Just as Olympians have been separated from teammates, training centres and elite competition due to COVID-19, students across Australia are dealing with being apart from their schoolmates, unable to participate in their normal sport and school environment.
Athletes are using their experience in overcoming these challenges to help inspire students with Olympics Unleashed, presented by Optus.
Olympics Unleashed, which has seen athletes share their experience face-to-face with more than 120 000 students in over 800 schools since launching in 2018, is now connecting elite athletes with students in the digital classroom – and Olympians' message of resilience, teamwork and perseverance is more important than ever.
Rio Olympian judokas and brothers Nathan and Josh Katz delivered the first two Olympics Unleashed online sessions in May, with New South Wales' White Bridge and Blakehurst High Schools.
"It's rewarding to be able to share with students that even though things have changed, it doesn't cancel out all of their goals or what they are working towards," Josh said.
"While they might have to shift their focus for now, if they keep that dedication and passion towards what they want to achieve, then they can still reach their goals.
"Even though you can have such a clear goal, which for the both of us was the Olympic Games this year, that can change very quickly and you need to be adaptable to the circumstances that come your way," Nathan added.
With Nathan and Josh completing more than a dozen in-person visits with Unleashed throughout 2019, they have witnessed the changes in students' approach and focus.
"Students were really interested in understanding how to stay motivated during COVID-19. They wanted to know how to keep engaged when your goalposts have changed or your goals are delayed, which was different to the questions we have received in the past around being motivated to get up so early or train so hard" Josh said.
Nathan felt it was more important than ever to be able to connect with young Australians and share the benefits of an Olympic journey built on overcoming challenges and adapting to changing circumstances.
"Our core messages of overcoming adversity, goal setting and harnessing motivation remain the same, but it has a clearer focus now," he said. "I think the Olympics Unleashed program is really important at this time because, sometimes all you need is a little bit of motivation.
"It's about understanding that while their lives are different, there are ways to adapt, it's just about figuring out a way to do that and that's something Olympians can do through Olympics Unleashed that can really help."
Olympics Unleashed is available in NSW, Queensland, ACT and South Australia. The program is free for schools thanks to support from presenting partner Optus, state governments and the AOC.
Schools can find out more and register for online visits now. Online visits have commenced in NSW, with Queensland, ACT and South Australia expected to commence in the coming weeks.