Determination is the secret of my energy

Virat Kohli is having a fabulous run so far in the ongoing test series between England and India. He has already notched up an aggregate of 544 runs in the four test matches with the fifth test yet to be played. This has been in contrast to his disastrous tour in 2014 when he could only muster an aggregate of 134 runs in the series.

Much was written about Kohli’s inability to play the moving ball in English conditions as and when the chinks were frequently exposed by Anderson and company. But a fierce competitor that he is, he willed himself to prove on English pitches. He has had his share of problems in this series but he was determined to prove himself- and the results are there for everyone to see.

The less talented and least enterprising of the two, Cheteshwar Pujara, whose forte is determination, discipline and commitment has also gone about the task in a clinical fashion: runs have come his way with sheer power of the will.

The just concluded Asian games 2018 held at Indonesia was the most successful for India in terms of the highest gold medals won.  India finished eighth with 15 Gold 24 silver and 30 bronze: a total of 69 medals.

There were many first’s for India in the Asian games: Rahi Sarnobat- first women shooter to win gold, Swapna Barman- first women to win gold in heptathlon, first Table tennis medal [bronze] for men, first medal [bronze medal] in Sepak takraw, first silver for woman in badminton [P V Sindhu], first gold medal in wrestling for women [Vinesh Phogat], first gold medal for India: Neeraj Chopra and Arpinder Singh in javelin and triple jump respectively.

Most of the athletes who have helped India win 69 medals have been talented, hardworking and persistent having given consistent performances at the International level. But what stood out this time was their determination to win medals for India.

You might ask me- Were the athletes who participated in the other editions not as determined?  They were, but the recent performances prior to the Asian games where in they either bettered the records or came close, is what made them medal prospects, instilling a sense of self-belief, courage and hope- that they could win medals this time around. Determination was the drive that fuelled the hopes with many factors culminating to make it a memorable essay for India.

Determination is that firmness of purpose or a firm intention to achieve a desired result [fulfilling a goal] – Merriam dictionary.  It is simply not giving up – no matter how hard things might get, how badly you want to give up, how hard you land on your back- but you keep on going relentlessly.   

Qualities of determined people:- they want to:-

  • To do well as young athletes and make a name for themselves.
  • To stage a comeback after being side-lined or injured.
  • To be committed to overcome mistakes and short comings
  • To seize the opportunities that come their way, `carpe –diem: seize the day’
  • To make it count on the big stage
  • To be tough when faced with challenges and obstacles- to be undeterred
  • Go after something because they want to rather than they have to
  • They want to be intrinsically motivated and self-disciplined to achieve.

Paul Graham wrote in Anatomy of determination- determination is the sheer wilfulness for wanting it no matter what. Determination is wilfulness balanced by discipline. The opposite of determination is- disinterest, doubt, hesitation, spinelessness and vacillation [keep changing one’s mind].  

Many of the successful athletes who took part in the Asian Games 2018, Indonesia have come from impoverished backgrounds, faced obstacles but were determined to make it big in spite of their adversities.

Tajinder Singh Toor won the gold for India in shot -putt and his father Karam Singh is suffering from cancer.

Saritaben Gayakwad is one of the quartets that won the women’s 4×400 relay- she hails from a tribal family and her parents are daily wage workers. Due to her financial crisis she could not afford shoes and ran barefoot some time ago.

Dutee Chand, Hima Das, P.U.Chitra, M.R.Poovamma, Vismaya have all come from humble upbringings but have made it to the top with sheer determination and will-power.

Deborah Herold was one of the tsunami victims that struck South East Asia. She was growing up as a nine-year-old in Andaman and Nicobar Islands when the Tsunami struck. She had to cling to a tree for five days before a search party rescued her. Deborah represented India as a cyclist in Asian Games in Indonesia. Though she didn’t win any medal her determination needs to be admired. 

Swapna Barman who won the gold medal for India in the heptathlon event is the daughter of a rickshaw puller. Her father suffered a stroke and her mother had to quit her job as a tea garden worker to look after her him. She had to support her family from the prize money she won in athletics. She was born with six fingers on each foot and it required her to wear special shoes to accommodate her six fingers- which she could not afford. Prior to her event, she was suffering from a toothache [participated with a taped jaw] and her feet hurt because of ill-fitting shoes. But she was determined.

You are from a poor family- never mind, you are facing obstacles- never mind, as long as you are self-reliant and determined to make it to the top.

Watch these videos:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODBUcAlZd74

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ten6h50cGUs

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Heart Rate Variability and Performance Enhancement

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Ever since the field of sports psychology was formed many decades ago, the most common methodology to understand how sport affected the mind of an athlete and vice versa of the mind affecting his performance, and later to bring in changes, was by sport psychology intervention.

It was usually done through counselling to understand what affected the athlete’s mind and how he responded to situations, through questionnaires and later administering psychological skills training [PST]: that would include emotional regulation and various strategies and techniques for performance enhancement.

But one had to depend on -the validity of the information shared by the athlete with regard to what was happening inside his body [and mind] and how s/he was reacting to it and also on the performance results to verify the effectiveness of PST on the athlete.

The advent of biofeedback technology has put an end to the above limitation and is now a boon to sport psychologists, consultants, practitioners and therapists. We can know see the changes in the mind and body on the monitor screen. Biofeedback is a physically oriented technology [computer based] designed to teach people to control physiological or autonomic responses.

Biofeedback usually involves an electronic monitoring device that can detect and amplify internal responses not easily known to us. These electronic instruments provide visual or auditory feedback of physiological responses such as muscle activity, skin temperature, arousal [EDA], brain waves and heart rate [Zaichowsky & Takenaka 1993].

Neurofeedback/ neurotherapy/EEG, which is an integral part of biofeedback monitors the electrical activity in the brain and gives us the feedback with regard to the brain waves [delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma] and their changes.

Coping with pressure and anxiety is an inevitable demand in sports performance. Heart rate variability (HRV) Biofeedback (BFB) can now be used as a tool for self- regulating physiological responses resulting in improved psycho physiological interactions.

Heart rate variability [HRV]: The time between each heart beat is not constant as it varies with every beat. HRV can be explained as the variation in time between each heartbeat. Heart rate variability is a normal fluctuation in heart rate patterns that can be produced voluntarily by the subject by breathing in a slow, controlled, systematic way. For example, when the person breathes in, his heart rate will speed up, and when he breathes out, his heart rate slows down [Rhythmic sinus arrhythmia].

A fluctuating heart-rate pattern, when guided by systematic breathing techniques, is not only a sign of good physical well-being, but can produce harmony or balance in the person’s body and mind and can maximize readiness to perform. High HRV is a sign of a healthy cardiac system that can generate-calmness in the body; mindfulness; and a steady level of concentration, mood, emotional control, and improved performance.

Calm breath and heart is commonly associated with being under control and having mental and emotional poise during performance. On the other hand, racing heart rates have been associated with the jitters, butterflies, poor performance, hyperventilation, and other physical symptoms.

Heart rate variability benefits: – Improved vision, focus and concentration, management of emotions, relaxation and calmness, with adaptability to situations

Heart rate variability training: would include respiration training; heart rate resonance and regulation of the ANS [autonomic nervous system].

Respiration training: – Which is nothing but breathing training, is very important for human beings not just for their survival but also for its other implications. The inability to breathe properly is the basis for unnecessary fatigue, choking, failure to recover from stress, changes in the attentional states and busy brain. Proper breathing is necessary to maintain optimal health- especially in the cardio-vascular system. Our breathing pattern is very sensitive to stress and competitive pressures- when breathing is disrupted [holding breath/ shallow breathing] as it can alter physiological and mental functioning that can hamper performance.

Healthy relaxed and deep abdominal breathing can be practiced with the biofeedback equipment- this helps in calmness under moments of pressure.  Hyper ventilation which is nothing but excessive breathing beyond the person’s metabolic needs can be avoided.

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Resonant frequency Training:  is the frequency at which heart rate variability [HRV] is at its greatest. Resonance can be obtained when the athlete achieves a calm mental state, breathes slowly using the diaphragm muscle (between four and seven breaths/minute) and eliminates excessive worry and excessive thinking.

The basic procedure with RFT involves taking the athlete through a series of paced breathing rates [pacer assisted] starting at 7 breath/min and progressively making halves [i.e. 7.0, 6.5, 6.0, 5.5, and 5.0] and a few minutes of data is collected. At one particular frequency the peaks and valleys of the resonance will be greatest. This is the resonant frequency for that person.

Effect of HRV on Autonomic nervous system [ANS]:-

The autonomic nervous system comprises- Sympathetic nervous system [SNS] and the parasympathetic nervous system [PNS]. The SNS is responsible for exciting the body in stressful situations like competitions: it stimulates the release of stress hormones that which prepares the body to meet stress. It causes rapid breathing, increase in heartbeat, muscle tension, mind going blank etc.

The PNS does the opposite by the helping the body back to normal- i.e. homeostasis. The SNS acts like the accelerator of our car speeding up the systems whereas the PNS [Vagal nerve] acts as the brake slowing down the system. The change in the heart rate due to SNS and PNS activity is what produces HRV which is a sign of good health.

As the athlete/ subject are put through deep breathing, HR resonance practice and HRV, the said person learns to resonate at a particular frequency. A spectral analysis screen- that is used to quantify the HRV that exists is a given recording: shows three types of frequencies- VLF [very low frequency, LF [low frequency, High frequency [HF]. VLF increases when the subject is anxious and in very high mental chatter and HF increases when he breathes too fast or deep. The goal of HRV training would be to get the LF up gradually [low frequency more than the other two].

All that the athlete who is trained in deep breathing, heart rate resonance and heart rate variability needs to do during moments of competitive stress is to take deep breaths during long/ short breaks to find themselves calm, focused and emotionally under control.

*Many APPS that can be linked to your phone camera been developed. But a thorough HRV analysis and practice using the biofeedback is a structured one that provides better data for analysis.

Note: I use the Thought Technology PROCOMP 5 INFINITI to train athletes and other performers for HRV training, performance enhancement and stress management [corporate personnel]. Anyone interested in undergoing biofeedback training can contact me @ 9739372319/ mnvnath@yahoo.com

References:

Heart rate variability to reduce stress Geviritz

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djqBCkBOf2c&t=4149s

HRV -THOUGHT TECH GEVIRITZ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nwFUKuJSE0&t=7s

HRV for sports & weight loss

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvrsf8F_zGQ

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4840584

Science for sport

https://www.scienceforsport.com/heart-rate-variability-hrv/

https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/heart-rate-variability-the-new-science-of-recovery

OVERTHINKING BEFORE COMPETITION

P.V.Sindhu of India lost to Carolina Marin in the finals of the World Badminton championships on the 5th AUGUST 2018. This was Sindhu’s fourth loss in the finals this season and eighth since 2016. When the media pointed to her about this record she was quick to say `I have no final phobia or such fears. Everyone plays to win but sometimes we may not succeed.’

People who tend to analyse these happenings may assume it’s the finals phobia or maybe she is placing undue importance to the finals [event importance] because she wants to win it desperately and as a result she is getting overly anxious and tightening up. Sindhu is a world class player who has gone through the grind and knows about these things and unless we hear from her it is not wise on our part to assume. It can also be that the winner was the better player on that day and deservedly won. The analysis is inconclusive in her case.

It may or may not be overthinking and precompetitive anxiety with Sindhu but it’s the case with many competitive athletes who fall victims to pre-competitive nerves and paralysis by analysis. They think about the outcome- [mostly failure], doubt themselves, and worry about the uncontrollables [competitors, weather etc], what would be the repercussion if they win/lose the contest; they worry about their competence, keep thinking on their strategies, etcetera.

The competitive anxiety as a result of over thinking [mostly negative] could have set in days prior to the day of the competition: but can be highest just before the actual event. Even champions have admitted that they are anxious before competition and know how to cope with it owing to their experience. But the lesser knowns succumb to the threat [flight or fight] and develop psychological as well as physiological symptoms.

I have heard about athletes losing sleep the previous night, some withdraw and become very quiet, some become aggressive as the day of the competition draws close, athletes losing their appetite or indulging in binge eating. Some have the tendency for certain cravings for sweets or fried food etc. It is on the day of the competition athletes can urinate frequently and consume water more than normal. There are shared accounts of athletes who find the need to defecate frequently [loose motions]. Athletes are also known to get restless, fidgety, and irritable due to nervousness before competition.

It is quite natural for the athletes to feel uneasy before the event as the body-mind prepares itself to face the challenge and certain amount of stress is necessary to perform at the optimum- this is called U-stress or useful stress: but too much of it is debilitative to performance. This increase in arousal/activation can be man’s best friend or worst enemy. The nervous energy can be channelled negatively or positively [depending on the individual].

Suggestions for coping up with pre-competitive overthinking

  • It is necessary to plan and prepare oneself physically, mentally and skill wise ahead for the competition. What is planned is executed in practice.
  • As the preparation continues till the day of the event- the seeds of its intention are already sown. Fill it, shut it, and forget it.
  • When doubts, worries and anxieties raise their ugly head it is important to postpone this negative thinking to the moments of the competition. Ask- what is the point in worrying now let me face the worst fears on the day of the event. Hope the why, what, when and the how’s will take of themselves. This is how one can procrastinate on negative thinking.
  • Much ahead of the event: you’ll not pressurise yourself with thoughts like- I must win, I shouldn’t lose this opportunity, I can’t lose etcetera
  • To ward off negativity keep affirming to the self– I am preparing well and confident of performing well in the upcoming tournament.
  • On the night before the day of the competition: dine and sleep early [to get a good night’s sleep] – before dozing off: make yourself comfortable in a chair or lie down on a bed- perform progressive relaxation, relax your whole body, carry out deep breathing, quieten your mind and do some imagery with the next day’s event in mind: emphasizing on proper execution, positive body language, self-confidence, focus and relaxation.
  • On the day of the competition: – carry out your usual routines before you leave for the venue. On reaching the venue warm up before your match, stretch, relax, quieten your mind and imagine your positive performance executing all the plans you have in mind. Recall a positive past performance and feel the confidence surging through you.
  • The idle time before your event is the period when you get maximum negative thoughts and competitive anxiety: it is the time when you have to divert your mind from the competition temporarily:- You can read a book, chat with you friends on matters not relating to your sport/event, be with positive people, play with crossword puzzles, play with mobile games if it is not distractive to you, listen to music that suits your type, if you feel pressurised at the venue you can move a little out of sight from the venue, visualise a wonderful vacation you had, think of your favourite food, you can open your internet and be with your social media if it’s not disturbing and negative to you, watch the live streaming of a sport- different from yours.
  • Before you enter the arena for the start of your match/event: do your routines, take few deep abdominal breaths, talk yourself positively and use some nice encouraging cue words.
  • Instead of thinking of the WIN which is going to come later think of the other WIN- which is an acronym for W:what I: Is important N: now
  • Remind yourself to be with the process, being in the present, giving your best, playing to the merit, allowing the inner faculties to take over and trusting your instincts, not thinking too much: too ahead and performing hoping for the best.

See and listen to what [1] Craig Sigl the mental toughness trainer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfIJcTEt9ns

And [2] Rebecca: Smith- https://completeperformancecoaching.com/2018/03/16/ideal-mindset-big-competition-qa-coach-rebecca/ have to say about overthinking

 

 

 

The “I Want it” Factor

 

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I was a part of the first year birthday celebrations of my brother’s grandson Nilay, held recently. As usual there was the birthday rhymes and games time before the cake cutting ceremony and as the games went on, a seven year old boy Divij [name changed] made ruckus after getting eliminated from the game. He could not digest the fact that he had lost and created a scene by not allowing the game to proceed further. Towards the end when the prizes were being distributed he cried and tried to snatch away the prize saying I want it, I want it.

Though the behaviour of the child was unacceptable to many, what I noticed was the hunger in child to win, which is rarely seen in a child of seven years. I found a reason to convince myself that the child will mature and be more discreet in his behaviour as he grows. I asked the father to nurture this rare quality in the child of wanting to win and not to allow it to flicker out with age.

Rumelu Lukaku the Belgian forward is one of the stars of the FIFA world cup 2018. Stardom to Lukaku didn’t come easily as he was born to a poor family in Antwerp Belgium. His family which had migrated from Congo did not have a proper dwelling and the house they lived was infected with rats: there were days they lived in the dark due to non-payment of electricity bill. He recalls the days when his family was so poor that his mother had to add water to milk to manage for the whole family. It was then he decided to make professional football his career to bring his family out of poverty.

france-fifa-world-cup-2018

The French football team that recently won the FIFA WC 2018 had as many as 14 coloured players: the families of whom had migrated to France many years ago from Congo, Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea, Nigeria, Mali, Togo, Morocco and Algeria. Poverty, homelessness, unemployment and war could have been the reasons for their families to migrate to France.

Eighteen year old Hima Das from India recently won the gold medal at the under- 20 World junior athletics held at Tampere Finland. She is India’s first athlete to win a gold medal at the World U-20 track and field competitions. Hima Das hails from an impoverished background with her parents as small time farmers in Assam.

Serena Williams- tennis player: is a coloured athlete from USA. She has won 23 grand slam tennis titles, the highest by any women player in the Open era. She too was a product of a humble family background. She developed the urge to win due to her early experiences. She fought racism and sexism to prove to herself and the world that she had it in her to be called the best in world.

Milkha Singh, P.T.Usha, Mary Kom, O.P.Jaisha, Dutee Chand, Deepika Kumari, M.S.Dhoni, Vijender Singh, Irfan Pathan and Yusuf Pathan from India and Mike Tyson, Diego Maradona, Mohamud Ali, Pele, Jesse Owens, Babe Ruth, Novak Djokovic, Le Bron James, Christiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović have all come from poor backgrounds. Many of them are examples to the rags-to-riches story.

Andrew Helms writes in his Hungry for success– a sports myth- ` Poverty becomes a crucible that breeds athletic talent.

Many elite athletes have faced the misfortune of losing one or both their parents at an early age and some of them were rendered homeless due to poverty. Some athletes were born with a disability or lost a limb or a hand due to an illness or an accident. Remember Wilma Rudolph the three times Olympic gold medal winner was born with polio.

It is said that the reason for the success of the athletes from the breakaway countries of the formerly Yugoslavia like Serbia, and Croatia has been their mental toughness because of the constant ethnic war that’s been raging in the region. I want to name a few of the successful athletes from Croatia-the present Croatian football team, Goran Ivanisevic, Mirjana Lucic Baroni, and Marin Cilic and from Serbia- Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Dokic. When you look at success of the athletes mentioned above who have faced adversities like- poverty, homelessness, war, illness, disability we find a direct relation to adversity and athletic success.

Ken Ravizza a world renowned sports psychologist who demised recently has said – Adversity is the fertilizer to growth.  

The children from affluent families have also gone on to become highly successful like : Hugo Lloris, Gerard Pique, Andrea Pirlo, Diego Forlan, Robin Van Persie, Michael Ballack[ all footballers] and Abhinav Bindra a gold medal winning shooter from India  and athletes from middle class upbringings like Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly, Kapil Dev, Prakash Padukone, Tiger Woods, Lionel Messi – too have shown immense talent and intense desire to be the best that has given them the I want it attitude.

But records show that majority of the world class athletes are the ones who have overcome some adversity in their lives. A research team from UK found out that overcoming adversity was a common trait among Olympic champions.

The affected athletes took their disability as a challenge to make it big in their chosen sport. The intense drive to carve a niche puts the fuel to fire called the intrinsic motivation that makes them hungry for success, to say I want it.

LOOKING AT THE MIND OF A CHAMPION

Pele-Best-Goals-Career

When the legendary cricket all-rounder Sir Garfield Sobers remarked- the proper use of the mind is the one thing that separates champions form merely good players. You won’t cope with your challenges in the game if you don’t think properly: he implied that it required the mind of a champion to be truly great.

Talking about champions I don’t think anybody looking at a youngster would have the courage to say this boy/girl is going to be a champion of the future. They could call the youngster as mere talented because inborn talent based on the neuronal composition of the brain at birth can be seen. But the hard truth is that the making of a champion is dependent on various factors that are not easily mastered.

The metamorphosis from an early talent to a champion takes various stages of learning, nurturing, dedicated effort, sacrifice and several days of fighting within to come out of the hard shell of the comfort zone.

This struggle is better explained by Becky Lynch a highly successful Irish professional wrestler, she says- I wasn’t born to be a champion: I fought to be a champion. Champion heavyweight boxer, the late Mohamud Ali, echoed with the same sentiments when he said- I hated every minute of training, but I said – don’t quit, suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.

We all know it requires the C’s, D’s and the E’s – to become successful namely- commitment, concentration, composure, dedication, discipline, determination, balanced diet and emotional control and effort. But success to many can be short lived as they never go on to become the champions and legends they wanted to be. So, are the champions destined to be great: were they the chosen ones? These are the questions that puts us in deep ponder.

steffi-graf-5

I don’t think all champions would have laid their hands on `the greatness guide’– by Robin Sharma, be it in business or sports: but then what is it that takes one to own the winners mind and become a champion. The sweet news is that, anyone can possess a champion’s mind if one is ready to observe the rules that go on to make a champion.  The champion’s mind is what separates the best from the rest: let’s find out what are these A-Z qualities-

  • Ability to rediscover their confidence and motivation when they are low
  • Ability to control their response to problems, uncontrollables, and adversities
  • Ability to let go of their mistakes and re-tap their refresh button
  • Accepting any outcome that comes out of a contest and to view the result positively
  • Being in the present moment during execution
  • Bodily relaxed during execution [ muscular relaxation]
  • Calm and poised in critical moments of a contest
  • Control of their emotions in moments of crisis
  • Commitment that is unwavering
  • Determination that is relentless
  • Dedication and discipline that are obsessions
  • Disaster is viewed as challenge by the champions
  • Enjoying the activity no matter what the results are
  • Focused on a good performance at all times
  • *Growth mind set instead of fixed mind set
  • Happiness is their way of life. They are not dependant on success for their happiness
  • Hopeful even under hopeless situations
  • Innovative in their approach- not afraid to try the new
  • Imagination quality – seeing themselves perform to their liking
  • Judicious about their life priorities and choices
  • Killer instinct is their forte while in competition
  • Keeping it simple. KISS- keep it simple stupid
  • Love for the activity
  • Mentally relaxed but tough during moments of crisis
  • Not giving up easily
  • Not afraid of challenges and failures
  • Optimistic about favourable results
  • Passionate about the activity that’s undying
  • Positive thinkers
  • Persistent and perseverant than others
  • Quality of their performance is upper most in their minds
  • Resilient [ ability to bounce back] under pressure and adversity
  • Self-belief is their strength
  • Satisfaction of their performance is important to them than winning
  • Tenacious – holding on to the challenge
  • Unassuming in spite of their glory
  • Visualization quality- ability to see in their mind’s eye a positive display
  • Winning is important to them but, they know this comes after a good performance
  • Xtra ordinary- they put in that extra that makes them EXTRAORDINARY
  • Yearning desire to be the best. E.g. Roger Federer
  • Zealous – they possess an unmatched childlike zeal to get better

*Champions possess a growth mind set as opposed to fixed mind set.  Carol S Dwek author of the book MINDSET says- A person with a growth mind set recognizes that challenging the self is an exciting part of learning and failure is a necessary component of success.

