To these prodigies consistency will be the key

Anish-Bhanwala-pistol

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.

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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