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Home Fitness & Wellness The importance of mental health to pursue sporting success

The importance of mental health to pursue sporting success

Every athlete goes through different levels of psychological challenges throughout their career and their career success depends on their ability to cope with such challenges.

Aryaman Birla, Indian cricketer and son of business tycoon Kumar Mangalam Birla was in news last week due to his plan to take an indefinite break from cricket due to anxiety. Taking a break due to stress or anxiety is no uncommon news. Cricketers such as Glenn Maxwell, Nic Maddinson and Will Pucovski took a break from cricket to cope with psychological challenges. Luckily, Cricket Australia is supporting them for a comeback. 

Every athlete goes through different types of and different levels of psychological challenges throughout their career and ultimately, their career success depends on their ability to cope with such challenges. Some athletes fail to cope with the stress of crucial matches. India’s top badminton player P V Sindhu was branded as a bad finisher due to her continuous failures in crucial finals. The entry of Kim Ji-Hyun, former South Korean player in the career of P V Sindhu changed her career track at least for the short term. Sindhu won BWF World Championship gold under the guidance of Kim. When Kim left Sindhu due to personal reasons, Sindhu is again facing the issue of bad finishing.  

Some athletes fear to cope with fan pressure. Recently, the poor performance of Rishabh Pant prompted Indian cricket fans to shout the names of M S Dhoni and Sanju Samson during the matches. It forced the Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli to urge fans to be kinder to Rishabh Pant. Fans have the right to react as they like. Kohli can request fans to support Pant, but can’t instruct fans to support Pant. If Pant can’t handle the reactions of domestic Indian fans, how will he manage opponent team fans in foreign soils?  

Rishabh Pant
The poor performance of Rishabh Pant prompted Indian cricket fans to shout the names of M S Dhoni and Sanju Samson during the matches. (Image source: Google)

C K Vineeth, Indian footballer took Manjappada, the celebrated fan group of Kerala Blasters to the police over an alleged cyber-attack. Another example of difficulty to cope with fan pressure. At the 2010 Commonwealth Games Tintu Luka, the former Indian track and field athlete finished in sixth place in the women’s 800m. P T Usha, her coach and the queen of Indian track and field responded to media that Tintu Luka had not been exposed to such a large crowd before and that the crowd’s applause and cheering could have made her lose concentration and run faster without prior planning. What about the athletes who finished in the first three positions? This is a serious issue Indian sports is facing. Lack of proper mental preparedness. 

It is clear that the Indian athletes, their parents, and coaches are not aware or if they are aware, they are not serious about the services of sports psychologists and sports agents. They are the people who can help athletes to face any kind of challenging situations in their sporting career. But in the Indian sports domain, most of the coaches are not willing to admit the role of a sports psychologist or sports agent.  

Tintu Luka
At the 2010 Commonwealth Games Tintu Luka, the former Indian track and field athlete finished in sixth place in the women’s 800m. (Image source: Google)

All the athletes must be trained to accept failures, neglect the irritating spectators and to manage the bullying opponents. Like speech anxiety, performance anxiety is very common. Like commoners, athletes also fear about their future. We don’t need to highlight it as a mental health issue, which needs psychiatric intervention and medication. Performance anxiety can be handled with the support of a professional sports psychologist and fear of the future can be managed with the support of a sports agent.

The disturbing factor in Aryaman Birla’s case is that even a billionaire like Kumar Mangalam Birla couldn’t offer the support of a sports psychologist or sports agent to his promising son due to ignorance or negligence. Indeed, India doesn’t have enough sports psychologists and sports agents. A sports psychologist is entirely different from the normal psychologist in many ways.

Also read: The Mental Mantra for Success in Sports

We don’t have enough sports agents to concentrate on prospective athletes. Normally, our sports agents are catering only proven sports stars. They are not taking the challenge of transforming an athlete to a sports star due to many reasons.  

During the final war of Kurukshetra Arjuna, the great archer of his time drops down, casting aside his bow and arrows and decides to quit. He prefers to withdraw from battle; he prefers inaction instead of being responsible for the death of the people he loves. Lord Krishna reminded Arjuna about his duties and deliverables. Arjuna withdrew his decision to quit. Here, we can consider Lord Krishna as a sports psychologist who helped Arjuna to manage his feelings and brought him back to performance.

Like Lord Krishna, every athlete needs the support of professionals such as sports psychologists, sports nutritionists, high-performance coaches, sports engineers, and sports agents to become sports stars of international standards. 

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