*Please consider the above list of A-Z qualities as a questionnaire to assess whether you have the makings of a champion.

WORLD OF FOOTBALL UNDER THE WEIGHT OF EXPECTATIONS 

 

Sunday June 24, th Lionel Messi turned 31, and this day to me may not have been the best of his birthdays as he has had a disappointing world cup so far. Not only has he failed to score in the two matches Argentina has played so far, he missed a penalty kick against Iceland- a goal that could have ensured victory for the 2014 finalists Argentina.

Argentina and Messi fans have every reason to be disappointed as Argentina is facing an early exit as on 25/6/18 in the group stage unless they beat the dangerous Nigeria in the next match and the results of the other matches also will favour them. Shockingly, Messi their superstar, and one of the greatest footballers of all times, has looked a shadow of himself.

Football to the South Americans is a religion and its fan following reaches fanatical proportions. Argentinians adore Messi and they worshipped Diego Maradona before him. The fans are desperate to see their team win the world cup this time in Russia 2018 and make amends for their 0-1 loss to Germany in the final of the previous edition in Brazil four years ago.

I’m ashamed of this T shirt [No 10, right now I want to burn it- where was Messi ? Where was Argentina? We have come all the way, spent thousands of dollars: we can ill afford it [loss] we cheered them to the rafters, they show no heart, no balls for the nation: simply can’t believe it: the fans ranted angrily after the team’s 0-3 loss to Croatia in a group D match. [Reuters]

The fans have been particularly critical of Messi and expressed their chagrin on him. Miguel Angel Gutierrez, a fan, said- Messi who delivers for Barcelona: given them triumph after triumph has given us [Argentina] nothing but defeats and sadness.’ It is reported that some fans wept and others hugged each other like survivors at a disaster scene. [DH 23/6/18].

The opposition has marginalised Messi by marking him and taking the ball away from him, thereby averting the ball possession he normally enjoys. Croatia deployed Marcelo Brozovic to do this job for them. Messi has lacked the team support that a Ronaldo, Lukaku or Harry Kane enjoys- this could be the reason for the success of the trio for their respective countries: that could land any of them the golden boot.

In fact the Argentinian coach Sampaoli and the team look too much to Messi to deliver and the others look diminished in his presence, even though Higuaín , Aguero, Paulo Dybala, Di Maria are super stars in their own way.

The Argentinian defences comprising Oramendi, Marcos Rojo, Eduardo Salvio, Federico Fazio and Gabriel Mercado have not been strong and effective as they have let the ball pass through and allowed the opposition to score. This has put Messi in extra pressure to score, making things even harder for him.

Unlike Argentina, the defence mechanisms that Ronaldo, Lukaku or a Kane enjoy have allowed them to play more freely. Though Ronaldo too had been disappointing in the past and has not won the WC for Portugal, he somehow finds things have worked for him and allowed him to score [remember the hat-trick] this time around.

Brazil football team like its Argentinian neighbour is also trapped in the whirlpool of expectations. Recent Brazilian teams have been known to be emotionally fragile: the blackout they suffered under the hands of the German’s in the semi-final [0-7 goals] held in their own back yard in 2014 and the emotional scenes that followed remains etched in our memories. Theirs’s is a country of die-hard soccer fans were passions go un- paralleled.

Neymar Jr, one of the highest paid stars of the world and the cynosure of Brazilian soccer, finds himself rocking the same boat with Lionel Messi, a boat heavenly laden with expectations- of the self and that of their million plus fans. The cynosure had turned in to an eyesore to the Brazilian fan, as he [Neymar] was unconvincing thus far, until he found his touch to score against Costa Rica in the dying moments. He sank down buried his face in his palms and cried- in relief and joy. That was the pressure he was facing and the expectations he was carrying on his slight shoulders.

The Brazilian coach Tite has requested the country [Brazil] not to put too many expectations on Neymar Jr. He said – He is a human being, he needs time to reach his high standards again but before that there is a team that needs to be strong and not dependant on him. Neymar incidentally was on a layoff from an injury- February till June and is fighting fit to regain his old touch.  [DH 23/6/18]

How much Neymar’s Brazil and Messi’s Argentina will soak the pressure during the remaining part of the tournament remains to be seen. But the fact remains that the current WC champs Germany are known to be mentally tough: who don’t allow pressure to get to them during key moments: to be able to deliver against insurmountable odds -makes them truly a great team.

The fact that the South American nations believe that football is their property and do not wish to part with the title deeds they imagine is theirs- puts pressure on their teams paving way for mental meltdowns. They must learn to play like any other team -enjoy the process, the moment and the great game.

 

PERSEVERANCE PAYS

When Dinesh Karthik, the wicket keeper batsman was recalled in to the Indian test team to play against Afghanistan after a lapse of 87 test matches, he had created a record of sorts: that was to surpass a similar unpleasant experience by Parthiv Patel who saw 83 test matches go by him before being picked again to play against England in a test match in 2017.

Though Dinesh Kartik made his test debut in 2004 he did not enjoy a long stint as a wicket keeper as consistency was not his forte then, his place was taken by M S Dhoni in 2005 and it was only in 2010 that he got another opportunity to keep wickets for India. After a long wait, he is keeping wickets again during the ongoing one- off test versus Afghanistan, June 14-19 2018.

Dinesh Karthik admitted during a recent press conference – it’s not that I lost my place to some normal cricketer, he is a special person [MS Dhoni] and I respect him for that. Just the facts that I couldn’t at that stage produce enough performances to hold on to my place. I need to be honest with myself. I think I was not good enough then. I have another opportunity now and I guess I will try to do my best.’   

I would like to say Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik are both cricketers with high degree of perseverance. Both of them in spite of difficulties [maintaining their motivation] failures [their own wicket keeping and batting] obstacle and discouragement [M S Dhoni’s progress] they have managed to be steadfastly persistent, coming up with a string of good performances, and to be able to regain the selectors confidence for the  call of national duty.

Sports is famous for throwing up examples of great characters who have been dogged, resilient, hardworking and tenacious to make spirited comebacks  despite many setbacks. They have shown the never say die attitude and persisted without giving up hope. These are the ones who can stand up and say- `perseverance pays, never, never, never give up.’

The first one to come to our mind would be Marvan Atapattu who on his test cricket debut was out to pair- duck in both the innings and was dropped from the side. He went back to domestic grind scored heavily and was back on test duty after 21 months. He was out to 0 and 1 in both innings, dropped again. He stages a comeback after 17 months only to score 0, 0 – left out. Finally returns after 36 months and comes good. He ended up scoring more than 5000 runs, 16 centuries and 6 double hundred’s. He also went on to captain his country for many years. But the irony is- he took 6 years to score his second run in test cricket. There is no better example for sustaining motivation, handling failure, resilience, hope and optimism- than Marvan Atapattu.

Anil Kumble lacked the variety or the flamboyance that a Shane Warne possessed nor was he in the classic mould of a Muralidharan, Bedi Venkataraghavan, Hirwani, Gibbs or Underwood, nor was he freakish like Abdul Quadir or B S Chandrasekhar: he was a league of his own: what he lacked in other areas he made up with his accuracy, persistence, technicality, fierce competitiveness, mental strength and never-say-die spirit- to claim 619 test wickets bowling over 40000 deliveries in career spanning 18 years.

Steve Waugh was not as swash buckling as Vivian Richards or Sachin Tendulkar, stylish as his own brother Mark Waugh or perfect or graceful as many successful batsmen but he was tenacious, dogged, hardworking, patient mentally strong and persistent. He went on to score 10927 test and 7569 one-day runs in his career.

Famous spinners like Padmakar Shivalkar and Rajinder Goel [0 tests] Rakesh Shukla [one test], and V. V Kumar [2 tests] could not represent India at all or a played only a few, were always under the shadows of the famous spin quartet led by BS Bedi: but undeterred they went about their task in domestic cricket for number of years with determination, passion and persistence even when they knew chances of playing for India were slim and remote.

Likewise tennis players Leander Paes who is in his 40’s and Sania Mirza have played number of years of International tennis despite not winning any grand slams as single players though they have both won grand slams in the doubles category.

Golf is another sport where winning majors is not child’s play or to say the least winning even the PGA’s is not assured: but golfers compete in the circuit and spend major part of their lives despite not winning one those tournaments.

Great achievements are fulfilled after years of toil, setbacks, disappointments, injuries, and adversities and even the late bloomers and achievers didn’t throw in the towel but battled with hope that one day they will come good.

But more often players want to give up too quickly for not having fulfilled their expectations and this is when perseverance comes in- to remind them not to worry about the results but to perform to their satisfaction, with intrinsic motivation determination and sincerity, enjoying their game in the process and always hoping for the best.

 

MENTAL DISCIPLINE IS VITAL FOR SUCCESS 

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No successful man or woman who has walked the face of the earth can vouch that they could achieve all the success in their life by leading a chaotic life that was sans any discipline. Many freaks could have achieved extraordinary success by being different, and I wish to warn those who wish to tread this unconventional path that it’s going to be extremely tricky when you are not organised and orderly.

Since time immemorial dynasties, cultures and societies have put rules and regulations in place for its citizens to follow and have been known to punish the offenders in order to discipline them. Today every country has the rule of the land for the enforcement of discipline to facilitate the citizens to live in peace.

We follow the principle; if charity has to begin at home then discipline also has to begin at home- in our attempt to bring up children in a disciplined manner. The motto of every educational institution apart from providing quality education would be to groom disciplined students who would turn in to wonderful citizens of the future.

None of our goals can be realised without self-discipline: which is the most important attribute one must master to achieve excellence. Every form of discipline is mental discipline- be it physical, technical or tactical or self- discipline, because it’s the mind [brain] that controls and regulates our behaviours, temptations, distractions, emotions impulses, urges, cravings, triggers and also our movements.

This is why Napoleon Hill said- `self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts – if you don’t control what you think you can’t control what you do.’

Mental discipline in short is training your mind to control your social behaviour by enforcing obedience, order, prescribed: conduct and patterns of behaviour.

Lack of discipline makes life to go chaotic and berserk and if you like analogues, I would compare it to a situation when the traffic light goes off for 30 minutes in one the busiest junctions of a crowded city.

As in life, sports too demands from the participants certain discipline to maximise their potential toward fulfilling their long term goals. Like many other factors discipline is also a long term process that needs to be inculcated and practiced- it’s not something that can be learnt and forgotten.

Sports has seen great achievers through its history and every day we see the bar is being raised higher and higher, limits are being crossed and records go on a tumble and the incumbents who excel in doing so need to be saluted for their discipline among other qualities.

There lies a strong success mantra for sports which reads- natural talent+ perfect practice+ hard work+ skill+ emotional control+ mental toughness= SUCCESS and mental discipline is certainly a critical factor within emotional control and mental toughness.

The greatest athletes of all times who have risen to the highest echelons in their chosen sport would have exercised highest mental discipline by controlling their temptations, desires, impulses, cravings, comforts, gratifications, pleasures and many other attractions, known and unknown, in order to achieve what they have done. The sacrifices they make throughout their life time are many.

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DISCIPLINE is one of the four D’s of success the remaining three are DEVOTION, DEDICATION AND DETERMINATION.

Being disciplined does not mean living the life of a monk or a saint, athletes also need to switch off from serious rigours and routines of their daily life- unwind and do the thing that would give them fun and enjoyment. If the athletes are too- focused, serious and disciplined on a continuous basis boredom, staleness and burnout may result. The athletes who have gone through the grind know how much is too much and when not to cross the line.

We have anecdotal reports of athletes who went too far, crossed the line and found it hard to return. Elite athletes are ruled by their deliberate choice to stay disciplined, to be able to focus their mind and energies on their goals and persevere until they have accomplished what they had on their mind.

Gro Jordalen, a Doctoral research Fellow, after her work with the 16- 20 year old’s of the Norwegian national team has established the correlation between motivation and discipline. She concludes that in short periods of up to five weeks athletes need to be much disciplined to stay motivated. In the long term being motivated makes it easy to remain disciplined.

Gro Jordalen also adds- showing restraint and being disciplined can be more draining if motivation is fuelled by extrinsic factors like prize money. This could increase the risk of ending up feeling exhausted and burnt out. When athletes are driven by intrinsic motivation it is easier for them to resist the things that would negatively affect their daily schedule.

It is a well-known fact that athletes need to be disciplined in order to attain excellence in their chosen sport and by this it implies that sports teach discipline. It teaches responsibility, time management, respect, adherence and honouring to the rules, good behaviour and conduct among others.

When an athlete is executes his skills in training or in competition he needs to be disciplined whether it’s the physical, technical or the tactical side- s/he cannot go against what had been taught to them with regard to the –what works and what doesn’t work. They have to avoid the things they do on the pitch that would get them in to trouble. Errors can occur if a player goes against the science of his/her’s sport: here self-restraint needs discipline.

Haile Gabrselaissie the celebrated long distance runner has said- Once you have the commitment you need the discipline and hard work to get you there.

DHONI AND CSK: THE SPECIAL BOND  

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni stood there in the CSK dugout; hands in his pocket looking relaxed and as calm as ever, smiling occasionally as he watched Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu complete the formalities of reaching to the SRH total of 178. When Shane Watson completed his century, the second of this IPL 2018, while everyone in the dugout vociferously cheered him, MSD simply stood there smiling gently and clapping softly without any exuberance.

Chennai Super Kings returning after a two year hiatus from IPL cricket won their third IPL title beating Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets on 27/5/2018. CSK were ridiculed for selecting a team of ageing players, many of them being well over their 30’s ; but the ageing team has hit back in style proving age and experience are crucial for winning tournaments.

CSK have made the finals seven times of the IPL, since its inception in 2008 and have won the cup thrice. The common feature of the CSK since 2008 has been its captain MS Dhoni- except for that break period of 2016 and 2017: the bond has grown stronger.

The CSK franchise team, Stephen Fleming the chief coach and MS Dhoni have always been bent on having a balanced team instead of a team full of super stars. They have opted for good Indian players who would deliver for them in familiar conditions. Dhoni and the support staff have kept the winning formula simple without giving any room for flamboyance. This has been the secret of their success.

What does MS Dhoni bring to the side?

As I watched Shane Watson perform for CSK, the way he did this season, I was unhappy and disappointed that he could not do the same for my home franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore RCB, which he represented in the past.

What is so special about CSK that brings the best out of players I wondered? Let’s read what Shane Watson has to say- “We don’t really see MS too much around breakfast and lunch – he loves his sleep. [But] to see how much it means to him, to be able to play for CSK, that’s rubbed off on everyone.

“To see him bat as well as he is… It’s as good as I’ve ever seen him hit the ball on all types of wickets, all types of bowlers; he’s just so cool- under pressure. When the run-rate is getting up he just knows which kind of bowlers he’s lining up. It’s amazing how he stays so calm.”

“The desire, how much it means to MS, it’s rubbed off on me for sure. Looking at MS doing it at his age, which is in and around my age, spurs me on as well. There’s no reason why your best cricket can’t be around at this stage of our careers. To watch MS from close quarters is very special.’’

 Almost every aspiring player wants to represent the CSK not because they are a winning combination but for the team atmosphere that could be beckoning of them.

Kedar Jadhav, who was picked to represent CSK, believes it was MSD who was responsible for his changing fortunes and International success say’s- ` MS Dhoni allows a player to express himself and supports a player in every possible way. He knows how to get the best out of every player, that’s his biggest quality. His presence gives me immense confidence.’

Suresh Raina has been with the CSK for many years and has been in the core of MSD’s scheme of things, he say’s- the biggest advantage of players playing under the leadership of MSD is the clarity in communication of the roles they receive from a set-up under him. Players know exactly what they need to do and this has been one of the reasons for CSK’s success over the years. He tells players to go out and enjoy themselves and doesn’t put undue pressure on them. As a result they perform well.’  [Circle of cricket].

M S Dhoni took over the CSK captaincy in 2008 while he was in his formative years as a captain of the Indian team. The experience he gained captaining India has helped him lead the CSK side, the vice versa is also true.

MSD enjoys the company of Stephen Fleming the chief coach of CSK, and the other members of the support staff namely- Mike Hussey, Steve Rixon and Andy Bichel. This has led to constructive decision making and team cohesion.

M S Dhoni has been the successful captain India has seen who has won the W T-20, World Cup and the champion’s trophy besides making India the numero -uno test and one day team.

As a captain, M S DHONI is known for his inspirational qualities of leadership and individuality that has won the hearts of millions of fans all over the world.

He is known for the qualities of simplicity, maturity, responsibility, ability to lead from the front, calmness under pressure, emotional control and cool temperament, shrewd cricketing brain, good observation ability, risk taking ability [daring and bravado], superior confidence, ability to be grounded, humility, dignity on the off the cricket field, positive mind-set, dislike for too much publicity and exuberance.

No wonder Captain Cool M S Dhoni is a legend of cricket world over and will remain in the hearts of his fans for a long, long time.

KILLER INSTINCT GIVES MORE CHANCES OF SUCCESS

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I am amazed at the instincts the animal kingdom has developed over the generations in order to survive. When millions of turtles hatch they are driven by intuition to make way hurriedly to the water to escape predators. Similarly on the plains of Africa millions of Wildebeests, Zebra mothers give birth to their calves at almost the same time- which increases the chances of their survival: since the predators cannot eat all the new born calves. These new born calves know how and from where they have to suckle, the moment they are born. There are many such examples of how animals have evolved in order to survive for self-preservation.

All living organisms have the basic instincts by which they satisfy their hunger, thirst, need to sleep and the urge to procreate. Animals including the most highly evolved human race have this basic instinct to survive and preserve, when their life is threatened: so, they either run away from the threat or fight the threat/challenge. This phenomenon is called as flight or fight response.

We are living in a competitive world and it is imperative that every human perform to the maximum in his own sphere of activity and it is needed by the individual to go for the kill to turn the result in his/her favour. While some run away from threat others go for the kill in order to avoid failure: this is what is called as killer instinct.

Killer instinct is very common in sports to the extent that we see players take some bold and adventurous decisions to win points and games. These decisions are seen as risky and illogical, but this is what the daring athletes do to spring a surprise on the opponent to overpower him/her.

Instinct is the tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimulus without any reason. Instinct is also sometimes known as intuition/ sixth sense / gut feeling. Athletes have this innate ability to take certain decisions during crucial moments of a game that may defy logic but were very effective to the outcome.

Killer instinct can be seen as an ability to find an opening or chink in the opponent’s game to go ruthlessly after the opportunity. In a long rally the one who finds the opening, takes the initiative and attacks usually wins the point.

Athletes who possess the killer instinct are usually ambitious, committed and motivated – with a drive to come on top and emerge victorious. They hate to lose and want to win every time they compete.

The quality of killer instinct has been seen in many world class athletes in many sports. But the highest quality of killer instinct I have seen is from Roger Federer who is ruthless and brutal – in his own quiet manner, showing no mercy even against the weakest of opponents. Tennis stars of the opposite kind were John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors who were aggressive, vicious and instinctive killers on the tennis court. They hated to lose and would do anything to win: from holding up matches to distracting the opponents by their dubious ways.

Chuck Bednarik, a former American football player has said- you’ve to go to play with that killer instinct man. You have to hate that guy across from you, then after the game is over tell him what a nice guy he is: shake his hands, especially if you win.’

Chris Evert, a champion women’s tennis player once said- Now that I am losing some, I can see how tough I was – the killer instinct, the single mindedness, playing like a machine. Boy! That’s what made me a champion’   

On the contrary, I have seen players lose from winning positions lacking the killer instinct to finish off games and win matches.

I bring to you certain instances from the game of cricket were certain instinctive actions by certain players brought about historical results:-

  • India played Pakistan in the finals of the T-20 WC in South Africa in 2007: Pakistan chasing an Indian total of 158were 145/9 after 19 overs. To everyone’s surprise MS Dhoni asked Joginder Sharma to bowl the last over and soon Pakistan were all out for a total of 153 giving India a victory.
  • In the Nidahas trophy held in Bangladesh recently Dinesh Karthik’s 8 ball cameo helped India win. India needed 5 runs of the last ball and DK guided by his intuition instinctively hit the last ball over extra cover for six- any other batsman would have tried to heave the ball over long on or long off and missed
  • In a 50 over game versus India at Sharjah in 1985, Pakistan were required to score six runs of the last ball of a Chetan Sharma delivery and Javed Miandad their star batsman, as if to avoid an agonizing defeat against India, scored a six to give Pakistan victory.

BEWARE! IF YOU ARE NOT AWARE

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Some people are known to tread aimlessly in their lives sometimes branding themselves as failures and when asked, they do not know the reasons for their predicament. The obvious reasons they would attribute to is that they are not lucky and are destined to fail. Perhaps they have not realised that they can take control of their lives through knowledge or perception of the situation: something commonly known as self-awareness- the knowledge of the self.

The reason people do not look inwards or introspect is because they are afraid of knowing the truth and truth is always bitter. Truth reveals something that is hard to swallow. Our egos get hurt and pained with the truth and while trying to protect our ego we get in to the defensive mode and try to suppress the truth.

Self-realization and self-improvement calls for change and we fear change: our ego prevents us from change. But for our personal growth, progress and happiness- change is inevitable. Becoming consciously aware of our needs, our fears and our weaknesses is the most critical step in the change process.

As in any other field, sports too calls for self-awareness and those athletes who lack self-understanding are disconnected, unresponsive and in denial mode of what is bothering them in their quest for peak performance and success. They need to be aware of the feelings and emotions on a daily basis and its effect on performance: this would guide them toward an ideal performance state.

Former tennis star Billie Jean King has said- Self-awareness is the most important thing toward being a champion.’

Researchers Jackson and Czsikszentmihalyi.M [1999] say- Without self-awareness an athlete misses important clues that lead to positive change in performance.’

Self-awareness in sports is the ability to know how and what we are feeling at a given moment and using the feeling to guide our decision making with a realistic assessment of our abilities and well-grounded sense of self-confidence.

Our body and mind constantly send messages- tuning in and heeding to these signals is important in making the necessary changes. It is like noticing the gauges of the instrument panel of your automobile when you are on a long drive: that revealing a lot in terms of your vehicle, you, the present and the destination. Are we listening to the messages our body is sending?

Self-awareness is one of the five basic emotional competencies proposed by Daniel Goleman [Working with emotional intelligence, appendix 1].

An athlete must be aware of his/her emotional state or arousal level to adjust the same to their optimal level of arousal to attain ideal performance state and peak performance.

Athletes need to control the excitement during the sports situations so that their energy can be channelled in to the ideal performance state or to recognize when the arousal level is too low and activate it to the necessary level. The athletes need to be aware of what triggers stress and what are those stressors: it can be the crowds, the noise, their thoughts and feelings.

