place to try and get children playing sports and being outside again. That’s the key for me, not just from a physical point of view, but also for mental health reasons. They need to be outside playing sport, not just football, anything.”

Children will be allowed to continue with sports lessons in school and, although there’s no direct regulation preventing outside organisations from running outdoor health and fitness sessions for school groups, many have cancelled those sessions to reduce the risk of infection during this period.

While the events the Magpies in the Community put on over the summer and through the autumn have been popular, Nisbet isn’t overly optimistic they’ll return in full for some time, possible in the new year.

“Our summer holiday camps were very successful,” he said.

“We had loads of children coming in and they stuck to the guidelines brilliantly. Everything was cleaned, we had hand sanitisers and ensured that groups didn’t mix. We ticked every box, but going back into schools from September, we thought it would only be a matter of time before someone within the group or community caught the virus. But no one did from our sessions. That’s brilliant because if one person had it, we’d have had to close everything down, but safety wise everyone was ok.

“It went smoothly and hopefully we can get back to it as quickly as possible when it’s safe to do so.

“I’m not optimistic that will be this year, because Christmas is a quiet time anyway for community sport sessions like ours. Last time after lockdown it was crazy, all the children wanted to get out and do something, but this time, we’ll see. Whatever we can do, we’ll try to do it.

“It was so successful last time and if we can put something on that’s safe for the children then we’ll do it. We’ve been lucky with the furlough scheme as it’s meant that everyone in the community scheme has been ok.

“The chairman looks after us whenever he can, he’s not pushing us to say we have to do this or that. He’s 100 per cent behind everything we try to do if it’s safe to do it. We’re in a good position, we’re lucky we have a great chairman and we’re looking forward to the future to see what happens.”

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