Confined to their homes without access to courts due to the lockdown, India's young shuttlers are an "irritated" and "frustrated" lot, says chief junior national coach Sanjay Mishra, who feels more like a counsellor these days. The national lockdown to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far killed nearly 2000 people and infected more than 59,000 in India, is in place till May 17.
"It has been nearly two months, the young players have been staying at home and now they are getting irritated and frustrated by the sheer mention of the word lockdown," Mishra, who took up the position in 2017, told PTI during an interaction. "I keep telling them it is happening to the whole world not to you in particular and ask them to focus on boosting their mental toughness."
Mishra says he tells his wards to try and control the negative thoughts which would also help them deal with tough match situations. "I tell them to remember the times when they got frustrated or irritated and lost crucial points in a match. The idea is to use these negative thoughts to address the mental weakness that they feel sometimes in a match," he said.
India badminton national junior team (Source: Joy T Antony/Facebook)
"I have asked them to learn to control this irritation, these negative feelings, which also crop up in crucial moments and affect their performance. I tell them that dealing with this will also help in match situations." Mishra, who turned 52 on Saturday, said he has also asked them to utilise the available space at their homes to work on their movements.
"Once you return to the court after a long period, it suddenly feels like the area of the court is bigger because right now, whatever they are doing, it is within 6-7 feet but when you have to move in a 20-feet court, it will be difficult initially," he explained. "So I have asked them to create a space which is equal to at least half a court and practice their movements."
Mishra says the challenge for him is to find new ways to keep them motivated. "Besides the regular fitness drills like core exercises, agility training and wall practice, I also send them links of books, ask them to pick up a hobby like painting, gardening or may be cook something and share the video with them, just to keep them motivated and involved," the Raipur-based Mishra said.
So when does he see badminton resuming? "No one has an answer to that question. What is happening now is once in a 100-200 year event and priority of the government will be to save lives not sports at the moment. We have to accept it will take time, and we have to stay positive," he signs off.