Awareness is important but it is all about what you do with this awareness and how you take control of yourself and regulate the physiological and psychological changes that are caused by competitive stress.

During performance, athletes must be aware of their movement, execution, muscle tension, breathing patterns, mental states like- focus, calmness, excess thinking etc.

During moments of pressure it requires the athlete to execute the basic skills with a sense of having control over their emotional states, routines, execution and their intensity in order to achieve an ideal performance.

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Image source : Internet

James E. Loehr, sports psychologist and mental toughness trainer, has suggested a self-awareness exercise plan to be followed on a daily basis-

  • Tuning in and listening to the feelings and emotions. Listening to the language of the body and the needs of the self.
  • Increasing self- awareness on a daily basis: where am I? What’s happening now?
  • Paying attention to the negative feelings and emotions, particularly those of defensiveness and insecurity.
  • When the feelings were negative, trace the feelings of hurt to its source, understand the weaknesses and face them.
  • Express real feelings and emotions honestly and openly.
  • Be courageous in his search for personal truth.

The use of biofeedback [includes neurofeedback-EEG] is a wonderful tool to understand what is happening within the mind and body when an athlete is exposed to competitive stress. The training screens provided are to correct the abnormalities found and are a part of the biofeedback software.

Watch this video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuf_X2E-Cqw

References:

1 The new toughness training for sports- Lames E. Loehr, Ed.D.

2 Applied sports psychology: personal growth to peak performance IV edition- Editor- Jean M Williams.

EVERYBODY LOVES AN INTENSELY FOUGHT CONTEST

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I still cherish memories of witnessing intensely fought battles on the sports fields as a youngster: be it an Indo-Pak hockey / cricket rivalry or a Wimbledon match involving John McEnroe vs Bjorn Borg and those limited over cricket matches at Sharjah or the World cup football matches.

Today the intensity with which various sports and games are contested has gone up by frenzied proportions. A tennis match between Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer or a soccer league match between Manchester United vs Liverpool or a game between Barcelona Fc vs Real Madrid/ Celtic vs Rangers in the Scottish league, the famous Rugby leagues, the ashes series between Australia vs England, the IPL cricket matches, the NBA basketball league matches involving teams like: Celtics, LA Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Golden state warriors and Cleveland cavaliers promises to be vehemently fought.

Intensity is a strange phenomenon and is understood in different terms and contexts such as energy or arousal/ anxiety and it also manifests itself mentally and physically. But intensity is felt as a physiological reaction to a competitive situation. Simply speaking it is the physiological activity you experience in your body.

Dr Jim Taylor a leading sports psychologist who has done lot of work on Intensity say’s Intensity is very important in sports performance because all your motivation, confidence, focus and emotions in the world won’t help you if your body is not physiologically capable of doing what it needs to do for you to perform at your best.

In the ongoing Indian Premier League [IPL-2018] cricket league, whenever a side batting second falls behind on the asking run rate some of their batsmen raise their intensity to go after the bowling by bringing about a rise in their energy, strength and excitement.

Intensity in sports is to have great energy, concentration and vehemence [forceful, wild or turbulent]. It is a quality of being Intense especially in terms of strength, force, energy or feeling.

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Intensity is an important factor for your exercise workout. When you work out with sufficient intensity your body grows stronger and you will notice changes in your weight, body fat percentage and endurance.

Intensity exists at an optimal zone that is individual to each athlete. Each person has his/her zone or intensity at which s/he performs at their best. Optimal intensity refers to the ideal level of physical and mental intensity that allows an athlete to perform at his/her best.’ – Taylor and Wilson 2005

Not every athlete performs at the same intensity when the demands are high: for example in an IPL tie, as captains – M.S.Dhoni may perform in a relaxed manner, while a Gautham Gambhir or a Rohit Sharma may be moderately intense while Virat Kohli is expected to be highly intense and energetic. With experience and knowing themselves they know the sweet spot of their intensity at which they perform at their best.

Intensity has a direct reference to performance: Monica A. Frank PhD says-Competitors need an optimal level of intensity. If the intensity is too high or too low, performance can be affected.’

Over intensity is a state when there is too much of mental, emotional and physical energy. In this state there may be muscle tenseness, breathing difficulties and lowering of confidence. There may be a negative impact on the emotions that may cause frustration, anger and depression. Over intensity also affects motor coordination resulting in flawed technique and execution.

With Under intensity there is lethargy with lack of energy. Athletes lack the adrenaline they need to give their best effort. Mentally it undermines motivation and as a result of this focus is impaired as the athlete gets distracted easily.

What causes over and under intensity

Over intensity

  • When the challenge of the competition is too high and the athlete is less confident about the event s/he may tend to put excess intensity
  • Trying to meet the expectations of the self and others
  • Fearing the consequences when not able to meet the expectations

Under intensity

  • When the challenge is less and the athlete feels over confident
  • When there is apathy about the event/competition
  • When the athlete is over trained: there may be too much of physical and mental fatigue resulting in the athlete not able to achieve intensity

Overcoming Over intensity

  • Develop awareness about what led to past successes and poor performance- the thoughts, feelings and behaviours involved
  • Practicing deep breathing and muscle relaxation
  • Practicing positive imagery of past successes

Over coming under intensity

  • Often the under intense athlete does not relish taking on a lesser known opponent believing s/he would win easily. Instead focusing on the process, execution and process goals for improvement will keep the athlete focused and intensified
  • Treating every game as the same and equally important will keep the intensity alive for these under intensity players.
  • Roger Federer the greatest tennis player ever, perceives every match he plays as important and he knows he has to overcome lesser known players on his way to winning a tournament. He focuses on the process and maintains a balanced intensity with every player he faces.

Achieving optimal level of intensity

  • Develop awareness of your intensity levels.
  • Modifying intensity levels where necessary
  • Negative self- talk could be a reason for intensity interference- identifying negativity in thinking helps
  • Increasing motivational self-talk
  • Recalling familiar situations of intensity interference
  • Being prepared for the unexpected
  • Reducing physiological over intensity
  • Increase energy
  • Having pre competitive routines and plans with regard to your intensity

Watch these videos on intensity

Listen to what Dr Jim Taylor has to say on intensity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdW4pmkrdy8

https://list25.com/25-most-intense-sports-of-the-ancient-world/

References

www.winningedgesportspsychology.com/gaining_edge_a_mental_edge_pt2,php

www.drjimtaylor.com/4.0/sports-intensity-in-sports/

https://excelatlife.com/article/intensity.htm

 

To these prodigies consistency will be the key

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What is common between Shubhankar Sharma, Ramesh Babu Praggnanandhaa, Anish Banwala, Manu Baker, Mehuli Ghosh, Prithvi Shaw, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shubman Gill, Shivam Mavi and HimaDas?  They are all prodigies in sports from India. Except Shubhankar Sharma- golfer who is 21, the remaining all are still in their teens. Ramesh Babu the International chess master is only 12 years old.

The world has seen child prodigies who have shown exceptional natural ability to perform different activities at a very young age. Let us look in to the achievements of the above mentioned prodigies from India that has made the world sit up and take notice. To remind you Sachin Tendulkar was one such prodigy who represented India at the age of 16.

Ramesh Babu Praggnanandhaa-chess player, 12 years of age, is already an International master. He recently won the second Grand master norm that has taken him closer to becoming the youngest grand master ever.

Anish Bhanwala– aged 15, is the youngest winner of a commonwealth shooting gold medal. He achieved this distinction representing India in the recently concluded Commonwealth games at the Gold coast Australia.

Manu Baker– aged 16; also won a shooting gold medal during the CWG 2018.She has already won two gold medals at the Sr ISSF world cup and one gold medal at the ISSF Junior world cup.

Mehuli Ghosh– aged 17, is the silver medal winner at the 21st CWG Gold coast. She won two medals at the ISSF World cup and created a junior world record during the same event.

Prithvi Shaw– 18years of age was the captain of the under-19 cricket team that won the U-19 world cup. A prolific batsman, who has shattered many records already, has been selected to play in the IPL-2018. He has been chosen for an IPL contract price of 1.2 crores.

Shubman Gill– 18years of age, cricket batsman, was also a member of the team that won the U-19 world cup recently. He has been chosen to play in the IPL-2018, by one of the franchisees for a price of 1.8 crore.

Kamlesh Nagarkoti– 18 years of age, is a fast bowler who represented the U-19 world cup winning Indian team. He has been chosen to represent in the IPL-2018, for whopping price of 3.2 crores.

Shivam Mavi– aged 19, is another fast bowler who represented India in the U-19 world cup. He has been chosen by one of the franchisees for a price of three crores to represent their team in the IPL-2018.

HimaDas– aged 18, is an athlete from India who takes part in the 400m race. That she qualified to run in the finals of the 400m race during the CWG games in Gold Coast Australia is in itself a huge achievement. She however finished sixth in the finals creating her personal best timing in the process.

Shubhankar Sharma– aged 21, is an International professional golfer from India. He created a sensation by winning back to back European and Asian tour titles- the Johannesburg Open tournament and the Maybank Championship in Malaysia. He is the second youngest Indian to win the Asian tour title after Gaganjeet Bhullar. He made the whole golfing world to take notice of him during the WGC-Golf championships, held at Mexico recently. He was on top of the leader board on the first three rounds in the championship in which the best players from all over the world participated. It was in the final round when everyone expected him to maintain the lead and win the championship he faltered only to finish joint- ninth in the final essay.

To the talented, skilled, focused, hardworking success will come on a regular basis till they reach the world stage which is considered as the pinnacle. It is here many struggles to maintain consistency due to expectations of the self and others, fear of failures, newly found fame, media attention and conscious effort to maintain their status quo. Many have done it and it is surely possible for this bunch of ambitious, talented and hardworking kids.

When successful young athletes fear losing their status, grades, seeding’s, top positions they, instead of focusing on the process and be automatic, end up putting conscious effort with desperation for result at the back of their minds- the resultant effect is pressure with its negative physiological and psychological symptoms. This could lead to decrement in performance.

Let’s examine Shubhankar Sharma’s case- after he led the leader board by three shots at the WGC Mexico, he may have become too self-conscious and desperate to maintain/increase the lead and in the process may have tightened up a little. Knowing he is a cool customer the truth may be closeted somewhere in his mind which only he can reveal.

After the World Golf Championship Mexico, Shubhankar was invited to participate in the Augusta Masters, another hotbed for high level competition. Here he failed to make the cut. This is what life teaches our young achievers.

Talking to a reporter after the senior world cup in which she won a gold medal, 16 year old Manu Baker said `I wasn’t scared of my rivals and I didn’t even know them. This may made things easier for her, perhaps. After the player grows in stature at the International level s/he becomes more conscious of who they are and who their opponents are – this awareness is both good and bad that depends on the how the person perceives the situation.

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The object of this blog is to understand what it takes for the prodigies to take- off from here, grow from strength to strength, create a niche for them-selves and enjoy a celebrated career. The question that would crop in everyone’s mind is- how long will it last? whether they would be able to handle the pressures of International competition day in and day out, maintain consistency, handle success and failures on an even keel, hold on to their focus and dreams, control their distractions, control their emotions, maintain good life style and discipline, do away with indiscretion and not to be carried away by fame and fortune.

I am sure with the right kind of support from the entire sports fraternity these young kids on the block will flourish to make them and the country proud.

ANXIOUS THOUGHTS: THE BANE OF EVERY PERFORMER

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As I opened my twitter account and went through some of the tweets this morning [12/04/2018], my attention drew to an interesting tweet by Mr Sinclair P. Ceasar III/ Sinclair_Ceasar – writer, speaker and educationalist, that read ` my therapist taught me to interrupt my anxious thinking with the thoughts like ` what if things work out’ and What if all my hard work pays off? 

My guess on the premise behind the altered thinking pattern is not to pay undue attention to what the conscious mind is telling you, be it about the desperation for results or even while thinking about positive results as having achieved them eventually and not to be too ecstatic about them as they are temporary and not everything in life.

This is the thinking that keeps the conscious mind that produces pressure and anxiety related thoughts: in check.

Immediately my mind set off to Gold coast Australia – where the 21 Commonwealth games are being staged. I was left wondering what the athletes with all the years of sacrifice, effort and intense preparation might be feeling before or during competition.

We all know that as human beings, it is quite natural, however good we are, to get anxious thoughts before competition. However a little amount of stress is even useful to show that the body and mind are preparing for the event– which is referred to as U stress, but too much of it is harmful.

As I was I was typing these words my mind reminded me of a passage in the book- BOUNCEHow champions are made, by Mathew Syed, a former Table tennis player and a sports writer from UK.

In page number 183, Mathew talks about the 500m speed skating race of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics in 2002. Sarah Lindsay, a British skater was saying something to herself audibly- `It’s only speed skating! It’s only bloody speed skating!’

Mathew Syed writes– this is a very curious thing to say given that speed skating is Lindsay’s life and that she is about to compete in the most important race of her career and she has spent the last four years building up this momentum. She has endured hardship, innumerable hours of training and countless personal sacrifices. But once again she says it- ` It’s only speed skating- as the race officials beckon the competitors in to the arena. 

When Sarah Lindsay kept repeating `its only speed skating she was trying to convince herself that the final of the Olympic Games was a triviality: that it did not matter anymore than a training session. By alleviating the pressure, she was giving herself the opportunity to compete without inhibition and without choking.

When asked about this, Sarah Lindsay told Mr Mathew – `the problem at Olympics is not that you want it too little, but that you want it too much. You are so desperate to win that you can become unhinged [unhinged: cause to become mentally unbalanced- Oxford Dictionary]. I remember walking in to the stadium and seeing twenty two thousand spectators and banks of television cameras. But instead of getting uptight, I repeated again- It’s only bloody speed skating.’   

Perhaps the reason why Sarah was saying `It’s only bloody speed skating is to fool her conscious mind in to believing that it was only a speed skating race and it did not really matter to her too much. Knowing that it’s the thinking mind that gives her anxiety producing thoughts with desperation to win she countered the conscious mind and reframed her mind to believe the race really did not matter to her.   

In reality all our learned skills are ingrained in the deeper levels of our subconscious brain and without conscious interference the sub-conscious can produce a thorough execution according to the skill level of the performer but when the pseudo- master: the thinking conscious takes over everything is in a jeopardy. Some people prefer to call the conscious and the subconscious as the explicit and the implicit working systems of the brain.

It is common for athletes and other performers to be anxious before a career defining event and every performer s/he has their own coping strategies but the most common of them are-

  • Using positive self-talk- to change the statements from negative to positive. Self-abuse and self-criticism are to be avoided before an event.
  • Deep abdominal breathing.

Anxiety can be controlled using self-regulation techniques like deep breathing. Deep breathing is known to keep a person calm, reduce muscle tension, bring about focus and control emotions. In short deep breathing can reduce the negative physiological and psychological changes stress can bring about.

During moments before the event athletes do not have too much time for too many regulation techniques and it is important to keep it short and simple. The above two techniques of positive self-talk and deep breathing are short, swift and can be applied easily.

You can watch these videos to understand how self-talk can be used and applied in sport situations-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gQ2NhteF44

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iiLwqXK4t0

 

 

HOPE AND OPTIMISM IS WHAT REALLY GETS YOU THERE

India needed 34 runs of 12 balls and finally 5 runs of the last ball to beat Bangladesh in the final and win the Nidahas trophy- which was held at SriLanka recently. Looking at the equation I gave up hope and the optimism of an Indian victory was fading away in my mind. But Dinesh Kartik, who scored 29, from 8 balls, had different ideas: left to score 5 of the last ball he hit the ball over extra cover for a six. Dinesh kartik had played an innings of his life time snatching victory from the jaws of death: an innings every Indian will cherish in their memory.

The history of sports has seen many such instances wherein teams and individual players kept their hope and optimism alive under hopeless situations to came back to carve victories.

Our entire life hinges on hope, and the optimism that the desired outcome will be achieved in the future, be it success in exams and competitions, getting a new job, buying a new house or a car, getting cured of a dreaded disease, the wellbeing of children and many other dreams and desires.

This why Helen Keller said- Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

C.R.Snyder a psychologist from University of Kansas has defined hope by saying- hope is believing you have both the will and the way to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be.

And Optimism is the tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation.

With the tendency of man to set challenges for himself and to go from one achievement to another: hope and optimism has had a bearing in his thinking and has existed from the mythological days-

Elpis (Hope) appears in ancient Greek mythology with the story of Zeus and Prometheus. Prometheus stole fire from the god Zeus, which infuriated the supreme god. In turn, Zeus created a box that contained all manners of evil, unbeknownst to the receiver of the box. Pandora opened the box after being warned not to, and unleashed a multitude of harmful spirits that inflicted plagues, diseases, and illnesses on mankind. Spirits of greed, envy, hatred, mistrust, sorrow, anger, revenge, lust, and despair scattered far and wide looking for humans to torment. Inside the box, however, Pandora also discovered and released a healing spirit named Hope. From ancient times, people have recognized that a spirit of hope had the power to heal afflictions and helps them bear times of great suffering, illnesses, disasters, loss, and pain caused by the malevolent spirits and events.[45] In Hesiod’s Works and Days, the personification of hope is named Elpis[Wikipedia]

The pre-disposition to keep one’s mind on the positive aspects of life and sport performance, even in the face of set-backs and disappointments, is a hallmark of a successful athlete. Without confidence and belief in one’s specific ability [self-efficacy] one cannot be optimistic and without optimism one cannot be hopeful of better things in life. Optimism is one of the characteristics of mentally tough athletes. I have often heard athlete’s say- when there is close fight I feel like giving up and I can’t keep the fight going till the end.

According to sport psychologists, – Nate Zinsser, Linda Bunker and Jean.m. Williams- “ confident athletes think about themselves and the action on hand in a way different from those that lack confidence. Confident athletes are optimistic, they think they can and they do. They never give up. They typically are characterized by positive self-talk, images and dreams. They imagine themselves winning and being successful. They say positive things to themselves and hence never doubt in their abilities. They focus on successfully mastering a task rather than worrying about performing poorly or the negative consequences of failure.

Athletes with an optimistic outlook in life and sport perform consistently outperform those with a less positive attitude.

Marvan Atapattu, former SriLanka cricket captain who scored 5000 runs with 16:100’s and 6 double 100’s is a great example of perseverance and optimistic attitude. Marvan with repeated failures was frequently getting dropped from the side but finally came good to achieve what he did. I will leave you to read his story for yourself.

Finally with all the talent you possess and the skill you have acquired and the dedicated effort you put in if you don’t expect to do well then the desired outcome will find a way to slip away from you and you will end up being shaken hands with a well- played remark than a congratulations.

Scott Barry Kaufman rightly said – talent, skill ability whatever you call it – will not get you there. Sure, it helps but it is the psychological vehicle that really gets you there is hope.

I have come across athletes who want have lost hope and want to quit after many years of trying and to those I would remind – “having hope will give you the courage [JOB 18:11] and “ Once you choose hope anything is possible- Christopher Reeve. When the world say’s give up- hope will not give up on you, it’ll whisper in your ears- `give it one more try.

The 21st commonwealth games are slated to begin at Gold Coast Australia from the 4th April 2018: India with a 225 member contingent will be vying for a rich haul of medals and a better performance than 2014[64 medals] and 2010-[101medals]: India will be hoping that the likes of Saina, Sindhu, Jeetu Rai, Vinesh Phogat, Mary Kom, Vikas Krishnan, K.Srikanth and others will bring them medals. India traditionally has not done well in events like Athletics and swimming at the world level but the sports lovers are optimistic there will be a turnaround this time. Sport can create hope, where once there was despair- Nelson Mandela.

Music Can Enhance Sports Performance

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I was reading an article on how music can improve athletic performance and immediately my memory raced back to my playing days as a cricketer. It was long ago and a day after Ganesh Chaturthi, a popular festival in India, we were playing a league cricket match in Bengaluru, and in the area close to the venue the Ganesh festival was being celebrated with pomp and splendour by the local residents. And to mark the occasion songs were being played through the loud speakers- that included devotional and popular film hits.

We won the toss and I walked in to open the innings and even before taking the stance I could hear the songs being played. I have always been a lover of music and the melodious songs brought me in to the mood, spirit and tempo. I began to enjoy the situation and there were no signs of nerves: I was focused, calm and relaxed, in the present moment, deeply involved and not conscious of the activity. My batting that day was effortless with great ball timing. I made 88 runs in quick time with 12 fours and two sixes.

It was years later I learnt that I was in a state of flow that day, a mystical sensation called the Zone. It was that day music brought me in to a state of relaxation and mood, giving me an unconscious and effortless performance.

Music, for many years, has been close to humanity as a source of entertainment and as a stress buster: It has been in existence since the pre-historic years.

Wikipedia defines music as form of art. It is a sound organised by using rhythm, melody and harmony with its other elements like timbre, pitch, tempo etc. Music has been closely associated with singing, dancing and other forms of expression.

Music besides being a stress buster and a form of therapy with many health benefits to boast of has also been known to assist in general work and athletic performance, increased productivity, and exercise adherence.

Music has always been a close companion of the youth. Most youngsters are seen these days with ear phones plugged to their ears on metro trains, buses campuses, cafeteria and public places.

Enter any gymnasium you can see people exercising, running on the treadmills with rousing beat music in the back ground. It is common sight to see early morning joggers and distance runners with their ear plugs on. You see youth dancing to the tune of beat music and others tapping their foot in synchrony on the dance floors. You can even see athletes engaged in physical conditioning with music in the background or plugs in their ears.

Woman jogging and listening music

Let’s find out why people are drawn to music and how does music enhance sporting performance and exercise adherence?

  • Synchronous music where the person synchronises his movements with the rhythm of the music, is known to have an ergogenic effect- i.e. – there is a tendency to increase the work output.
  • Music provides for distraction from pain and uncomfortable feelings, delays feelings of fatigue, increases feelings of pleasure, increases activity efficiency and decreases effort.
  • Music gives people motivation to exercise longer and stick to exercise adherence.
  • Music acts as a mood altering agent as it provides- positive moods and provides greater pleasure towards the activity.
  • Music alters emotional and physiological arousal and can therefore be used prior to competition or training as a stimulant or as a sedative to calm up anxious feelings [Bishop et al 2007].
  • Music can regulate anxiety, arousal [excitement] fostering optimal mind-set.
  • Slow music and fast loud music have different effects on the body’s reaction and the selection of proper music constitutes the key factor in obtaining benefits.
  • Fast upbeat produces a simulative effect whereas slow soft music produces a sedative effect.
  • Most athletes use loud upbeat music to psyche up and softer selection to psyche down.
  • Music is said to improve anaerobic activity like sprinting.
  • Music helps in the attainment of FLOW states and intrinsic motivation.
  • Music helps in faster, smoother acquisition of motor skills.
  • Music has an effect on the heart rate and respiration either increasing it or decreasing depending on the activity.
  • Music produces psychological and physiological relaxation.
  • Professors Dr Peter Terry and Dr Costa Karageorghis and their team members, have done extensive research work on the subject of music in relation to sports and exercise activity and have said- Pre- task music has been shown to act as an effective stimulant that can optimise arousal level and physiological states.
  • Dr Costas Karageorghis says ‗‘Music is like a legal drug for the athletes‘
  • Celebrated Ethiopian long distance runner Haile Gabrselaissie is reported to have said that – when he broke the 10,000 m world record he was running in tune to the rhythmic pop song- SCATMAN.
  • Champion Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps listened to hip-hop music before his race in order to get focused and psyched up.

