Dubai: With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic at the start of the year, swift action was taken in the UAE to protect both citizens and residents, which included the closure of schools, recreational spaces and sports facilities.
For a lot of people, especially the younger generation, this was a challenging time. They were separated from friends, family, teachers, teammates and coaches and in many cases were unable to participate in sports and outdoor activities.
This was particularly difficult for the younger members of the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF) who were used to training and playing with each other up to six times a week.
As Shahad Al Suwaidi, a UAE National Golf Team player, said: “It was extremely tough for everybody. There were so much uncertainty and people were scared. We weren’t allowed to go to school or see our friends. The only thing we had was our close family, home schooling and golf.”
To help support its players, the EGF and its coaches used digital technology to stay connected and remain competitive throughout the tough period. This included organising and facilitating virtual coaching clinics, one of which was hosted by DP World’s global ambassador and golfing icon, Ian Poulter.
As Abdullah Al Suwaidi, a junior member of the UAE National Team and Shahad’s younger brother, noted: “Technology really helped. We used video calls as part of home schooling and also to stay connected with the team and coaches. We did as much as we could at home; practicing putting inside and driving into nets outside. The clinic with Poulter was a real highlight. It was things like that, which helped keep me positive.”
Over time, golf became the Al Suwaidis’ mainstay. It gave them a focus and a purpose. The camaraderie of the team and the support of their coaches became an important factor in helping the young players cope with the lockdown, whilst enabling them to develop a positive outlook for the new normal.
Since the easing of restrictions and the opening up of Dubai, Shahad and Abdullah, along with their teammates from the National Junior Development Programme have started to return to the golf course to train and prepare for future tournaments.
Their story of using sport and exercise to overcome the challenges is one that will resonate with many people throughout the country and has been captured as part of a short film produced and presented by DP World.
Danny Van Otterdijk, Chief Communications Officer DP World Global, said: “We are committed to supporting and developing the next generation of Emirati talent through our strategic partnerships with the European Tour and Emirates Golf Federation. We are exceedingly proud of how these young players have channelled their passion for golf in such a positive way. When we heard their story, we immediately wanted to share it, shining a light on the benefits of health and sport even during these challenging times for our community and the world.”