Sports psychologist: NBA players tackle new mental health obstacles playing in bubble


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — For players in the NBA bubble, much of the emphasis has been on physical harm, whether it be injury or the coronavirus, but their mental health is of big concern as well. 

Their concerns are about how to deal with unseen obstacles such as isolation and being away from family and a daily routine. 

Kings players and staff have been there about a month, following quarantine guidelines and social distancing with little access to things other than basketball. 

“It’s definitely gotten more challenging,” said head coach Luke Walton. “The more time that goes on where we spend a lot of time in the hotel and we try to get out and do things as a group.”

Remaining physically active isn’t the issue, it’s remaining in spirit. Players, some more than others, need to make it about more than the limits of their current living experience. 

“I’m cool, man. I’m always on FaceTime with my girl or my friends or my parents, my bother or somebody,” said De’Aaron Fox. “So, I’m alone a lot of the day but I’m not really alone. So, it’s alright for me.”

Dr. Ethan Bregman, a licensed sports psychologist in Sacramento, said he believes professional athletes are naturally confident in their abilities. But the bubble concept is providing a challenge most have not had to deal with when it comes to isolation. 

“Isolation is stressful. That’s not how we are meant to function as human beings,” Bregman told FOX40. 

Along with the isolation, the Kings have lost three of four games so far in the bubble. 

“As a psychologist, I would start to implement some mindfulness skills that, you know, kind of encompass some radical acceptance here,” Bregman said. “Kind of a willingness to just be with the discomfort of the situation.”

Focus is one thing but results are another. 

“Especially when you take a couple of losses and you go back and it’s just you in the hotel room and some film,” Walton said. 

The reality is everyone who is playing in the Orlando bubble is in the same isolation boat. 

“It may because it also limits the types of outlets you have after you play. So you can readjust, get your head wrapped around the next game,” Bregman said.

But a few more losses and the Kings will be heading home in just over a week. 

“At these high levels, one has to be able to focus and to get out there and perform regardless of the circumstances because you and your opponent, you’re in the same circumstance,” Bregman said. 

As the Kings came off a win early Thursday, their next game is Friday afternoon against the Brooklyn Nets. 


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