Watch these videos to know how music improves athletic performance-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opQu0qUVJcA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofbnpVbtqTc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cxbLo2F0VM

SELF DOUBT MAY LET YOU DOWN

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Most people are tormented by mental demons before writing an exam or performing on stage or before competing in an important sporting event. If you are one of those who have gone through this, do not curse yourself because you are not the only one out there.

Lolly Daskal writes- the worst enemy of our humanity is our self-doubt.

By referring to mental demons I meant the negative feelings of fear, angst, nervousness and self-doubt. Before the actual performance even if there is an iota of self-doubt somewhere in the corner of the mind, it then acts as a thorn in the path of success.

In sports most setbacks and disappointments are caused by self- doubt, in other words self-doubt is the opposition to self-confidence.

Suzy Kassem say’s – doubt kills more dreams than failures ever will.

Self-doubt is an indecisive state of mind. It is quite acceptable that most people experience some amount of self-doubt and nervousness before an event and the success of their efforts depend on how well they are able to overcome self-doubt.

Many great performers have expressed that they do get doubt and nervousness even after years of experience on the big stage:but, they have been in these situations before know what it takes to keep these demons at bay.

Usually athletes who are bothered by self-doubt lose their focus, intrinsic motivation, confidence and momentum resulting in unsatisfactory performance. As   a result of all this the player indulges in self-pity and blame: the viscous cycle continues and the confidence and mental well-being of the person deteriorates further.

Coaches and well-wishers advice the player to believe in oneself and increase effort. Even though it is a wise suggestion trying harder will always be a conscious effort and we are always at the mercy of the conscious mind. But in essence, the whole activity needs to be effortless.

So the important thing is to know the root cause of self-doubt and take action by increasing self-awareness. By doing so, instead of being self-conscious one can take the awareness to the all-powerful subconscious- which has an answer to all our problems.

The action plan for dealing with self-doubt

  1. Tune into your feelings and emotions on a daily basis.
  2. Ask yourself ‘’where am I? What am I doing? How am I feeling and what do I need to get better- Take action!
  3. Pay attention to the negative feelings of defensiveness, self-pity self-abuse and insecurity.
  4. Take action by taking the first step: it’s usually the first step that is the hurdle for the doubters.
  5. Develop awareness about the reasons behind your doubts and fears.
  6. Express real feelings openly and honestly. For the sake of confidentiality you may do so before a counsellor.
  7. Focus on the positives and the possibilities.
  8. When you find your own inner voice and other voices criticizing you, nullify them with self-praise.

How to help athletes deal with their self- doubt, before competition?

  1. When the inner voice of self- doubt is heard it must be replaced with positive self- talk.
  2. When there is doubt over execution of a skill or technique one should imagine carrying out an easy and confident skill successfully. This can fool the conscious mind to clear the self- doubt.
  3. Work hard to overcome your weaknesses and sharpen your skills.
  4. Remember your best performances and identify the reasons for your past successes.
  5. High expectations and unrealistic goals can give you doubt, instead chunk the activity and the goals in to achievable ones. This will lessen the burden of self-doubt.
  6. Do not compare your- self with others, their records and their achievements: this will make you doubt on your abilities and prospects.
  7. Maintain a journal and from time to time make a note of your strengths, good performances, successes and achievements in it. When you hear the voice of doubt make sure to read these positive remarks from your journal, this will reduce your doubt and increase your hope and optimism.
  8. Affirm and rehearse many times in a day on the positive statements and actions you have devised to erase your self-doubt.

Roy Bennett has this piece of advice- Believe in yourself, your abilities and your potential: never let your self-doubt hold you captive. You are worthy of all that you dream and hope for. 

Hear from Dr Patrick Cohn, noted sports psychologist on what he has to say on Self-doubt- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qjy9MmvJNMg

EASTERN METHODS ARE ANCIENT AND POWERFUL

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India’s golfer Shubhankar Sharma is having a wonderful time at the World Golf championships 2018 being staged in Mexico. After impressive performances at the Asian and European tours Shubhankar qualified for the WGC for the first time and has set the stage on fire. That he stood at the top of the leader board after three rounds pushing the giants of world golf below him is a huge achievement in itself. Shubhankar has arrived on the big stage in great style.

On the night of Saturday 4/3/18 at 1 am, struggling to keep awake, I watch in awe a rare spectacle of an Indian domination in a major golf tournament. The conversation the commentators were having alerted me and one of the commentators mentioned: he asked Shubhankar Sharma after his spectacular first round on what was his secret of being so calm during a high profile tournament like this and Shubhankar is supposed to have replied that MEDITATION was the secret of his serenity.

During an informal chat with India’s Golf Guroo Vijay Divecha, a few years ago, I learnt from him that Anirban Lahiri, another golfer from India, is a die-hard practitioner of transcendental meditation. Divecha must be credited for coaching these two players towards International fame.

Golf is a game that is played almost all day long: each day 18 holes X 4 days. It takes lot of endurance, stamina, patience and above all calmness. It is a game that requires you to maintain concentration throughout the day. The practice of meditation, which is an ancient Eastern practice, must have helped both Anirban and Shubhankar towards maintaining calmness, patience and concentration.

Yoga chitta vritti nirodha is a line from the Patanjali Yoga sutras, which means Yoga can still the mind’s fluctuations.  Chitta vritti generally refers to mind’s fluctuations or mind chatter; mind is also sometimes called a drunken monkey. By yoga it does not mean only asana but the complete 8 limbs of yoga sutra starting with yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and Samadhi.

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During my psychological interventions with my athletes, when I ask them- what are you bothered about most during competition? They reply that it is their expectations, desperations, doubts, current competition scores, the challenge that lays ahead, their competitors, outcomes and many other fears. These are nothing but anxious thoughts that creep in to their minds that would deprive them of their concentration [internal factor] causing muscle tension and other physiological changes. This could in turn result in decrement in performance. Mind instead of focusing on the tangible, on what needs to be addressed at that moment, focuses on the unwanted- yet to happen negative outcomes, causing distress within the person.

Ancient Eastern philosophy has a solution to this- Our mind has no control over the sensory attractions and when it dances to its tune concentration is thrown overboard. *Swami Abhedananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, asks one to withdraw the mind from the sensory attraction from wherever it is coming and the distraction will stop, allowing us to focus on what is important.

*Swami Abhedananda’s prophesy is to watch the mind wherever it goes. It is a general tendency for the mind to turn back to see whether it is being watched or not and when it finds out it is being watched it stops running away from you and will not go far. This is like saying- `If you are trying to catch something it is going away from you, but if you keep still it’ll fall at your feet.

This is why Eckhart Tolle in his `The power of now’- is asking us to be the watcher and not the thinker. What I have observed during my meditation practice, whenever I am flooded with thoughts the moment I ask `what Am I thinking’ the thought will stop allowing me to come back to the breath and the present moment.

*Swami Abhedananda adds that practicing pratyahara, which is controlling the mind by gathering the scattered energy of the mind towards one object leads to dharana which is concentration and these take you closer to dhyana – which is meditation. Concentration helps you to meditate better and meditation assists you to concentrate better.

Though meditation is not concentration but observation in practical terms, it is shown to reduce activity in the areas of the brain that is responsible for mind wandering or mind chatter.

Likewise, the eastern yogic asana’s that promote concentration are:-

  1. Vrikshasana or the tree posture.
  2. Natarajasana or the dancer’s pose.
  3. Mayurasana or the scale posture.
  4. Garudasana or the Eagle’s posture.
  5. Kakasana or the crow’s posture.
  6. Padangustasana or the Tip Toe posture.
  7. The standing leg stretch.
  8. `T’ posture.

Other eastern concentration methods:-

  1. Concentration on objects.
  2. Trataka: Observation of Bindu [dot or point] and Jyoti [flame].
  3. Concentrated breathing.

In addition to these, ancient relaxation techniques like meditation, shavasana, yoga nidra, nyasa, quick relaxation technique, instant relaxation technique, abdominal breathing/ belly breathing/ yogic breathing have found to be benefitting in their own way.

Please refer to my earlier blogs on WordPress: –

Concentration is a key ingredient to every success – https://goo.gl/AJmVxL

Breathe better to perform better- https://goo.gl/bg2aGg

Reference: – Yoga psychology, a series of Lectures by *Swami Abhedananda Published by Ramakrishna Vedanta math Kolkata.

DOPERS ARE DUPERS IN ACTION

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Russia’s Nadezhda Sergeyeva and Alexander Krusheinitsky are tested positive for consuming banned substances in the just concluded Winter Olympics that were held in Pyeongchang South Korea. Many athletes failed in the drugs tests conducted by the anti-doping experts during the winter Olympics 2018 and at least half of them are from Russia. Why do they do drugs, it isn’t fair.

I have been watching movies at the Bengaluru International film festival in – India – BIFFES 2018 and what I noticed while seeing movies from Russia and its neighbouring countries is that the people there are naturally tall and well-built with athletic bodies: an advantage many from other countries do not enjoy.

Though sports are not entirely physical, possessing good physical attributes in certain sports gives undue advantage to the participants. Looking at the Russian athletes I wonder- when they have such good bodies why do they do drugs. 

Doping is not new to sports, many across various disciplines have been caught cheating with doping and have either been suspended or banned. If you remember, Ben Johnson, the 100 M sprinter, was stripped of his gold medal that he won during the Seoul Olympics in 1988 for consuming banned substance.

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This video talks about 10 Olympic athletes who were caught cheating with drug abuse:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ps-3ILw4mAY

Maria Sharapova is a glamorous tennis star with an impressive record: she returned to the tennis circuit recently after facing a ban of 2 years after using Meldonium, a banned substance. These are talented athletes who are capable of giving skilled performances naturally without cheating – but why do they do drugs.

Over the years countries of the erstwhile USSR- Soviet Union that includes Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and others have always been good at sports but, Russia also has a dubious distinction for the highest number of cases of drug abuse: till date 41 its Olympic medallists have been stripped of their medals for having been guilty of drug abuse.

Russia’s national Olympic committee is presently facing an Olympic ban, both for winter and summer Olympics. Unfortunately, the athletes have been forced to participate under the banner of the International Olympic Committee.

Stringent efforts are being made to curb the menace of doping in sports; many agencies that includes the International anti-doping agency- WADA, national and state run agencies of different countries of the world, are striving to detect these tricksters and bring their deceitful acts to light.

Why do athletes indulge in consumption of banned substances?

  1. Performance enhancement.
  2. To bear pain.
  3. To endure competitive stress and forget their worries.
  4. To bring confidence and hope, though this feeling is farce.
  5. To recover from injuries and keep in good shape

How to prevent athletes from doping?

  1. Create awareness about the ill-effects of drugs and banned substances.
  2. Show them that the consumption of drugs is immoral and illegal.
  3. Bring to them about the punishment if found caught doing drugs.
  4. Utilizing the services of sports psychologists to help athletes to practice sports using ethical means and also to help the athletes to deal with stress, injury, personal issues, concerns, anxieties, and de-addiction.
  5. Refrain coaches and authorities from pressurizing athletes to consume drugs for performance enhancement.
  6. Conducting workshop’s, camps, lectures to highlight the ill-effects of using drugs and to practice sports ethically.
  7. Administrators must exercise checks and exercise control over the food and supplements given to the athletes to ensure these do not include banned substances.

SPORTS IS KNOWN TO ASSIST IN DE-ADDICTION THERAPY FROM SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND BY NO MEANS IT SHOULD BE PROMOTING IT

INJURIES IN SPORTS

injury

A very recent post share urging me to sign a petition on change.org with regard to providing sports Insurance for injured athletes- opened my eyes. This post share was a generous gesture by sports enthusiasts, intending to request the union minister of sports, for sports insurance cover to the injured athletes.

This was in the aftermath of an accident injury attained by a promising gymnast, Ajeeshma of Thalasseri Kerala, while she was practicing hands front on the vaulting table. Even though the operation was a success- the family would require financial assistance for her future treatment and rehabilitation.

The world of sports has seen many promising careers of athletes come to an end due to crippling injuries. Injuries are so much evident in physical sports these days that the risk of injury and its negative implications is always at the back of an athletes mind. Athletes are under constant fear of injuries, recovery, layoff and loss in earnings.

Injuries can occur as a result of collisions, falls, and accidents during practice and competition blows and tackles from other player’s etcetera. Injuries can happen due to over training, physical fatigue, muscle imbalances and muscle tension. Injuries can also be caused by psychological factors such as competitive stress, anxiety and lack of concentration. When an athlete doesn’t receive social support and his coping skills are low- then he is at a greater risk of an injury.

Insurance cover against injuries and accidents occurred during sports, is very common. International athletes like the soccer super stars who earn a whopping sum of money for themselves, their clubs and sponsors are known to insure their body parts against injuries, for an astronomical price. Christiano Ronaldo, Lionel Mecci fall under this bracket.

Injuries can be a reason for emotional stress and psychological trauma when an athlete who is injured and out of action like:-

  1. Identity loss.
  2. Fear and anxiety whether he can get back to action.
  3. Loses confidence and feels insecure.
  4. Fear of injury reoccurrence.
  5. Feelings of anger, guilt, confusion, sadness and denial.

An athlete recovering from an injury needs lot of psychological support. The role of sports psychologists, doctors, physiotherapists, trainers, coaches, and parents plays a major role in the rehabilitation and recuperation. Psychological coping skills like goal setting, positive self-talk, imagery and relaxation help in rehabilitation.

How can caregivers help foster speeding up of the rehabilitation process-?

  1. Give the injured hope and psychological support.
  2. Instil a sense of confidence in the recovery process and efforts.
  3. Give active listening to the feelings and concern of the injured.
  4. Teach the injured ways of coping skills and acceptance.
  5. Educate the injured about the nature of injury with assistance from the medical staff.
  6. There is a need for the care givers to be patient, mentally strong and confident about the chances of recovery and the process.

The videos below are instructional videos on how to deal with an injury.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFcYj-E9LSY

Listen to Dr Jarrod Spencer, sports psychologist speak on the emotional aspect of returning form an injury:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAjjGyJbH5s

PASSION SETS YOU APART FROM THE REST  

    virAT                     

We are living in a world where it is in human nature to be competitive. This competitiveness is to get the better of others for pride or reward. Competitiveness is in every facet of man’s life, but in sports, it is at its zenith.

Sports exemplify human spirit and endeavor, where in the strife to become victorious is glorified beyond expression. Players stretch their limits to attain supremacy against their rivals and competition becomes an outlet for their emotions.

The stirred up feelings and emotions among both players and spectators is what makes sports a passionate affair. Not every athlete is equally passionate and the passion that is found in some is so intense and undying that it has made them elite and eternal.

We hear people say they are interested in writing, music, dance, acting, sports, poetry and many other forms of expression. We also hear people saying they are passionate about the above activities, if so what is it differentiates Interest from passion?

This is like asking- Is Talent enough to achieve excellence? Here the inborn talent is not enough – it needs to be supported by effort [hard work] skills, competence and mastery. In the same way Interest towards a certain art has its limitations and it takes a person only to a certain distance but not all the way through: passion is way beyond as it takes you to excellence and greatness.

E M Forster has endorsed this view by saying- One person with passion is better than 40 people who are merely interested. 

Passion is a different ball game: a passionate person is filled with overwhelming emotions which are so strong that they are barely controllable. A passionate person becomes one with the act. You can say he eats drinks and sleeps on the activity with passion. He puts his heart and soul in to the act. He is deeply involved and committed in the act. This is how passion gets converted in to energy.

Oprah Winfrey, who overcame adversity to be known as one of the greatest women achievers in recent times has said- Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from what excites you. 

The current US president Donald Trump has said- Without passion you don’t have energy, without energy you have nothing.

Anecdotes of famous people have shown how they listened to their inner voice, changed tracks, and pursued their passion. They went after what filled them with meaning, excitement, fulfilment and happiness. Passion is what made Wanda Skyes say- If you feel that there is something out there that you are supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, stop wishing and do it.

Nothing great in this world has been accomplished without passionGeorge Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.  As if to support this eternal statement, Sports has thrown up examples of great sportspersons who made it big with their passion and love for their sport.

Today, we can see some of the superstars of sports, who are known for their passion- in action, with many more to come in the future- Tiger Woods [has made a comeback], Roger Federer- the invincible, Ronaldo and Mecci [both soccer], Sachin Tendulkar [now retired] and to add to the list- the sensational Virat Kohli, batsman and captain of the Indian Cricket team.

The videos below talks about the passion of the greats:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwKKGAbn_qs-Federer  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RfFjIM3myw Federer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZO0exmep_w        kohli

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0N4pCu-iwl4         Sachin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J12cPDaugD4           Ronaldo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVHYJxEaUuA           Mecci

Passion for these super stars is doing the same thing over and over again for the love of the game, without feeling bored.

RAHUL DRAVID: ROLE MODEL COACH

             dravidshaw-feb-a

When Rahul Dravid put his hands on the U-19 World Cup trophy along with skipper Prithvi Shaw on February 3/ 2018, he must have been a contended man, as he had never won the World cup as a player or as a captain: though he had performed in both capacities with great distinction. He sounded inconsequential about him not winning the Cup during his playing days during the press conference- `Not lifting the WC is not a pain and it does not disappoint me anymore. I do not dwell on the past too much.’

So much hype has been seen around him not winning the World title in his career and his deservability for the title that it created a social media buzz: there were many trends created in TWITTER  #World cup deserves Rahul Dravid # gentleman of the century etc. This is the kind of hype that must forced the universe to answer- Good guys may finish last but not-NEVER.

Rahul’s role in shaping the U-19 squad since the time he took over 14 months ago and later helping them to win the WC, has been hailed by one and all. Though, he seemed modest when asked about this- ` Coaching this team I tend to get a lot of attention, but it is really about the quality of support staff that we have  and the effort they have put in has been amazing. But the role of the chief coach is immense that which cannot be undermined.

I believe Rahul is shaping in to a Role Model and an Impact coach to the future teams: for the person that he is, his virtues and the values that he brings to the table.

Qualities that Rahul Dravid carries that would make him a role model to youngsters:- His- patience, discipline, good habits, humility, ability to adapt, being a selfless man and a team player, being gentle, work ethics, ability to improve and re-invent himself, hardiness, dedication, commitment [ wants to give 100%] listening and communication skills, assertiveness without being aggressive or submissive, mental toughness and his impeccable track record.

It is likely you may find Rahul the coach fit in to the roles and responsibilities of a successful coach: – He conducts these duties with sincerity and precision

  1. Understand individuals and their dualities and how to get the best out of them.
  2. Motivates to get the best the best out of the team.
  3. Builds healthy relationships with the whole team.
  4. Builds team cohesion and team culture and acts as team glue.
  5. Plans, implements, organise, conduct and execute what is planned.
  6. Promotes –discipline, rules and ethics of the game.
  7. Promotes sense of belonging and leadership within the team.
  8. Gives motivational and correctional feedback.
  9. Emphasizes on hard work, effort, mastery of skills and being in the process.
  10. Helps them to learn good characteristics, good habits and traits in life

But coaching an Indian side that comprises Individuals from different backgrounds and cultures is no easy task going by the experiences of Greg Chappell and Anil Kumble of late.

From what Rahul Dravid has shared with the press after the U-19 WC victory, on how he and the support staff dealt with this young bunch of guys differently

  • The team was given what it needed instead of imposing too much.
  • Gave the members freedom of choice and their responsibilities.
  • Were realistic in what to expect from individuals.
  • Understood what made the young players to tick.
  • Fixed team discipline but were flexible in certain areas knowing they were teenagers.

The discipline imposed by Rahul Dravid when it came to celebrations post the WC victory and the way this young team celebrated has won many hearts. Rahul is understood to have told them- “ to celebrate quietly after the victory and not to demean the opposition in any manner. Celebrate without hurling insults and hurting anyone’s sentiments.’’  

Judging by the way Rahul handled the team; he must have learnt his lessons from successful coaches like John Wright and Peter Kirsten under whom he played.

This one quote from John wright has stood in the minds of many. He said- ` It is the players who are important than the coach because it is finally the players who win you the games.’

Rahul attributed the success of U-19 WC victory to the players and sub-staff and did not take full credit to himself. He said- ` The players have worked hard and deserve this and it’s their victory. I am really proud of the boys and the effort they have put in.’    

Jim Thomson author of – DOUBLE GOAL COACH say’s – `a coach is someone who draws extraordinary performances form ordinary people.’

I will not say Prithvi Shaw, Manjot Kalra, Shubman Gill, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Anukul Roy, Shivam and the rest are ordinary, but  when they go on to become extra- ordinary they will have a lot to thank their coach Rahul Dravid for.

Read more on `Psychology of coaching’- from my bestselling book- Success mantra in sports

                                                                       

 

PARENTS, PLEASE DON’T PLAY GOD

parents-youth-sports-behavior

Not one successful athlete can boldly stand up and declare that s/he did all by himself/herself and didn’t need the help of the parents. Though there may be exceptions, in most cases there is a role of the parents in the making of a successful athlete. No one would have made it big without their parental support.

For all the good they do to their children there may be many omissions or commissions on their part that could thwart a promising talent from making it big in their chosen sport- like nipping a bud before it turns in to a beautiful flower.

I know being once sports parent, the effort and sacrifice the parents put in to see their ward is successful, but they could be doing a lot of harm with their wrong parenting behaviours.

Dear parents, let me take you back to the days when you first put your kid in to some physical activity and reminding you of the reasons behind it.

  1. To keep the child healthy and strong through physical activity.
  2. To let the child socialize and get along with other children.
  3. To provide physiological and psychological benefits.
  4. To provide for fun and enjoyment.
  5. To prevent them becoming couch babies and taking to eating junk.
  6. To bring them out of crankiness- being confined to the four walls.
  7. To help the child learn life skills. [Acts as a life skill coach].
  8. To produce winners in real life.

images

In the later years, as the child shows early talent and begins to take part in competition, the very purpose of taking to sport is defeated, because-

  1. The parent’s attention is now shifted to the outcome of the competition wanting their child to win every time.
  2. The parents over-involve in the child’s activities.
  3. Their relationship with the child becomes too serious and the fun element goes missing with the onus on winning and development.
  4. The parents lose sight of the purpose for which the activity was pursued.
  5. They push the children for favourable results.
  6. In many cases their encouragement appears pressurising for their kids.
  7. On many occasions they don’t behave like role model parents.
  8. They shout at their kids instead of cheering.
  9. They don’t love their kids unconditionally.
  10. They punish the children physically and abuse them for not winning.

Now, the parents may argue– They are our kid’s after all, they are still young and inexperienced so what’s wrong in controlling them? What we are doing is in their best interest and for their own good.

Fair enough, at best you can support them, encourage them and be their best friend but controlling their life beyond a certain point is unfair, because it’s their life and you don’t own them and you should not treat them as your possessions. This is what Kahlil Gibran had to say in his book the prophetYour children are not your children; they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you and though they are with you, yet they do not belong to you.  

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Then, what are the ideal behaviours for parents?

  1. Being role model parents.
  2. Loving the children unconditionally.
  3. Giving them positive strokes whenever they perform well, even for a losing cause. Laying more emphasis on effort than results.
  4. Keeping the fun and enjoyment alive for the kids.
  5. Not taking the activity too seriously. To sit back and enjoy watching them. You may not to see them play again- once they call it quits.
  6. Accepting whatever result comes and not pushing them too hard.
  7. Not treating them as security bonds that could produce interest in return for the investments.
  8. Making efforts to raise their self-esteem and self-image.
  9. Valuing them for what they are rather than what you want them to be.
  10. If needed, criticizing them constructively in private.
  11. Make sure the activity teaches them valuable life lessons that would stand by them for a long time in their careers.
  12. And, remember, you can’t make it happen for your kids- Allow it to happen and don’t play GOD.

Read more on sports parenting in the chapter ` the role of parents in the making of an athlete: From my best-selling book- Success mantra in sports.

 

 

 SYSTEMATIC DESENSITIZATION: A THERAPY FOR SPORTS ANXIETY

        Reading's Gunter reacts after their English Premier League soccer match against Queens Park Rangers, in Reading

Many in this world are plagued by their fears, like fear of objects, events or places- commonly known as phobias: while some are phobic to flying, others are afraid of a dentist chair. This is not all; there could be other phobias like the fear of heights, people, escalators, public speaking and darkness, insect’s etcetera.

Human beings are not known to stay away from certain activities because these trigger a fear response: s/he has seeks therapeutic help to deal with these sources of fear. What necessitates them to face fear head-on is the dire necessity of the activity in itself.

There will be a time in their life when they will be compelled to take the dentist’s chair or fly to faraway places despite their fears and the therapy that has inoculated them against their fears is-Systematic De-sensitization. Systematic De-sensitization [SD] was developed by a native South African psychiatrist Mr Joseph Wolpe in the 1950’s.

In sports: athletes are dogged by several anxieties and FEAR is the primary source of these anxieties. SD has found its usefulness in treating these anxieties among athletes.

SD falls under the Counter–conditioning model which in turn is one of the four known models of treating sport anxieties the other three are namely- The extinction model[ flooding], the cognitive –mediational model and the coping skills model [ stress Inoculation training- SIT].

It is not uncommon to see athletes to feel anxiety before an event they are going to face in the coming days. Every time they think of that event they may feel anxious and uncomfortable because the event is going to be very important in the wake of what success in that competition is going to give them. It can be anything from fame, money, scholarship, contracts, sponsorships, fulfilment of a long standing dream/goal, pleasing the parents and coaches, winning a place in the national side plus the host of other benefits.

The anxiety may also be due to unknown conditions and opponents they are going to face, lack of higher skills, doubts about fulfilling the expectations, lack of preparation and the lowered confidence arising out of it, fear that they may squander a wonderful opportunity etcetera. The purpose of de-sensitization is to teach the candidate not to feel anxious thinking about the forthcoming event. The means to it is to foresee the event in a relaxed manner such that the person doesn’t become anxious and worried thinking about it.

It works under the premise that relaxation is incompatible with anxiety and worry: they are somewhat like Oil and Water which don’t mix. When we talk of anxiety we are dealing with anxiety in general without going in to whether it is trait anxiety or state anxiety specifically.

How is systematic De-sensitization administered? The steps

Step 1– The client is asked to construct an anxiety hierarchy, which is a list of those situations leading up to the upcoming that would create anxiety- starting with the stimulus situation that creates least anxiety leading up to the most disturbing anxiety causing situation. There can be many items between the least and the highest.

Step 2– The client is taught deep muscle relaxation and deep breathing techniques.

Step 3De-sensitization sessions: The client will first relax using the technique taught to him/her and vividly imagines the situation which is the least anxiety provoking from the list of anxiety hierarchy. The client repeatedly imagines the same situation until it will cease to provoke anxiety if presented again in the future.

The client will move up the hierarchy ladder from the least to the highest only if s/he is successful in de-stressing herself completely of the previous item.

Example of an anxiety hierarchy:

The athlete is participating in a career defining competition that is coming up in three days.

  1. With three days to go, the athlete imagines the competition.
  2. The athlete imagines the event when he talks to his coach/team mates.
  3. Two days to go. [Different times during the day].
  4. One day to go. [Different times during the day].
  5. Previous day- morning, different intervals and again in the night before sleeping.
  6. Day of the event- morning on getting up from bed- Travelling to the venue- entering the venue- one hour before the event- 30 minutes before- just before entering the arena.

The anxiety hierarchy varies from person to person/ sport to sport/ event to event. The client and therapist will decide on the final list of hierarchy.

The client can undergo therapy in three ways

  1. Self- administered.
  2. With the assistance of a therapist.
  3. Role playing- with the help of a friend.

As the athlete proceeds through his De-sensitization sessions his/hers response and progress can be verified using the Biofeedback [includes neuron feedback] mechanism that shows the physiological and psychological [EEG] parameters- as the changes starts to take place within the individual.

 

Power of Subconscious in sports

brain with neuron

The December 11, Times of India edition, carried an article on Mayank Agarwal, the Karnataka cricketer that read- New approach helps Agarwal score big. Mayank has hit a purple patch in the just concluded Indian domestic cricket season, scoring 1142 runs in 7 matches.

Speaking to the reporter Mayank said- “The book Power of subconscious mind by Joseph Murphy got me thinking about my approach to life and vipassana helped me understand life better. It taught me that life is a journey and each one of us takes a different path. I didn’t change overnight, the process has been slow and the results have only come this season,” says Mayank.

When you look at the words spoken by Mayank: you will see there are a spiritual touch and a philosophical outlook in his approach to his game. He is 26 and old enough to learn from the lessons life has taught him along the way.

Mention subconscious mind or meditation to any youngster he would vanish the very next moment or dismiss the whole thing as unreal, impractical or mystical. The scope and contribution of the subconscious mind cannot be dismissed lightly- as a non-empirical and hypothetical thing. Because many successful people have used it to good effect: it is like being religious- you know being religious is powerful but the effects can’t be measured.

Mind- the conscious and the subconscious[ unconscious]

Mind is a non-physical entity like air or electricity, something you can’t see or touch but can feel its existence. It is a bundle of thoughts or simply vibrations that happens due to firing of neurons at different parts of the brain.

The vibrations that emerge from the upper cortical areas of the brain are generally classified as the conscious mind and for those that emanate from the submerged brain parts [limbic system and other parts] below the cortex is the subconscious mind.

The conscious mind is the thinking mind- analysing, judging, planning and decision making is its true nature. But it is in the subconscious where all our learned skills, long term memories, experiences and creativity are stored. The power of the conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg [20%] and the rest lies hidden with the subconscious [80%].

To highlight how powerful the subconscious is: all the unconscious processes like breathing, metabolism, cell growth, blood circulation, heart beating; performing of the learned skills etc is the work of the subconscious. These are actions beyond the control of the analytical conscious mind.

Once learnt, we perform activities like driving, typing, playing instruments, performing complex tasks, playing sports in an automatic mode without thinking. But, under evaluation, be it any competitive event, academics, work challenges or any other: man is habituated to be too much with the thinking conscious mind and this is like putting a virus in to a computer system- it corrupts the whole system.

Though every action or process happens with the synchrony of both the minds, being too much with the thinking mind debilitates performance. All experiences are stored in the files of the subconscious brain parts and we have to be very careful what we retrieve from the long term memories of the subconscious.

The subconscious performs according to the directions of its BOSS- the conscious mind because it is innocently dependent on the conscious mind for its inputs. Whereas the conscious mind is receptive to the direct signals it receives from the five senses namely: touch, feel [taste], sight, smell and hearing.

How we think/verbalise/believe/imagine and affirm affects what we manifest in to our lives. Because the subconscious is not bestowed with the analytical and judgemental ability: it innocently produces the result it is asked for without judging whether it is right/wrong, good/bad.

Repeated pattern of thinking: be it negative or positive, has a bearing on the subconscious and the outcome. Statements like I am no good, I am always a loser, I don’t deserve to win; will be taken literally by your sub-conscious and despite your best efforts you will never be the champion you want to be.

The negative- self-belief’s and self-fulfilling prophesies comes from the subconscious and that is what made Swami Vivekananda to say- “ whatever you think you’ll be, you think yourself as weak, weak you’ll be- if you think you are strong, strong you’ll be.  

In sports, beyond planning, strategizing, analysing – to a little extent, there is no need to over-analyse things because the execution is best left to the sub-conscious: to be performed in an automatic zone.

Factors that can influence the subconscious mind: Belief’s, Emotions, Verbal language, Authoritative figures [parents, teachers, coach, principal etc], behaviours, Imagination, Hope, faith and intense desire.

How to impregnate the subconscious mind:

The SCM can be impregnated through- Transformation in thinking, self-hypnosis, Meditation, Lucid dreaming, subliminal messages and repeated affirmations.

Dr Rudi Webster, sports psychologist wrote in his book `Think like a champion’- You should talk and listen to the little man[ subconscious], make him your best and trusted friend and work with him closely to perform your tasks and to reach your goals. If you make him your enemy he will sabotage your performance.’’

 SEE IT IN YOUR MIND BEFORE YOU DO IT 

8tricks-leadThe art of dreaming and imagination is a gift bestowed upon human beings. Successful people, since the beginning of time have used imagination of mental pictures and dreams to achieve success.

Visualization or imagination is a creative concept used by scientists, architects, engineers, artists, painters, graphic designers, sports persons and other performers. The greatest creators of manmade wonders have admitted that they used their imaginary abilities before they were able to bring it in to reality.

Napoleon Hill wrote in his classic book Think and grow richImagination is literally the workshop wherein are fashioned all plans created by man. The impulse and the desire are given shape, form and action through the aid of the imaginative faculty of the mind.

In the field of sports: visualization has been used by athletes for different purposes ranging from improvement in performance, raising self-esteem and confidence to injury rehabilitation.

Sports persons are known to visualize having given a memorable performance, being declared victorious, receiving a glittering trophy, being- applauded, congratulated and crowned.

Visualization is a technique of seeing in the mind’s eye a future performance using the visual senses but Imagery is an extension of visualization where in the other senses of touch, smell, hearing and feeling are also used. For example a golfer who prepares for a swing in his imagery session can smell the grass, feel the club in his hands, and see the golf course with the greenery ahead, feel the movement of the arms, twist of the torso, hear the sound on impact and again see the ball land where it was intended.

There are two known methods of Imagery practice, they are:-

Internal imagery: – In this type of imagery you imagine your own actions, seeing and feeling from within.

External imagery:- here you are seeing yourself from outside, as though you are an outsider observing your own actions. You are seeing an image of yourself engaged in a series of motor actions.

How does Imagery work?

When a motor skill is learnt a motor plan or blue print is created and are located in the neural pathways of the brain. Each time a skill is performed the neural pathways expand and the cognitive templates become stronger. During the actual physical action the brain constantly transmits to the muscles impulses for movements to happen. During imagery, the same cognitive templates are activated as during real time performance. Real time action and imagery processes use the same areas of the brain, but in imagery, the real physical action does not happen.

The psycho neuro muscular theory suggests that low level electrical impulses are transmitted from the brain during imagery. This causes a low level innervation in the muscles which may not be equivalent to the real time physical activity, but enough to show some physical reaction happens during imagery.

Visualizing a future performance:-

  • Sit erect in a comfortable chair.
  • Do some deep abdominal breathing to get relaxed.
  • Close your eyes and observe your natural breathing for some time.
  • Recall a positive event in the past vividly to full detail.
  • Come back to the present, do some rhythmic breathing.
  • Imagine a forthcoming event that you are going to take part in.
  • See yourself performing in calm, relaxed, confident, and focused manner and in a positive state of mind. Visualize a positive performance.
  • See yourself winning the match, hearing the applause of the audience and shaking hands with the people congratulating you.

Speaking to a reporter from The Times of India, Pankaj Advani, world champion snooker player, recently said he visualizes as a part of the preparation process before an event. He said “ I visualize myself playing well and executing the right shots. At times, you have to visualize and prepare for the worst as well.’’

Ajinkya Rahane, one of India’s top batsmen does not find himself in the best of his form. Prior to his departure for the South Africa tour he started his preparations to come out of his poor patch along with his coach Praveen Amre. He is reported to have said [ TOI] – “ The other day I was sitting by myself, thinking about the what I used to do in such situations, when things didn’t go my way. We created those proper [positive] situations and I got busy playing a game of virtual cricket [visualization] inside my mind. I kept going through several such match situations inside my mind.

Absorption in the activity is mindfulness

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July 2013- Andy Murray won his first Wimbledon title beating Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 in an intensely fought battle that lasted for 3 hours and 10 minutes. It was 77 years since a British player had won the Wimbledon title. After the match, Andy said it was mentally the toughest game he had ever played. In an emotional victory speech, he said he was in a shock and didn’t believe he had done it and couldn’t remember the final game that saw him complete the victory.

I was a witness to that match on television and was not surprised that Andy could not remember a thing about the final moments of the game: that he didn’t remember is an understatement because he was intensely absorbed and in a trance like state that saw him rewrite history for the Britons.

It is no secret that Andy Murray practices Hot Bikram Yoga – a practice that is conducted at various Bikram Studios, in temperatures of over 40 degree Celsius. Andy took to Bikram Yoga to gain mental strength and for its other benefits. Bikram Yoga, it is said, helps in controlling breathing; improving focus and calming of the mind. Whatever be the form of practice, Yoga done with mindfulness [awareness of body, breath and mind] has great advantages. May be, Andy’s emotional control, calmness and deep absorption in the activity could be attributed to Bikram Yoga. Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnd7tXJEr3s

Mindfulness is a state where in our attention is intentionally placed on the present moment awareness. When an athlete is in the present and is with the process of the activity s/he is performing and not engaged consciously, s/he ultimately surrenders to the process and starts performing it unconsciously. This total surrender and mindfulness produces feelings of focused attention, relaxed concentration, loss of self-consciousness with a sense of control and confidence. These are mental states that contribute to the mystical sensations – commonly referred to as Flow and the Runners high.

Being involved in whatever activity we are performing and being mindfully aware of what is happening we quickly immerse our awareness in to the activity and transcend the body and mind in to a different realm and this mystical experience puts us in to a flow: suddenly you feel there is feeling of bliss, liberation, a lift in the moods, absence of pain or discomfort, absence of external distractions and a sense of smoothness and ease of movements. This is what long distance runners, marathoners and mountaineers experience when they become mindful of every step they take and every action they perform.

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Recently, I was one of the members of a trekking expedition, to one of the tallest peaks in our state: as we climbed along- with the mountain being steep and treacherous, I found myself panting for breath, feeling pain and discomfort- half way through. I doubted whether I would be able to reach the peak and complete the trek. Inexperience in climbing added to the woes.

Suddenly I remembered Edmund Hilary’s quote `It is not the mountain but ourselves’ and realized the challenge was within. I switched over to mindfulness and started placing every step with awareness feeling the sensations of the softness of the soles of my shoes as it made contact with the earth, enjoying the breath- taking scenery around the mountain- the greenery, the chill and freshness of the air, the natural sounds of birds and the breeze etc: Very soon I was forgot all the pain and discomfort and felt that something was taking me forward and all I had to do was to surrender this mystical thing that would take me to the top. Later I found myself at the peak waving crazily to the others below as if I had conquered the world.

Meditation is a wonderful tool to practice mindfulness as it teaches us to be in the present with the focus on our breathing.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the spiritual guru and author of Peace in every step: The path of mindfulness in everyday life, tells us – Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.          

Breathe better to perform better

     152_Yoga-and-Pranayama_for-body-content                              

Few months ago an article that appeared in TOI caught my eye, Title:` This German used Indian breathing techniques to heal POWs and refugees– the lady in question is, Katrien Hertog- Director of the peace building programme, at  International Association of human values. This organisation was founded by Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation Bangalore- India.

Katrien Hertog for the past 15 years has helped thousands of prisoners of war and refugees in Europe and central Asia [countries like Jordan and Lebanon] recover from trauma through Indian breathing techniques. She uses breathing techniques like pranayama sudarshan kriya amongst others to heal the body and mind from deep seated trauma.

It will not be an exaggeration if I say Indian breathing techniques are as old as life itself. It was learnt that the Indian sages/ yogis used yogic breathing as a natural form of breathing. The secret of their longevity was in the ability to breathe deeply. To say the least, breathing is integral with the ancient art of yoga: as it is central to every form of Yogic ASANA [Posture] and other techniques like pranayama.

When we talk of breath we think it is the incoming and outgoing of atmospheric air in to the body through the nostrils. Indeed breath is not just air but the life force containing vital elements like oxygen, which are most essential to the body. Breathing is a proof of our presence and life in general.

Breath along with food and water forms the nourishment source of our body. It supplies to the tissues, nerves, glands, brain, skin, bones and other organs with oxygen. The brain which is the control centre for the body depends heavily on oxygen, for its proper functioning. About 90% of the body’s toxins are thrown out through breath.

Emotions and breath are also intrinsically linked. By modifying the breath, we can also impact the emotional aspect of our existence and get rid of depression, stress and trauma. Deep breathing is a prescribed antidote for stress. It can flush out emotions like anger from the person.

When you compare the predator big cats like lions, tigers, cheetah and leopard and also the dogs with tortoises and elephants: you find the former set of animals live an average of 14 years and the latter go on to live beyond 100 years. The secret lies in their breathing styles- while elephants and tortoises breathe deeply dogs, lions and others breathe rapidly and shallowly.

The same is said of the modern day humans. The present day human beings have forgotten how to breathe: their shallow breathing is the reason for their stress. During shallow breathing only 70% of the air reaches the lungs, whereas in deep breathing more than 90% of air is drawn in allowing maximum supply of oxygen to the lungs.

Breathing has a huge impact on an athlete and his performance. Pressure situations can make an athlete tense, nervous, anxious, uptight, fatigued and fearful. His breathing can become shallow and rapid. S/he can tend to hold the breath, breathe rapidly or hyperventilate.

Hyperventilation happens when an athlete breathes excessively beyond his metabolic needs resulting in the lowered Co2 levels in the body. When the athlete loses too much Co2 from the body there is an over binding of Oxygen to haemoglobin, which causes poor transportation of O2 throughout the body.Co2 also plays a key role in allowing O2 release to the brain and the heart at the proper levels.

Yoga2-1

Whereas when an athlete breathes deeply it results in the improvement of HRV [heart rate variability]. HRV is necessary for a healthy heart functioning. When a person breathes in deeply his heart rate increases and while he exhales out slowly his HR slows down. This in medical terms is called RSA [Respiratory sinus arrhythmia] HRV is a greater indicator of autonomic nervous system balance. It is related to increase in physical and mental performance [Raymond, Gruzelier and others 2005, Strack 2003].

Sports psychologists- V.E. Wilson and M Cummings [2004] York University have used the advantages of long, slow and deep breathing to develop the Learned Self- Regulation [LSR] and Ahhsome techniques which incorporate breathing. The purpose of Ahhsome is to relax several systems quickly. The objective is to release tension in key muscle groups, stimulate effective breathing and to enhance good blood flow. LSR involves awareness of the mind and body states choosing to lower/ increase mental and emotional activation and changing attention and focus when needed.

To sum up the advantages of deep breathing:-

  • Promotes relaxation and calmness.
  • Increases oxygen intake.
  • Reduces the effects of anxiety and muscle tension.
  • Brings the person back to the present moment and in tune with the life force.
  • With deep breathing- focus, attention and decision making are enhanced.

During moments of pressure an athlete has time only to do two things- take some deep breaths and change the mind set to positive, in order to keep his chances alive and be hopeful of a favourable result.

This quote from Curtis Strange [golfer] talks of the importance of breathing under pressure. Under pressure, one of the important things I have to remember to do is to breathe”

Virat Kholi is an icon for India’s Youth

cricket-ind-aus_a80631c6-03c7-11e7-b1f1-d4c6cd13dfb1

A United Nations report in 2014 declared India as a country with the largest youth population. India is set to become the youngest Nation by 2020.

Narendra Modi is quoted to have said `our country is full of youth power whatever future we desire, we have to keep the youth at the centre, if we do this we can surge ahead at an unmatchable pace.’

There were many tall leaders who have toiled for India’s freedom and development. But the names of the leaders, who moved the masses with their aggression and fighting qualities, which quickly come to our mind, are Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Subash Chandra Bose and Chandrasekhar Azad. These are leaders who always wanted to take the fight to the enemy and adapted a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye attitude.

India, through the course of her history has been trailing behind the developed nations and has been content in being called a developing nation. It has at best been a world follower and not a leader- for obvious reasons.

If India has to bludgeon as a world power in the future- it has to harness its youth force which is the highest in the world. If India wants to be the super power it dreams to be for the future it needs inspirational leaders of the likes of Azad, Bhagat Singh and Subash Chandra Bose- those who lent ferocity, zeal and valour taking the fight to the enemy’s camp.

Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru with his remarks on Shaheed Bhagat Singh is reported to have said – he was a clean fighter who faced his enemy in the open field, he was a spark that became a flame in a short time and spread from one end of the country to the other dispelling darkness everywhere.’ Isn’t Virat Kohli one such leader today?

Virat Kohli is an ICON who represents aggression, positivity, youthfulness, desire and fierce determination. Though, it is unfair to compare the heroes who fought for us in real time, life threatening situations- facing challenges and dangers, with Virat Kohli- he can be an inspiration in his own way.

Virat  may bat on a different turf which is devoid of life threats and dangers. But, he is still a role model to millions of Indians who have always lived in the shadows of the westerners, languishing as second class citizens when compared to the rest.

Virat Kohli after becoming captain has made India a super power in world cricket – made Indian cricketers to believe that they are the best and can the rule the world. The youth of India needs such inspiration from leaders like Virat if it has to make an image makeover.

Today, Virat has hit a purple patch-scoring hundreds and double hundreds at will. He has already made 52 International centuries with 6 double hundreds to boast of. That he finds himself in a FLOW- has not come to him for nothing. His work ethics are exemplary and is a hard worker to the core. He has set high standards for himself and other team members to follow. He has brought the need to be physically fit with the right standards of diet and nutrition. His leadership style is positive, aggressive, optimistic and ambitious.

These are the qualities for the youth of India in whichever field they are in- to emulate.

Virat has also devoted himself for the noble causes and for the development for others sports in India. Virat Kohli Foundation works for the cause of the underprivileged children. Recently VKF teamed up with business tycoon Sanjeev Goenka to launch the RPSG annual India sports awards that was given away to meritorious performers in other sports too, besides supporting budding sports persons with scholarships. Virat is also the co-owner of Indian Soccer League’s FC GOA.

Virat Kohli truly is a role model and an ICON of India’s youth.

CONCENTRATION IS A KEY INGREDIENT TO EVERY SUCCESS

rahul-dravid-cover

Rahul Dravid, batsman and part time wicket keeper of Indian cricket has contributed immensely to the sport. He was always known to be the crisis man for India and on number of occasions has bailed out the team from troubled waters. That he was referred to as The Wall was in recognition of his ability to anchor one end and grind the opposition to frustration.

Amongst his many records, the one that shows his steely will, stodginess and ability to concentrate for long hours- is the fact that he has faced 31258 deliveries in test cricket- the highest number of balls faced by any cricketer in the world.

Once asked about his unwavering focus Rahul Dravid said- “ you can’t concentrate for 10 hours continuously – you need to switch ON and switch OFF. When your mind wanders you bring it back, you steel yourself. The real battle is when you win the battle against yourself.

Concentration is one of the four components of success, the remaining three are- confidence, composure and commitment.

Even the simplest of task requires mental effort which is nothing but Concentration. That is why Alexander Graham Bell said- Concentrate all your thoughts to the work on hand. The sun ray’s don not burn unless it is brought to a focus.

When a person is lost in thoughts and his attention is diverted s/he cannot pay attention to the task on hand, which may lead to performance errors and in some cases there is a likelihood of injuries.

Any activity we perform requires concentration. Concentration is a skill that can be learnt and practiced. Without concentration and effort a skill will not get ingrained in to our system.The terms Concentration, Focus and Attention are used inter-changeably in different contexts. Moran [2004] said –Concentration refers to a person’s ability to exert deliberate mental effort on what is important in any given situation [and blocking out what is not].

FACTORS THAT CAN DISTURB CONCENTRATION:                               

1 Internal: Thoughts. Inadequate motivation, emotions.

2 External: Auditory & visual signals.3. Physiological: Fatigue etc.

PRACTICAL IDEAS TO IMPROVE CONCENTRATION

1] Centering & thought stopping.

2] Focusing & re-focusing

3] Simulating competitive conditions

4] Dress rehearsal

5] through eye control

6] Thought parking

7] Routines

8] Concentration thro’ visualisation

9] Self-talk

10] CUES

11] Concentration practice thro Relaxation

12] Biofeedback.

EASTERN METHODS OF CONCENTRATION

1] Concentration on objects

2] Trataka: Bindu Trataka & Jyoti Trataka.

3] Concentration thro’ YOGIC exercises like Vrokshsana or the tree posture, Natarajasana – dancers pose, Mayurasana or the scale posture, Garudasana or the eagle posture, Kakasana- crow posture.

[4] Self-observation

[5] Concentrated breathing

[6] Meditation.

Highly successful athletes are less likely to get distracted with irrelevant stimuli. Gold medallist & world record holder in 400 Meters Michael Johnson’s say’s – I have learnt to cut all unnecessary thoughts on the track in order to concentrate. I concentrate on the tangible – on the track, on the race, on the blocks, & on the things I have to do. The crowd fades away and other athletes disappear and now it’s me and the lane.

Watch and listen to these videos to know more about Concentration.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVU0WRwn-Eo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow_-6r8CjjQ

PERFECTION IS FOR THE GODS

                                         usain bolt 1

A recent promotional event at New Delhi saw the coming together of four great sports persons- Viswanathan Anand [chess], Michael Johnson [athletics], Adam Gilchrist [cricket] and Lothar Matthaus [football] and the theme of the discussion was: Perfection.

After reading the news reports of the promotional event: the terms perfection and perfectionism set me thinking and left me wondering as to how many lives are out of sync with mental peace and homeostasis chasing the syndrome called – perfectionism.

According to Wikipedia: Perfectionism in psychological terms is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting up of high standards: accompanied by critical self-evaluation and concerns regarding others evaluations.

We see so many around us who possess this trait. These are people who take things seriously and want to do a perfect job out of even the menial tasks. They set high standards and expect every time to live up to it. They are vulnerable to other people’s expectations as they are expected to adhere to their own bench marks. They are meticulous and detail oriented in everything they do.

These are normally the ones who compare their own performances to high standards set by others: put pressure upon them to achieve these standards.

Though there are advantages in being perfectionists there are many pitfalls that go with it. HARA ESTROFF MARANO wrote for Psychology Today and remarked that Perfectionism may be the ultimate self-defeating behaviour. It turns people in to slaves of success- but keeps them focused on failure, dooming them to a life time of doubt and depression.

Experts say that perfection is a goal that can never be attained. This is what could have prompted the famous coach Vince Lombardi to remark- `perfection is not attainable but if we chase perfection we can catch Excellence’. Lombardi is hinting that the strife for perfection can ultimately lead to Excellence which is rewarding in any performance.

Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology, may have understood that perfection was not within human grasp and wrote- Perfection belongs to the Gods: the most we can hope for is excellence.

During the above mentioned promotional event Michael Johnson remarked that perfection was always elusive to him. `There was never a perfect race I never had one’– he said. Viswanathan Anand the chess grand master said- `perfection is when you make things look easy’. Matthaus, Anand, Gilchrist and Johnson were unanimous with their view that Roger Usain Bolt and Roger Federer were close to perfection in this modern era of sports.

In sports, coaches and coaching manuals impart skills [techniques] based on age-old research about the ways sport has to be executed. And those with the perfectionist trait in them want to execute the way the coaching manual prescribes and are not satisfied until they achieve the desired perfection. This puts them in a quandary because they are always in a self-evaluating mode. And when mistakes occur they indulge in self-abuse and criticism.

From my personal experience as a cricketer [batsman] and having played a bit of golf- I can say both batting and golf involves footwork, arms, hands and other parts of the body. They involve scientifically evolved techniques: when perfection is not in place or when mistakes occur we enter in to analytical mode, become self-conscious and are victims of the dreaded- paralysis by analysis. When the conscious mind interferes the execution is not the way it should be- automatic.

The need to execute the skills perfectly makes the mind anxious and the muscles tense and this leads to performance errors. We also tend to berate ourselves for the mistakes committed.

Dr Bob Rotella, the world’s leading sports psychologist and the author of Golf is not a game of perfect, writes in his book-   `Good golfers have to get over the notion that they only want to win by hitting perfect shots. The best golfers strive to minimise mistakes, but they do not expect to eliminate them’.

Bob Rotella’s best advice is – `if you want to eliminate anything, eliminate smothering perfection. You must throw away your expectations when you walk on to the golf course and play’.

This applies to every game and not just golf. isn’t it?

This is the advice Roy Bennett has for us- `Embrace being perfectly imperfect. Learn from your mistakes and forgive yourself you’ll be lot happier’. 

                                   

PRESSURE IS A WHIRLPOOL

roger-federer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Few months ago an article that appeared in TOI caught my eye, Title:` This German used Indian breathing techniques to heal POWs and refugees– the lady in question is, Katrien Hertog- Director of the peace building programme, at  International Association of human values. This organisation was founded by Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation Bangalore- India.

Katrien Hertog for the past 15 years has helped thousands of prisoners of war and refugees in Europe and central Asia [countries like Jordan and Lebanon] recover from trauma through Indian breathing techniques. She uses breathing techniques like pranayama sudarshan kriya amongst others to heal the body and mind from deep seated trauma.

It will not be an exaggeration if I say Indian breathing techniques are as old as life itself. It was learnt that the Indian sages/ yogis used yogic breathing as a natural form of breathing. The secret of their longevity was in the ability to breathe deeply. To say the least, breathing is integral with the ancient art of yoga: as it is central to every form of Yogic ASANA [Posture] and other techniques like pranayama.

When we talk of breath we think it is the incoming and outgoing of atmospheric air in to the body through the nostrils. Indeed breath is not just air but the life force containing vital elements like oxygen, which are most essential to the body. Breathing is a proof of our presence and life in general.

Breath along with food and water forms the nourishment source of our body. It supplies to the tissues, nerves, glands, brain, skin, bones and other organs with oxygen. The brain which is the control centre for the body depends heavily on oxygen, for its proper functioning. About 90% of the body’s toxins are thrown out through breath.

Emotions and breath are also intrinsically linked. By modifying the breath, we can also impact the emotional aspect of our existence and get rid of depression, stress and trauma. Deep breathing is a prescribed antidote for stress. It can flush out emotions like anger from the person.

When you compare the predator big cats like lions, tigers, cheetah and leopard and also the dogs with tortoises and elephants: you find the former set of animals live an average of 14 years and the latter go on to live beyond 100 years. The secret lies in their breathing styles- while elephants and tortoises breathe deeply dogs, lions and others breathe rapidly and shallowly.

The same is said of the modern day humans. The present day human beings have forgotten how to breathe: their shallow breathing is the reason for their stress. During shallow breathing only 70% of the air reaches the lungs, whereas in deep breathing more than 90% of air is drawn in allowing maximum supply of oxygen to the lungs.

Breathing has a huge impact on an athlete and his performance. Pressure situations can make an athlete tense, nervous, anxious, uptight, fatigued and fearful. His breathing can become shallow and rapid. S/he can tend to hold the breath, breathe rapidly or hyperventilate.

Hyperventilation happens when an athlete breathes excessively beyond his metabolic needs resulting in the lowered Co2 levels in the body. When the athlete loses too much Co2 from the body there is an over binding of Oxygen to haemoglobin, which causes poor transportation of O2 throughout the body.Co2 also plays a key role in allowing O2 release to the brain and the heart at the proper levels.

Whereas when an athlete breathes deeply it results in the improvement of HRV [heart rate variability]. HRV is necessary for a healthy heart functioning. When a person breathes in deeply his heart rate increases and while he exhales out slowly his HR slows down. This in medical terms is called RSA [Respiratory sinus arrhythmia] HRV is a greater indicator of autonomic nervous system balance. It is related to increase in physical and mental performance [Raymond, Gruzelier and others 2005, Strack 2003].

Sports psychologists- V.E. Wilson and M Cummings [2004] York University have used the advantages of long, slow and deep breathing to develop the Learned Self- Regulation [LSR] and Ahhsome techniques which incorporate breathing. The purpose of Ahhsome is to relax several systems quickly. The objective is to release tension in key muscle groups, stimulate effective breathing and to enhance good blood flow. LSR involves awareness of the mind and body states choosing to lower/ increase mental and emotional activation and changing attention and focus when needed.

To sum up the advantages of deep breathing:-

  • Promotes relaxation and calmness.
  • Increases oxygen intake.
  • Reduces the effects of anxiety and muscle tension.
  • Brings the person back to the present moment and in tune with the life force.
  • With deep breathing- focus, attention and decision making are enhanced.

During moments of pressure an athlete has time only to do two things- take some deep breaths and change the mind set to positive, in order to keep his chances alive and be hopeful of a favourable result.

This quote from Curtis Strange [golfer] talks of the importance of breathing under pressure. “Under pressure, one of the important things I have to remember to do is to breathe’’

 

 

 

 

 

COMPETE WITH YOURSELF

Michael Phelps.3

We are living in an era of intense competition: whether it is in education, sports, business, corporate affairs or any other area of common interest in life.

According to J.Coakley [1994], a sports psychologist: Competition is a social process that occurs when rewards are given to people on the basis of performance compared to the performances of others participating in the same event.

It is a universal truth that – in order to excel in competition an individual or a team has to prepare and execute what is learnt – in a calm, relaxed, positive and optimistic frame of mind.

Coach’s prophesise to the idea that athletes must give 100% while in competition and let the better player/team win and not worry about things that are not in one’s control – like the strength of the opponent, his rating, how well he is prepared and executes on a given day.

What is in the locus of control of any competitor is the way he reaches inside and measures against – what philanthropist and businessman Warren Buffet calls `his own internal yardstick.  Whether you lived up to your best or fell short on your personal yardstick.

You can’t blame the venue, the weather, the coach, the referee or the crowd for your poor performance. It’s always you.

You are responsible for your success and downfall: If you win it’s because of you and if you don’t do so it’s also because of you. Your competitor is not on the other side of the court it’s the person you see in the mirror every day and that’s you.

In any competition, whatever its magnitude- the challenge is not the competition or the opponent it’s within the challenger at all time. As Edmund Hillary rightly said- It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.

What stops us from being the best is our own fragilities- our insecurities, our anxieties, our lack of confidence or too much of it, our inability to concentrate or maintain the ideal mental balance while in competition. This is what prompted Bobby Knight– the famous basketball coach to say– Your biggest opponent isn’t the other guy: its human nature. 

Every day you wake up, strive to do better than what you did yesterday: pushing for those little accomplishments that will keep motivating you for bigger deeds.

The advantages of being your own competitor

1 You will know your strengths and weaknesses

2.You will develop self-awareness and begin to take necessary action.

3 Pushing your limits will encourage and motivate you upwards.

4 You will raise the bar and improve your overall standards.

5 You will not be intimidated by your opponents or be bothered by outcomes.

I was talking to a swimmer from India who trained years before in the same camp [in USA] as the legendary swimmer Michael Phelps did.

In one of the camp meets he was lined up a few places to where Phelps was standing and he felt overwhelmed by the presence of the great swimmer- conscious of his presence all the time.

When I asked him what would he do if happened to be competing with Michael Phelps again: he said- “ I will swim my race he will swim his. His record is his record however great it might be, my duty is to compete against myself and improve my timings: that’s all I can do.’’ 

So, my dear athletes, the next time you are in the pool or on a track- Swim your own race, focus on your lane and your track record and how you can better your best. Who knows- One day it may be good enough to be a world record.

YOU CAN’T DRAW SELF-BELIEF ON DEMAND

Most people, before writing an exam or taking part in an important event are tormented by mental demons like – anxiety, nervousness, lack of confidence and hope- due to self-doubt and fear. And it is obvious that even an iota of doubt can lead to unsatisfactory performance.

More often parents, coaches, teachers and other authoritative people encourage the performers by saying- believe in yourself. I can say with conviction that- It is not possible for you to command your self-belief to appear from nowhere and perform for you unless you have it within you: not to call it an inborn quality but something that is nurtured and built over time.

The terms self-confidence, self-belief, self-esteem and self-image are used interchangeably in different contexts, though, they are not exactly one and the same. Self-confidence is the belief that you can perform a particular task successfully. It is dynamic: that which varies from task to task.

The confidence you have in one task may not be the same for other tasks. Whereas self-belief is the overall confidence you have upon you as a whole person and this is dependent on your self-image [self-esteem] that is what you think of yourself, your abilities and your chances of performing something successfully.

Our self-image is more or less governed by what we feel about our self [the person in the mirror] and what others thought and said about us since childhood.

It is common to see athletes lose form, confidence and go in to a slump- it can sometimes happen due to unknown reason when everything is going smoothly OR with known reasons: in any case the athletes can work their way back to good times. But, there are many instances where athletes in spite of being talented and skilled don’t do justice to their potential and end up as the second-best.

More often than not these are cases of lack of self-image> lack of self-esteem > lack of self-belief- that is deep rooted and built over years. In this case as I said, it is not easy to demand self-belief instantly. ` The- I don’t deserve feeling is so dominant here that it is difficult to be the best. I read a quote long time ago that read- You can never outperform your own self-image.  You are as good as the image you hold in your mind.

The lack of self- belief  leads to negative self-fulfilling prophecy – the feeling about one self and what the person expects that should happen to him in the future.

Athletes, who lack self-belief don’t do well because they expect not to do well because they are pessimistic of their chances and are controlled by their negative self-fulfilling prophecies- disguised as fate or destiny. They could lose matches from winning positions because they don’t believe they can win championships.

The reasons that could destroy self-esteem from a young age: to create a negative self-image could be: – lack of unconditional love, upbringing, family atmosphere, financial condition in the family, adversities, life incidents & experiences, lack of encouragement, support, attention, negative parenting- like comparisons, high expectations, excessive abuse, too strict with principles  etc.

These are the circumstances that can put a  I don’t deserve the best stamp on the mind of the athlete- which could be very difficult to remove even in the later years.

Said Sheryl Swoopes a former WNBA basketball player- I’ve always been a firm believer of mind over matter. If you don’t believe you can achieve, your body will start to believe this and you’ll be stuck.

In contrast if you continue to believe in every cell of yours on a consistent basis then you can hope to attain the best.

This belief is well supported by Aimee Mullins a Paralympic athlete, actress and fashion model that had to have both legs amputated when she was one year old due to- Fibular Femimelia. She say’s- Belief in oneself is incredibly infectious.

It generates momentum, the collective form of which far outweighs any kind of self-doubt that may creep in. She is a perfect example of one who had to overcome tragedy at an early age to achieve what she did- showing immense self-belief.  Aimee didn’t let her adversity ruin her Self-image or self-belief, she used it as an opportunity. She changed her legs to change her mindset. See this video- http://www.ted.com/talks/aimee_mullins_on_running

The good news is – one need not be a puppet in destiny’s hands forever and it is possible to come out of the shell and prove our self-worth like so many who have done- before us. This is how Maya Angelou puts hope in to those who don’t like their own image. Her message – ` If you don’t like something- Change it. If you can’t change it – Change your attitude [the way you look at it and think about it]

Mohamed Ali was perhaps the greatest boxer of all times, He maintained his supreme self-belief by saying – I am the best -over and over and over again.

Tiger Woods, Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, M.S.Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Vivian Richards are some of the people who I can believe possess [ed] tremendous self-belief.

Ways by which you can change your self-belief

  1. Work on your self- image and self-esteem. Seek therapy sessions with positive psychology to go with. Important to feel good from inside.
  2. Work hard at your skills; this will improve your self-efficacy and your belief. It increases your confidence and hope.
  3. Change your inner talk [ self-talk] replace the negatives with- I can , I will It’s easy, I am good, I deserve the best, I am a champion etc.
  4. Think more of your abilities, the possibilities and the victories of the past.
  5. Visualise often believing- giving out a better performance and winning.
  6. Work on your mental toughness and resilience.

What is your style?

Since childhood I have seen the world of film, music and sports industry flaunt several names that have gone on become icons in their respective professions.

The names that I can easily recall are- Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Brad Pitt, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, Jean Paul Belmondo, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe, Amitabh Bhachan, Shatrugan Sinha, Dev Anand, Sharukh Khan, Rajnikanth, KamalHasan,Dr Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan, Aishwarya Rai, Sushmita Sen, Priyanka Chopra to Deepika Padukone from the movie Industry. Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson from the music industry and Nawab of Pataudi, David Beckam, Bjorn Borg, Arnold Parmer, Yuvraj Singh, Maria Sharapova, Virat Kohli from the sports industry- to name a few.

I have wondered what it was that made them so famous that the whole young generation followed them, endorsed them, copied them, and adored them: that they became proud possessions in their hearts.

I understand that though they are different individuals their unique way of expression and mannerisms pleased the common people to become their die-hard fans.

Their unique way of expression has become their Style– the unique way of doing things. It could simply be with their stylish ways of expression or the way they dressed or carried themselves.

Style is an individual expression in motor action. No two athletes are alike in different factors which determine motor action.

I found this apt explanation of style in www.indianfootballonline.com [Indraneel Ghosh] –Each athlete because of his/her particular psychic, physical and biological capacities realises the technique in different manner. This is his style.

As sports enthusiasts we can remember seeing several of our favourite players like G.R.Vishwanath, Sunil Gavaskar, Brian Lara, David Gower, Michael Holding, Roger Federer, Rahul Dravid, Mark Waugh, Sourav Ganguly and now Rohit Sharma- their play that looked so graceful and elegant: that always seemed smooth, with effortless ease- devoid of strain.

Their actions were so pleasing to the eyes that the commentators remarked`a treat to the eyes: it was worth going miles to watch.’

The individualistic forms of expression have their presence in – Leadership: referred to as Leadership styles [Modi is quite different from Manmohan Singh, so are Virat and Dhoni]. In Coaching – referred to as Coaching styles- wherein each coach has his own way of teaching and communicating.

Ravi Shastri is different from Anil Kumble as a coach. Likewise a person’s behaviour, his responses to people and situations becomes his own characteristic and style. Vivian Richards and Virat Kohli are aggressive characters – that’s their style.

Michael Clarke speaking about the recent decline in performance of the Australian side during a TV commentary discussion quipped- The Aussies have always been aggressive on the field be it with sledging or fighting hard – that was their style– which this Australian side has failed to be. So Style can go well with Individual’s/ teams’ attitude and character.

Many sporting stars have been style icons for the fashion Industry be it Virat, Dhoni, Sindhu, Sania, Saina, Maria Sharapova or Yuvraj Singh as they are commonly seen endorsing various brands. They have a way in their dressing and presentation off the field too, that is clearly a fashion statement these days.

Rickie Fowler one of the top ten golfers in the world is a multi- faceted person: a fashionable guy is seen sporting bright colours like orange on the golf course during the PGA’s – that’s his Style.  Speaking to USA TODAY he said- I feel the way I dress and go about my way and handle myself on the golf course reflects who I am.

Johan Cruyff has been rated as one of the top-10 footballers of all time. A favourite with the crowd wherever he went, he developed his own indomitable style that won him millions of fans all over the world. He once said- ` Winning is an important thing, but to have your own style, to have people copy you, to admire you – that is the greatest gift.’ Indeed, an immortal style statement.   

DEPRESSION IN ELITE ATHLETES IS A CAUSE FOR WORRY

An article in Deccan Herald dtd 24/9/17- The celebrity whirlpool by Karen Crouse: courtesy New York Times News service : that highlighted the struggles of two great swimmers Michael Phelps and Grant Hackett with Anxiety and depression: set me to think deeply- If people who visit professionals seeking help are advised along with other remedies: to indulge in exercise and physical activity, as these promote the release of Serotonin- a neurotransmitter which has a therapeutic value to fight depression- why then athletes who throughout their lives engage in sports and physical activities at insane levels are prone for mental illness and depression? I will not end with the word- PERIOD here, because the whole issue is a discussable thing.

When the beautiful Deepika Padukone, one of the leading actresses of Bollywood [Mumbai film Industry] came out in the open about her fight with depression- during the Mental health day- It set tongues wagging- ‘Hey, she’s got everything one could expect- how could she be suffering from depression?’

This is just not the case with Phelps, Hackett or Deepika alone: thousands of celebrities Athletes, film stars, artists, politicians and many others from different walks of life are known to be suffering from depression and other forms of mental illnesses.

Earlier the names of the celebrities used to be under wraps but now there is very little stigma attached to it, as people are coming out in the open to express themselves with regard to this vexed issue.

Marcus Thescothik. Freddie Flintoff, Sarah Taylor, Monty Panesar [all cricketers] Ian Thorpe, Greg Louganis, Phelps, Hackett [all swimmers] Paul Gascoigne [football] Serena Williams [Tennis] and John Daly [Golf] have known to have suffered forms of mental illnesses. There may be many others unnamed or unknown.

Research goes to show that athletes are likely to suffer from depression as non-athletes and female athletes in particular expressed more depression symptoms than men. Again, individual athletes are more prone than athletes involved in team sport.

The reason for this according to Professor Jürgen Beckmann of the Technical university of Munich – individual athletes are prone since they are lonely and they attribute failure more to themselves than team sport athletes. They take success and failure more personally than team players. In a team sport there is diffusion of responsibility compared to individual sports.

Elite athletes are known to lead a dream life as many other aspirants would put it- in their terms. The elite earn a lot of money through contracts, prize money, sponsorships, endorsements etc and it needs no telling as to what money can buy.

They lead a jet-set life flying from one city to another: lodge at five star hotels: have their own jets, yachts, villas and tiny islands. When they have all those things that are supposed to make them happy: then why do they get depressed is the common man’s question that looks at life from outside the glass house. In reality people who live in these glass houses only know what they go through.

Michael Phelps said in an interview that they are normal people and go through the same struggles as the others do. Many of those suffering express the need to be treated as a person first and as a celebrity athlete, later.

Let’s explore some of the possible reasons for athletes to suffer from mental illnesses:- Fear of failure and actual failure, injury and recovery, performance anxiety, demands to perform and win every time, continuous travel and competitions without break and recovery, staying away from loved ones, fatigue and sickness, being dropped from sides for non-performance, living in closed rooms of 5 star hotels, scrutiny by the press and public [ probe in to private life], retirement and identity crisis post retirement, lack of social support from family and friends, lack of socializing and social contact, indulging in substance abuse to beat boredom, changing life-styles, death of dear ones, relationship issues and inability to lead the life of a common man.  

What are the tell-tale symptoms of mental illnesses With drawl from friends and activities, moodiness, feelings of anxiety, anger or sadness, indecision and lack in concentration, loss of appetite and weight changes, low pleasure and interest, feelings of low self-worth and guilt with drop in performance

Many organisations connected to sports have initiated programmes to help athletes identify symptoms of mental illness and further seek professional help. In India, with cricket being a major sport and the teams play continuously round the trot and staying away from families for longer periods of time plus the continuous travelling and living out-of-suitcases take a toll on their emotional health and they get prone to the symptoms of depression. I hope one of the richest sports bodies in the world the BCCI is doing enough to help cricketers identify and thwart depression before its onset.

Early diagnosis, professional help from behavioural psychologists or psychiatrists, CBT therapy with counselling will help athlete’s combat mental illness.

AGE CHEATING MUST BE DEALT IN PAR WITH DRUG ABUSE IN SPORTS

 

A very recent column in TOI spoke of the Age verification exercise taken up by the Badminton Association of India. These tests were subsequently held at the All India Institute of Medical sciences at New Delhi on September 16.

This move was to remove age fraud cases from the national camps ahead of the Junior World and Asian Badminton meets. A set of shuttlers were asked to appear and clear the requirements of the test as stipulated by sports authority of India.

This news bit took me back in time to the year 2004-2005: when my son Akhil, a table tennis player representing Karnataka, was participating in National sub junior & junior championships in Chennai.

In the sub-junior singles event he entered the pre-quarter finals and eventually lost to a West-Bengal player: who looked taller, stronger and more mature for this age-category. Most people looked at this boy in suspicion wondering if he legally belonged to the sub-junior age category or whether he was cheating with his age.

It so happened that the TTFI authorities in co-operation with the TNTTA subjected number of players to a surprise age test at a local hospital. The results were not declared till late in the night.

Since it was Akhil’s last event of the tournament and also, since an epidemic was feared- post the tsunami that had ravaged many parts of south India including Chennai: we [including Akhil] hurriedly left to Bangalore the same night.

After having reached Bangalore the next morning I received a phone call from my team manager stating that the boy against whom Akhil lost was debarred from further participation due to over- age and Akhil was promoted and slated to play the quarter-finals at 10.00 am in the morning.

To his utter dismay, he had to concede a walk-over since we hardly had the time to reach Chennai before 10 am. There was gloom in our family and we were plunged in grief to see on the TV screen the announcement of- Akhil conceding a walk-over in the quarter finals. Experiences have a larger bearing on you and this personal experience of age fraud can never be erased from my memory.

Cheating in sports is age-old with drug abuse and age-fraud being the favourite methods adopted by the unethical community: to derive advantages of sporting success. In India the date-of- birth certificate and the school leaving certificate [S.S.L.C or 10th] are considered as the valid age proof for school children. It is a customary practice by this fraud group [present everywhere] to obtain manipulated/ fraudulent/ bogus birth certificates from the state owned Department Registration of Birth and deaths, to be submitted to the schools and in many instances the school records have been changed as per the wishes of the members of this group in collusion with the school authorities.

When the child comes out of the school after 10 Th class or 12 Th class his passing out certificate becomes the authentic legal age proof document which could be boldly presented on demand. Who can dare question this document?

The reason why people resort to this unethical practice is to give the child [player] an unfair advantage over the others in the same age group category. An additional year or two can mean a lot to the growing children physically.

A year or two more means that additional year/two of more practice to hone the skills plus the advantage of physical attributes like the gain in height, stamina and strength. This practice is genuinely unfair as it denies opportunity to the correct age player to compete fairly in the competition.

It is sheer injustice to the honest player [like Akhil] who sacrifices and compromises on a lot of things and works hard with big goals and dreams. When will this stop? In this context the stand taken by Badminton India is a welcome move. I hope many associations follow suit to curb the menace of this scourge group.

It is not just the case of India: the African countries and may be many others, have also been accused of this unfair practice. Nigeria the winners of the U-17 football world cup in three of the last five editions find themselves not qualified for the U-17 soccer WC to be staged in India in October 2017. Reason: A staggering 26 members of the U-17 team failed the age-test carried out ahead of the African Cup of Nations qualifier.

With rapid advancements in science & technology: research related tests to determine the age of an individual have been put forth and it is now up to the sports fraternity across the world to use these facilities and take up the matter earnestly to see injustice does not happen to the just and the ethical community.

My suggestion is to treat this issue in par with drug abuse and create laws suitably.

STREET SMARTNESS ON THE SPORTS FIELD

You may not be the most intelligent with multiple degrees to boast, but people call you smart because you have lots of common sense: you know your way around with things: you communicate well; your social skills are great and you have the ability to solve life problems.

People say you are shrewd. You possess the mental alertness to take quick practical decisions. You are the GO-TO  man: the kind- of- person who people trust to get the trickiest job done. They very well know you will somehow get the job finished. Guys, if you are one of the kind then- you definitely are street smart.

Street smartness is not restricted to daily life: it has its say in the Sports arena too. Every sport warrants certain skills and techniques that need to be executed in a certain way. More often that is the way your teacher teaches you to perform and these are the fundamentals or the basics over which you game are built.

When your style is confined to these basics- then you are an orthodox player. But, there are many who exhibit their own style which generally is unorthodox. The point here is, though these guys are unorthodox- they are effective and successful. The purists and the connoisseurs may scorn at their style but, that’s the way the Virender Sehwag’s and M.S.Dhoni’s play. Aren’t they successful?

I know of professional golfers whose backswing and downswing may not be according to the coaching manuals: but as the club come down to the point of contact it is in the right position and speed for the ball to fly and go the distance.

Indian wicketkeeper M.S Dhoni’s style of wicket keeping may not be prescribed to the budding wicketkeepers but his records speak for itself-he is effective behind the stumps isn’t he? These guys are smart: they know what it takes to succeed and they have- adapted well.

Brad Gilbert is a former U.S tennis player. He is an Olympic gold medal winner, a Davis cupper. A world number 4 in the year 1990.He wasn’t highly rated and didn’t exhibit great talent but he made his presence felt by troubling the best in business.

His secret lay in playing smartly studying each opponent, his style, strengths and weaknesses. He never played a stereo typed game against everyone. He was known for his pre-game mental preparation. When asked he said ` I don’t over power people, I don’t have flashy shots: I win because I have the ability to implement my game strategy successfully I maximise my strengths and minimise my weaknesses.

I want them to be hitting shots that they don’t like form positions they don’t want.’  [From the book: Winning ugly]. People didn’t admire his style: someone made a comment- `How in the hell does this guy win? He hits like a caveman how found a tennis racquet.’  Isn’t Brad Gilbert Street smart?

You can find Street Smart athletes everywhere. How to look for them and what are the attributes they carry?

Street smart athletes are those:-

  • Who know their strengths and weaknesses and know how to maximise the strengths.
  • Who know their game style: what works for them and what do not.
  • Who are self-aware and learn from the previous mistakes.
  • Who do not repeat the mistakes that gave them grave consequences.
  • Who are percentage players who play within themselves and don’t overdo things.
  • Who learn quickly, know to survive and adapt to the requirements of the of the modern day competitive world.
  • Who are alert, creative and quick at the out-of-the-box
  • Who are cunning and calculative and are quick to seize opportunities.
  • Who don’t overanalyse things and keep it simple. This keeps them in emotional control.
  • Who are not slaves to technique and know what it takes to be effective than perfect.
  • Who are hard workers but they don’t slog aimlessly: they know what it takes holistically to succeed and are not shy for efforts. In short: They work hard but smart.

Street smartness applies to coaches and captains too, they  are aware of how to communicate in different ways to be understood. They know how to be effective and get the work done smartly from their troops.

The legendary footballer PELE a genius by himself once said-` I don’t repeat the same mistake again.’ That’s a SMART footballer for you.

DON’T LET YOUR LACK OF ENTHUSIASM FLOG YOUR RESILIENCY

     atapatu

Heard of Marvan Atapattu-the Sri Lankan cricketer: if you are a cricket enthusiast then you must have. His story is one of perseverance, resilience and a never-give- up- attitude.

Making his debut in test cricket for Sri Lanka he was out to 0 in both innings. As a result he was dropped for the next test. He went back to domestic cricket made lots of runs and got a recall after 21 months.

This time around he made 0 & 1- failure. Same result- dropped from the test squad. He had to prove himself all over again. He went back to the grind and finally after a gap of 17 months gets another chance to prove his prowess.

The duck luck didn’t seem to have deserted him: he was out to 0 in both innings. Oh! No! Not again- dropped from the team instantly.

Many thought he wouldn’t play for Sri Lanka gain- but Marvan was not willing to give up: he was patient and perseverant, worked hard, made runs and after 3 years won a recall to the test team.

This time he came good and scored. He became a permanent feature of the Sri Lankan side from then on and scored more than 5000 runs with 16 centuries and 6 double centuries. He even captained his country.

What I admire about Marvan Atapattu is his resilience- the ability to bounce back from setbacks, mistakes and adversity.

You see that players are dropped from their team owing to poor performance and it is often the case to see them disappointed, devastated, and de-motivated. It is a common feature with sports persons to be haunted by defeats, setbacks, injuries and adversities in their careers.

You have seen the Yuvraj’s, Raina’s, Dinesh karthik’s, Nehra’s, Harbajan’s staging comeback’s in to the Indian cricket team.  It is even common to see players bounce back in to the match when they are staring at defeat.

To start over all again prove yourself back to reckoning is daunting task but sports persons do it all the time as it is the case of: a chosen career, an unfulfilled ambition or the unwillingness to give up all the glitz, glamour, name, fame and money that is associated with their sport.

You have also seen many athletes return from injuries to be highly successful then on. For all those who have made successful comebacks there have been thousands of athletes who have failed to bounce back.

It is in this in-between period that players go through a lot of turmoil- they think negatively, they doubt themselves, they lose their hope and above all they are not ENTHUSIASTIC enough to work hard, set goals, renew their hope and give their best shot. When your drive [motivation] is on the wane it is very difficult to push yourself to push hard and go through the GRIND all over again.

All you have to do is to be ENTHISIASTIC about your prospects of staging a successful comeback. Your enthusiasm fuels THE DRIVE to set goals, work hard, to be determined and achieve the desired objective.

Your enthusiasm will set up a sense of heightened feeling that would provide the interest to work towards your goals. You will feel the need to get up each morning and slog it out before the sun rises. Be ENTHUSIASTIC with regard to your future endeavours: let it provide the fuel for your legs, fire in the belly and a dash of hope for your brain.

If you are not enthusiastic at your age what would you say of Charles Eugster who started running at 95 years of age? Watch this video-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juLRQf3Na8o

 

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PRESENT MOMENT AND THE PROCESS

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Shikhar Dhawan, the Indian cricket team’s opening batsmen is going through a purple patch in the middle part of 2017. When asked about the happy zone he is in at the moment [TOI 21/08/17] he said he wanted to enjoy the moment and not lose sleep over the law of averages that would catch up in the future.

He remarked- I am embracing the successful period now. When I was not doing well I was focusing on my processes. When I am doing well I am still focused on my processes.

What does Shikhar mean by being in the process? According to Dictionary.com PROCESS is referred to as a continuous action, operation or series of changes taking place in a definite manner [to bring about a specific result].

Sports persons have to perform series of movements or actions based on the opponent moves or respond to a moving ball or a shuttle or even a stationary ball or a target. And, for this process to happen successfully the conscious mind has to be brought to a focus to the now and what needs to be done next. This is what is commonly referred to as present moment awareness.

The saga of most sports persons is that they are lost in the past or thinking about the future instead of being in the present moment- the here and now. They are still thinking about the set they just lost or the previous mistake they committed OR they may be thinking far ahead about the victory celebrations or worry about the shame they would have to experience if they lost.

When a person is lost in thoughts [internal distractors] he is bound to lose concentration and lapses in concentration lead to performance errors and improper decision making. The resultant effect could be in the decrements of performance.

More often than not, sportsperson carry bagful of painful memories, thoughts of setbacks or future insecurities which could haunt them during performance thus robbing them of the power of now.

The wise men have said- the past is history, future is mystery and the present is the PRESENT. We can’t change the past and the future is yet to descend but we can ruin a perfect present by worrying about them-both. One must remember that it is in the present that all the challenges have to be fought.

It is not entirely wrong to look in to the past or think about the future. If so, when is the right time to look in to them? The right time would be the practice sessions. We have to approach the practice sessions with the TRIPOD CAMERA in mind.

The idea of the tripod camera was suggested by Mr Spencer Johnson in his bestselling book- THE PRESENT He say’s – the camera is the person- THE FOCUS. The first leg represents the PAST and what we have learnt from them, the second leg represents FUTURE– what plans we have for the future. The third leg represents the PRESENT.

So, folks when you are in a performance 1] be in the present moment 2] do not do conscious thinking 3] be aware of what is happening around you 4] trust your natural instincts and let go 5] things will happen on their own.

Methods that could teach a person to be in the present:-

By Meditation- focusing on the breath.

By Centering – by taking a deep breath during moments of distraction.

By focusing on each of your senses for about 10 seconds.

By focusing on an object like the tree, your racquet, or the net, or looking at a particular colour: green / blue – just to take your mind away from thoughts & distractions.

By Trataka [gazing] – gazing at a flame or a point on the wall.

EMOTIONAL CONTROL IS THE KEY TO COMPETITIVE SURVIVAL

dhoni

Novak Djokovic told New york times- `Physically there is not much difference between the 78 and number 1, 2 or 5. Everybody works for hours and hours on the court. It is the mental ability to handle pressure, to play well at the right moments and that’s the difference with the top 10 players.’ 

Even Rafael Nadal echoed with the same feeling when he said – `If you watch a number 10 or the number 500 in training you will not be able to tell who is up on the rankings. Without pressure of competition they will move and hit the ball the same way.’

`The ability to handle pressure and not just physical skills, is what separates the best from the merely talented is what Karen Crouse wrote for the New York Times Service under the heading The difference is all in the head.’

If the ability to handle pressure and emotions is what discriminates the winner from the loser, what does the lack of it do for the losers during the heat of the moment? –It can cause psychological and physiological changes like muscle tension, fatigue, low energy and serious negative emotions like anger.

Does that mean that the winners never feel pressure and the ensuing emotions? No, everybody goes through them but the Elite have gone through The Grind and know what it takes to handle pressure and resulting Emotions and how not to be bothered by them.

Today, when you see Roger Federer, unfazed by any match situation: you are awe struck with his ability to manage emotions and bounce back to the game. In the recently concluded Wimbledon Tournament, which Roger won, I saw, while he was serving and whenever he was 0-30 down: he was not cowed down but served perfect aces to make it 30-30.

He is now the complete champion who is always calm, cool and in emotional control with himself. And this did not come simply- he had to work on himself for this transition from a racquet throwing youngster to a calm guy that he is today. Watch this video:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ridm5B5W0OA

Our emotions have a major role to play in any performance. It largely depends on how much our thought, feelings and actions are positive.

Though emotions like anger and anxiety are useful to a little extent too much of it can debilitate performance. An emotion is defined as a subjective conscious experience characterised by psycho-physiological expressions, biological reactions and mental states.

It is influential with mood, temperament, personality disposition and motivation. It is also influenced by hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine, noradrenalin, serotonin, cortisol and GABA [ source-WIKIPEDIA].

Normally thoughts gives rise to feelings which when stimulated gives rise to emotion associated with action. An emotion is a reaction to a stimulus which can either be real or imagined.

We normally see it is not just the athletes who undergo emotions- coaches, parents, officials and spectators can also get very emotional during competitions.

Three important factors necessary to understand emotions:

  1. 1. What triggers an emotion?
  2. 2.How the body and mind respond to this stimulus and express their reaction.
  3. 3.How these responses make us to experience the emotion further.

We are normally governed by four primary emotions liker Fear, Anger, Sadness and joy.

Who is an emotionally intelligent athlete?

  1. One who responds to a situation with the right positive emotion.
  2. One who regulates emotions well.
  3. One who uses mental skills like imagery, self-talk, deep breathing & other techniques to regulate emotions.
  4. One who can be mentally tough and does not allow his emotions to harm his performance.
  5. Does not show emotions during pressure situations.

Strategies for emotional regulation

  1. Deep breathing and relaxation techniques, flooding, systematic de-sensitization & self-hypnosis
  2. Positive self-talk and affirmations
  3. Imagery for control of emotions
  4. General anger management techniques
  5. Music therapy & Meditation
  6. Physical exercises.
  7. Body massage.
  8. Counselling and psychotherapy.

To know more about EMOTIONS IN SPORTS- Read my bestselling book- SUCCESS MANTRAIN SPORTS- Sold online through Amazon & Flipkart.

amzn.to/2tGze77

Enjoy the activity, have fun, perform better.

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In life, we hear people often, say- I don’t enjoy the work I am doing; it gives me a lot of stress. I am looking for a change. When you don’t like the work you are doing it becomes monotonous, boring and stressful. That is why it is said, in order to be satisfied with what you are doing- you need to enjoy the work and be passionate about it.

In sports, as in life, we hear that many athletes burn out due to monotony, competitive stress, high level of intensity, less social life and above all lack of fun & enjoyment. You can compare fun & enjoyment to the wick and oil in the lamp. As long as they exist the light doesn’t flicker out. The moment an athlete at the elite level feels burdened and stops enjoying the game staleness and burnout results and there is a tendency to quit. So, most of the elite athletes who have gone through the grind would advise the younger lot to enjoy the activity despite all the upheavals. I have heard or read about elite athletes talking about the importance of fun & enjoyment. Speaking to the TIMES Magazine this is what Lionel Messi, the wizard of football, had to say- Football is a game. I am trying to have fun on the pitch, always, just to play. That’s why I do it. The day I stop having fun is the day I retire.”

Whenever people spoke about- having fun and enjoyment– I wondered whether it was only a figure of speech and whether it was possible in this intense and serious world of competition. And, when I looked in to the meaning of Enjoyment I was led to believe it was possible. Enjoyment is a feeling of pleasure caused by doing or experiencing something you like or simply getting satisfaction out of something. To say the least, Fun & enjoyment are used interchangeably. And, it is possible for the coaches and parents to make the activity fun for the kids- such, they enjoy every moment of it.

You can enjoy the activity by making the right choice of what you do, according to your natural intelligence you possess- which is generally called- Talent. Going forward, people must be passionate for the activity that seems to flow from their inner crevices without any external prompt. That is, when you wake up every day you look forward to the activity. And, the rest is all work, work & more work.

In order to attain Excellency in a chosen profession it entails one to put in dedicated, countless hours of effort and if one doesn’t enjoy the work then it will go futile. Said Karrie Webb, the golfer- If you don’t enjoy it- then putting in long hours take their toll.

Said Dale Carnegie, the author of- `How to win friends and influence people- People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing. 

Feelings of Fun & enjoyment are a positive emotion and- sports are meant to be fun. The following sequence talks of the benefits of Enjoyment- Enjoyment> positive emotion> motivation> Desire for participation> persistence> exertion of effort>learning >commitment to sports> happiness > success> longevity in the activity. 

To remind ourselves it was for fun & enjoyment that we encourage children in to some form of physical activity- for its various benefits. Group activity and socialising through sports definitely promotes fun and satisfaction in children. Parents are to be reminded that in order to keep the incense burning children need to enjoy the activity and them, in turn must have fun watching their children play.

Harsha Bhogle tweeted [15/7/17] – When I saw Federer up against a rampaging Djokovic couple of years ago, couldn’t have imagined his best tennis was ahead of him.  Roger Federer has won his eighth Wimbledon title at 35 years of age and is playing the best tennis of his life, Experts say the Reason why he is so good these days is that he is playing with lot more freedom and is cherishing and enjoying his game like he had never done before. This is what enjoying your game is- all about.

Burnout is the reason for boredom in players

Bernard Tomic

I felt bored out there: It’s tough to find motivation– said Bernard Tomic 24, speaking to reporters after his first round loss to Mischa Zverev@ Wimbledon 2017-Times sport- 6th July 17. Bernard, who turned PRO at 15, had a career best ranking of 17 and is considered as one the top players in the circuit.

Thanasi Kokkinakis 21, who is a promising tennis player with a highest career ranking of 69: turned PRO during 2013 @17 years of age: said recently – ‘ I sometimes feel bored in practice sessions and smaller tournaments, but not @ Wimbledon. Is this boredom a mental issue among younger players and a cry for help? Probably yes!

This is not one would expect from these talented youngsters who have a long career ahead of them. Tragedy, that it can be, it could be one of the reasons why the younger lot have not been able to perform consistently at the highest level to trouble the best in business. Staleness and burnout can only be the reasons for this disturbing symptom.

It has been a trend to make the children to start sport as early as 6 or 7 and begin to take part in competitions by age of 9. There are instances of young teens turning PRO by 15 years of age. It does not warrant an expert to say what happens when one turns PRO. It involves intensity with vigorous training, practice, travel and competitions all year round. The pressure to keep winning and meet competitive demands is enormous. It is at this age these young PRO’S go through the grind when their peers are enjoying their life out there. Tomic said he has been on the tour since 17and have played at Wimbledon for 7 years already, as in 2017.

This continuous grind throughout the year takes its toll: though it does not have to be a rule- there have been instances where the younger Pros have burnt-out due to this. The probable symptoms of burnout in Tomic and Kokkinakis could be- 1. Apathy and lack of interest in the activity 2. Lack of desire to practice or contest in terms of achievement 3. Physical and mental exhaustion 4. Lack of enjoyment 5. Feeling jaded and stale with BOREDOM. The probable reasons could be that 1.the players could have given it too much in to less time 2. The sport has been too monotonous without any form of enjoyment & socializing 3. Injuries and mental breakdowns forcing lay- off from competition for a long time 4. Competition too stressful.

This is what could have forced Tomic to say- ‘I know Wimbledon is one of the biggest tournaments but I couldn’t find anything [motivation and momentum].

Having achieved too much in too less time [external motivation] might have forced Tomic to say- ‘I have won titles in my career: I have made finals a lot: I feel holding a trophy doing well doesn’t satisfy me anymore. At some point of time he must have made a conscious decision to continue playing for security, as there was no alternate career and he has identified himself with Tennis. This is called entrapment.  He could be playing professional Tennis to build financial security: drawing inference from his recent press conference- ‘ I am going to play for another 10 years and I know after that in my career, I don’t have to work again.’ This situation has happened many times in Tomic’s career and has also been accused of tanking– as it happened against Zverev, when he gave in too easily.

Burnout involves a psychological, emotional and sometimes physical withdrawal from a formerly enjoyable activity in response to stress or dissatisfaction over time [Smith 1996].

This situation is totally in contrast with players like Roger Federer who at 35 continue to enjoy the game wanting to get better all the time. It is all about intrinsic motivation– which could be the only HOPE for youngster who turn pro early and want to stay in the circuit for long.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com.

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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Being fearless is the X-Factor in sports

22kvitova-web-master768Petra Kvitova the Czech tennis star was robbed in her home shortly after Christmas and the attacker stabbed her playing hand- leaving her to nurse the injuries. Speaking about the incident in a recent interview to the press [TOI-Reuters 2JULY] she said-` Before I was very nervous before every match, now I see I shouldn’t be. Sometimes I am thinking on the court that I already won the biggest fight and if I fight in the match, it doesn’t matter if I win or lose I will still be happy to play. I see tennis and life from a different angle than before. I am not sure if it is the result of what happened but maybe I feel fearless now of what happened.’

Ramkumar Ramanathan world no 222, from India, recently stunned the whole world by defeating the world no8 Dominic Thiem in the Antalya open-in straight sets. He told TOI shortly after the match-` Beating a Top 10 player makes me fearless now. I am definitely not scared of my next opponent now.’ After reading these responses I asked myself – what were they fearing in the first place: to feel fearless now? My mind said-` hey, it is the same predicament that plagues the entire human race: Fear of failure– fear of defeat or simply- fear of loss.

Fear is one of the four primary emotions- the other three are anger, sadness and joy. Anxiety represented by worry, nervousness and panic is experienced by most performers in general and athletes in particular- before a competition or during it and all of these feelings fall under-FEAR. Pressure and choking are also as a result of –FEAR: the fear of defeat or fear of failing.

Why are the performers terrified of failure?

In this evaluative environment everything is judged on the basis of results: making it a result oriented competitive world. Success [string of victories] will give you pride, name, fame and monetary benefits, scholarships, sponsorships etc. On the contrary – string of losses [wrongly termed as failures] will give you shame, see you slipping in your grades, seeding’s and risk losing your scholarships or sponsorships. So, athletes want to avoid this precarious situation and would like to keep succeeding. In this competitive world children begin to understand from an early age that you have to keep winning and it is a crime to lose. So, defeat/ loss become a dirty word. If losing is attributed to failure: then the seeds of failure are sown and Fear of failure sets in.

Even the elite athletes are exposed to these feelings of stress [anxiety, self-doubt, nervousness & pressure] before or during a competition. They have been in these situation umpteen times and know how to handle them. The ability to handle Fear and the associated feelings like pressure is what sets apart an elite athlete from the ordinary. Elite athletes want to win and hate losing but they are not afraid of losing.

Fear of failure in sports is not the same as facing life threatening situations [ex: Petra Kvitova, Monica Seles], plane crashes, motor accidents, facing a carnivorous animal in the forest. And to top it all: winning is not for ever and setback is just the bend not the end. The athlete will know at some point of time their chosen career is not forever and there is life beyond it. This mind-set will encourage the athletes in to accepting both success and setbacks [so called failures] in the same breath.

It is true Victory gives pride and achievement motivation. But desperate thoughts like- ‘I must win or I shouldn’t lose or what if I lose, will distress you and you end with the result you never aspired for in the first place. Instead ask yourself- ‘what is the worst thing that can happen if I lose the match. Keep telling yourself before an important event – `this is just like any other game: it is just a ……… match, it is not the end of the world if I lose it.’

If you think losing a match is failure then what would you say of Thomas Alva Edison who said-  ‘I am not a failure I have only discovered 999 ways of how not to make a bulb.’  

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com.

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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Momentum is crucial for peak performance

Srikanth KidambiKidambi Srikanth’s superb run continued as the in-form Indian sailed in to the finals of the Australian Open Series Badminton tournament 2017’– this is how the media described *Srikanth’s performance on 25/06/17. This mysterious thing called, Form, which is controllable- is like the higher grace and you don’t know when it strikes you or leaves you. But, you are happy you are in form and would like to use the opportunity when the sun is shining. Rohit Sharma, Indian cricketer, tweeted yesterday- `Opportunities are like sunrise- if you wait too long you will miss them.’ Un Quote. To remind you K.Srikanth recently won the *Indonesian Super Series Open.

But, one thing I can vouch for you is that when in-form you have the momentum going in your favour. or: Is the vice versa true? What is this thing called momentum that you often hear about. The Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science describes Momentum as- ` the positive or negative changes in cognition, physiology and behaviour caused by an event or series of events that affects either the perception of the competitors or quality of performance and the outcome of the competition.

Positive momentum is associated with experiences such as- winning streak-, in which everything goes right for the competitor/s. In contrast Negative Momentum is associated with periods of losing streak – when everything goes awry. It is simply the strength or force gained by motion or series of events [Merriam Webster dictionary]. In psychological terms we call it- Psychological momentum.

You normally hear people say– I found it difficult in the beginning but once I made the start I found the Momentum and everything started flowing.’ Or: `Somehow, I didn’t find the momentum today. Today was one of my OFF days.’ It is often described as gaining/ losing momentum during the course of a match or an on-going season.

The Royal Challengers Bangalore, a team that takes part in the IPL T-20 cricket format every year somehow never gained momentum this 2017 season and slumped to the bottom of the table. Momentum can always be revived: like the Pakistan cricket team did to reverse its fortunes to win the ICC Champions trophy 2017. The Pak side lost miserably to India in the first match but later found the self-efficacy [A belief in the ability to perform the task successfully] and the momentum going in their favour. This is what happens to sides when they find their bearings right and are playing as a unit and are executing their plans well – they find this mysterious [momentum] force gaining from strength to strength and they are unstoppable. But, the opposite is also true- like what happened to the RCB.  When you are at the best of your momentum it is a state akin to the Flow or the Zone- when everything seems to be happening for you. The associated feelings are – sense of control, confidence, optimism, motivation, focus& energy.

It has happened in the past that in the course of a match-for some reason you start making errors lose points and games. Then you over analyse to rectify these mistakes and end up making more- you are at a loss for confidence, focus, optimism and hope. The result- You lose momentum and finally- you lose.

How to get your rhythm and momentum back during the course of a match?

Using the following techniques can help you bounce back to your momentum:                                       

  • Positive attitude and positive body language.
  • Relaxation techniques like slow and deep breathing
  • Present moment awareness 
  • Reduce outcome thinking
  • Break the rhythm of the opponent
  • Slow down your game
  • Believe in your strength
  • Change tactics
  • Keep hope& optimism alive
  • Hang on.

References:

  1. Live science- The reality of momentum in sports- Dan Peterson 6-10-08
  2. Flow- Czsikszentmihalyi.M [1990].
  3. Jeff Greenwald article- ` Riding the wave of momentum.

 

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com.

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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Happiness is the secret of champions

Anirban LahiriAt the end of a magnificent final round, Anirban Lahiri finished with a career best tied second at The Players Golf tournament at Murfield village, Dublin USA recently. Speaking to reporters later, he made a few important remarks that highlight’s a remarkable change in his approach- that which could impact his future, positively. He said` I am really happy the way I played out there. I haven’t played well in the last couple of months. I’ve been pretty harsh on myself. I’ve beat myself up pretty bad. Coming to this week I decided to be nice to myself go out there and enjoy my golf which I felt wasn’t happening as often as it should. So I just went out and had fun. When you push yourself harder it works against you and I wasn’t in a good frame of mind: I think that’s what changed this week.’  [Agencies TOI].

In this highly stressful and competitive world of sport, athletes set mighty goals for themselves, sometimes- attainable and sometimes lofty and unrealistic. All is well as long as success [victories] keep coming their way but when it is in the contrary- they feel frustrated, sad, depressed and harsh on them [like Anirban did]. Though everyone competes to win, some of the athletes have this strong affinity to say- only a victory [success] makes me happy.’

When you hit a purple patch- the taste of success is sweet but, when you hit a lean patch you are in all sorts of trouble- you are a victim of your own negative feelings and emotions.

Performers of all kind are governed by moods and emotions depending on how they perceive the situation. Moods are those that change constantly but can linger for a longer period of time. Generally the moods and feelings of the athlete prior to the contest indicate the likelihood of success. Proper activation and positive feelings associated by: Alertness, adequate excitation, elation& happiness, calmness & relaxation are generally known to enhance performance.  Whereas deactivation and negative feelings like fatigue, lethargy, depression, sadness, stress, nervousness, muscle tension are known to debilitate performance.[ The Circumplex model of affect – Russell 1980( do:10.1037/ hoo7714].

When Anirban Lahiri decided to go out there to have fun and enjoy his game he would have carried with him positive moods [happiness thro’ fun & enjoyment] and feelings- which definitely could have assisted his performance. Anirban is also a known practitioner of Transcendental meditation- that which promotes mood and relaxation. And golf is a game of the smooth and easy as against tension and perfection. The smoother the better.

Many elite athletes have made the moods and feelings like happiness – their own recipe for success and they know that success comes with happiness and not the other way round. They have learnt to take defeats & victories, setbacks& progress in the same breath and not let their shortfalls come in their way of happiness [fun and enjoyment].

Aries Merritt is 110 m hurdler from USA is a gold medal winner in the London Olympic games 2012 and is also a world record holder for the same category @ 12.80 seconds. In the year 2013, tragedy struck and he was diagnosed with a congenital kidney disease – focal segmental glomerulo sclerosis. He needed a kidney transplant. Four days prior to his kidney transplant at the World IAAF championships in Beijing China, he won a bronze medal. After his surgery and recovery he returned to win the Diamond league IAAF 110 m hurdle event. Despite all his tragedy and struggle he has remained happy and cheerful. The video below shows the happier side of Aries Merritt.

`Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful– Albert Schweitzer.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com.

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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Novak Djokovic is accused of tanking

novak-djokovic-2017-french-open
Image from IBT, Australia

The shocking quarter final defeat of Novak Djokovic at the hands of Dominic Thiem of Austria @ The French Open has left the Tennis world in total disbelief. Novak lost 7-6[5] 6-3 6-0. What has baffled everyone is the way in which Novak succumbed meekly to the less fancied Thiem in the last set that lasted just 20 minutes. And now Novak Djokovic has been accused of tanking away the third set to Thiem.  Would you believe it?

The word tank [container] cannot be a Simile with anything associated with sport but tanking as an act is not uncommon in sports. Many teams and individuals have been accused previously for this un-sportive gesture of tanking away a game.

Tanking [courtesy: Sports pundit] is a term used to describe a match lost by a player on purpose. It exposes the deliberate act of colluding, favouring or assisting the opponent in a partisan way.

A team can lose intentionally to another team by not fielding its best players who were available for the contest. It can also mean that a whole team or some of its players can play poorly or collude with the opposition in other ways to see that the opposite team is benefited. In this case it is called match fixing– a scandalous way of surrendering the ethics in favour of money.

It can also be as a result as a part of boredom [staleness] or anger-[for various reasons- injustice, ill- luck, favouritism, racism etc] – when a player deliberately throws in the towel without a whimper.

What could have happened in Novak’s case?

Novak, who has grown in difficult times in a war torn Serbia has seen all the challenges life can throw at you – that has made him humble as anyone can be. He is also known to be a polite, simple and down-to- earth individual. The video below talks of his humility on court – even if it were to be for a ball boy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdbkxXn7L3s

Novak who has risen to the highest echelons of this gruelling unforgiving tennis world wouldn’t fetter away from all that he built- out of sweat, blood and tears- for nothing. For sure he is not the candidate for Tanking, look somewhere. But, this match will throw suspicions at you- that’s for sure.

Then what was the reason?

According to Jim Courier a former French open champion- ` Novak showed no fight and may be it was partly down to the windy conditions. Novak despises playing in the wind. He really seemed to accept the outcome well before it was conclusive.’ [AGENCIES, TOI 08/06/17]. Could that be the reason- probably? Let’s give the expert his due.

Whatever you are seeing is just the tip of the ice berg

All said – we cannot simply pooh-pooh the idea that something greater is bothering this great player. People say he is going through a lot mentally and there is nothing wrong with him physically. For whatever reason, he has changed his coach and is already in to rough weather with his newly appointed on-trial-basis coach Andre Agassi. It could be even with his personal life. The truth should lie somewhere in the closet of Novak’s mind- you never know.

But, all this taking a toll on Novak’s game – a once Federer tamer is now losing to lesser known’s. FATE is known to play cruel games with everyone without discrimination. Huh! Novak of all people is now accused of tanking.

But, for his diehard fan- he is still too good to be lost and is eager to see him back with his winning ways.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com.

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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Self- talk improves sports performance

Serena Williams

When I finished reading the article ` Talking to yourself isn’t weird, it helps you to perform better, that appeared in Times trends [TOI] by Rhian Lubin on 06/05/17 – my thoughts went back to my own playing days: As a batsman I had this tendency of misjudging the ball and got out playing wrong shots. To correct this, I used to tell myself before every ball- ` watch the ball – play to the merit of the ball. When this became a habit, I became more judicious and thereafter- more successful.

Human beings, with very little exception, have this habit of talking to themselves. Earlier, when we noticed a person on the street speaking to the self: we used to call him `insane. Within sanity: talking to oneself now, is regarded by science as smart’ and even beneficial. Psychologists have come out saying that talking to oneself is a form of intelligence. Smart people are known to do a lot of self-talking: it is reported even Albert Einstein did it.

There is a two way communications happening all the time inside: between our good self and that little fella inside our head. It can happen in two ways: talking to that voice silently or talking out loud. And this inner dialog is called- SELF TALK. You may have noticed when a Tennis match is in progress the player indulges in a lot of self-talk: if it is a singles match the player is not allowed to talk to anyone, even his coach [except himself- hee, hee]. Players abuse themselves loudly – `you fool how could you miss such an easy forehand, you are a loser, you stink, you are a choker, you are useless, I am no good etc or the players can swear under the breath silently. When a player gets angry, anxious, nervous and afraid, the negative thoughts that follows leads to physiological changes in the body-that can be detrimental to performance. When thoughts are positive they enhance performance but when they are contrary they cause negative emotions to debilitate performance.

 What we say constantly to our inner voice, whether it is complimentary or contradictory – it is accepted sincerely by our sub-conscious mind and that is what we become over longer periods of time. So, we have to be very careful with our self-talk.

Shad Helmstetter, PHD writes in his book what to say when you talk to yourself– ` You will become what you think about most, your success or failure in anything large or small will depend on your programming, that is – what you say to yourself and what you hear from others.’

When faced by pressure of competition self- statements made out of desperation like- `I must win this match, I mustn’t lose to this player, I have to win otherwise what will people say- adds more pressure and anxiety to the situation that sends the performance in to a down spiral. Negative self-talk, like- ` I don’t want to choke or `I am not mentally weak or `I am not a loser or `I don’t want to lose to that player- will be accepted literally by the sub-conscious and the results will be in accordance with it. Instead these statements should be converted in to positive statements like- I want to be relaxed and confident or I am mentally strong or I am a winner or I can win against this player.

Self – talk can also be in the form of Cue words like- strong, easy, focus, calm, relax, fight, I can etc- urging the mind-body to follow a certain pattern in that instant.

Positive Self- talk can also be used in the form of affirmations like- ‘I am a winner’ or ‘I am proud of myself and my abilities’ or ‘I play well under pressure’, ‘I love myself’ or ‘I am always confident’.

The everyday motivational self-talk must be. – EVERYDAY IN EVERYWAY,  I AM GETTING BETTER AND BETTER.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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IPL: Where the fearless dare

Rana
Nitish Rana, Mumbai Indian (IPL 2017)

A team does well whenever its members perform well. That is why a Team is referred to as a group of people [individuals] who interact with each other to accomplish shared objectives [Carron& Hausenblaus 1998]. Whenever individuals jell together there is cohesion [togetherness] and good team spirit follows: this reflects on the team’s performance. But it is often the case that one or more individual performances are highlighted in the team’s victory- leaving you with a feeling that these performances were solely responsible for the wins. You are helplessly forced to accept this fact.

The IPL– Indian premier league [cricket] is one such tournament that has produced sterling individual performances since its inception a decade ago. Over the years the IPL has witnessed consistent performances from the likes of M.S Dhoni, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, Gautham Gambhir, Ab De Villiers, David Warner, Shikar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, R.Uthappa, B McCullam, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dwyne Bravo, R Ashwin, Malinga, Bumrah, K.Pollard, Rohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma and a few others.

But, this edition of IPL has showcased brilliant stand out performances from others – the unsung and the unfamiliar, I can easily recall the names of Sanju Sampson, Shreyas Iyer, Rishab Pant, Hashim Amla, Chris Lynn, Sunil Naraine, The Pandyas- Hardik & Krunal, Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Tripathi, Nitish Rana, Ben Stokes, Andrew Tye, Nathan Coulter Nile, Umesh Yadav, Jayadev Unadkat, Rashid Khan, Karn Sharma, Dan Christian, Imran Tahir and Mitchell McClenaghan. Most of these players didn’t come up with a big reputation, but with this IPL they threw their weight around and delivered when it mattered. To hear from Stephen Fleming the chief coach of the Pune Rising Pune Super Giant- ‘We are not a skilled side in the IPL, but we have had some players stand up from nowhere. We take pride in that.’ 

In a T-20 game, it requires, apart from skill and execution, some special qualities to stand up and deliver when the odds are stacked against you. When you are a batsman you need to go for big shots even when the required run rate is going up, use common sense, be selective with your shots and defend your wicket in the process. As a bowler you need to vary your- pace, line and length all the time. At times you end up bowling juicy full tosses trying some toe breaking Yorkers and are taken to the cleaners. But, Yorkers are effective in the death overs and you have no other option but to try them. Though, there are champion bowlers who shine against challenges, when it is a hard life for the others out there in a batsman’s world.

Whether it is a bowler or a batsman- these are exceptional players who take the courage to come out of the comfort zone and the risks while others don’t. Winners are those who simply do things what others won’t.

These are set of players who are known for their bravery, courage, daring and fearlessness. They are confident enough to take the risks without being fearful of the negative consequences. A person normally doesn’t step out of his comfort zone because he is afraid to take chances-fearing failure. Bravery is overcoming fear. For, Bravery never goes out of fashion. Bravery is the Buzz word for success in IPL.  IPL is for the brave and not the weak hearted. May this tribe of the fearless thrive to provide unlimited entertainment to all its fans.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com

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IS WINNING AN OBSESSION?

Serena Williams

People across various walks of life are obsessed in to doing things repeatedly: like the compulsion to be cleaner, to be more careful, make more money, and be perfect, be slim fit and healthy so on and so forth. There can always be an unreasonable idea, a sense of insecurity or any other compelling motivation behind these behaviors.

In this modern world everybody likes to win in the endeavors they undertake. But, many are obsessively compelled to win each and every time. Though this does not have to be the yardstick for every successful human being many are led to think this way

The words of these successful people justify the statement. Winning isn’t everything it is the only thing– Vince Lombardi, coach. Winning is the most important thing in my life after breathing: winning first breathing next– George Steinbrenner, successful American businessman and owner of New York Yankees baseball team.  People just don’t understand how obsessed I am with winning– Kobe Bryant famous basketballer.

In sport, athletes compete for various reasons but the most compelling reason would be to keep winning and make lots and lots of money. One should not forget that sport has been a popular vehicle to the impoverished youth who have been through poverty, adversity and discrimination- to carve a niche for them. Winning that promises lots of fringe benefits becomes an obsession to them to edge out the future insecurities.

Serena Williams the undisputed queen of women’s tennis and the winner of the highest grand slam titles in open era 39 [23 singles, 14 doubles, and 2 mixed doubles] has gone through a lot in her life- humble background, racism, sexism etc.

To Serena winning became an obsession. Not that she didn’t have the other qualities of a champion, apart from her achievement motivation, but the desire  she possessed to bow out as the greatest ever tennis player: to prove to herself and her detractors wrong- was always burning in her heart. She fought like a lady who was possessed- she had to keep winning to keep the fire burning

Returning to the circuit after giving birth to a baby, Serena did something only few have achieved- coming back from motherhood to enter the finals of the US Open [2018]. So dominant has been her performance throughout her illustrious career that winning to her had become a formalityeverybody expected her to win and not lose. But they knew she was not immortal and would have to hang her boots sometime or the other: but when and how? Would she bow out gracefully or unwillingly? These were the questions pondering in the minds of her die-hard fans.

For all that Serena has achieved she was expected to hang up gracefully, but what happened in the US Open finals was contrary to expectations. Serena met her nemesis in the 20 year old first time grand slam finalist Naomi Osaka who played exceptional tennis to out play the champion 6-2, 6-4.

It was an event marred by emotional outbursts by Serena. During the match Serena was penalized thrice by the tough cookie umpire Carlos Ramos-first for being coached from the side-lines, second for arguing with the referee and calling him a thief  and finally for throwing a tantrum and smashing her racket.

Serena’s behavior proved that she ended up as a poor loser – who refused to accept the stark reality that her journey had to end someday. She has been so much obsessed with being the champion that she couldn’t believe her career was coming to an end. Billie Jean King another great player of the yesteryear’s said- a champion is afraid of losing: everyone is afraid of winning.

Modern day players do not go with Rudyard Kipling’s words that say- ` if you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat these two imposters just the same…’  

It is said the pain in losing is bigger than the pleasure of winning- the disappointment of losing to a 20 year old was huge for Serena but losing her emotional stability was a setback for a player of her stature- will you blame it on the obsession to win? The determination to win is a positive trait until it is stretched too far.