The life of a sports person is a long hard drawn battle with the inner self. Left to itself the inner self is a competent master capable of delivering lethal blows that would pulverize the enemy in to submission, but when doubted, this master would be reduced to a humble slave to its pseudo master. By referring it to as the pseudo master, I am talking about our conscious thinking mind and the all pervading real master-as the inner self, that which has an infinite capacity beyond human imagination. More often the human being is a victim of the idiosyncrasies of the thinking mind: the pseudo master who jeopardizes the maximization of learned potential.
This is what most performers go through, especially so with sports persons- with all their innate abilities, effort, sacrifice, dedication and discipline, the ultimate result is not in line with their dreams, desires and expectations. There is something wrong! Ideally your best performance can be had when you are not thinking and you let your inner self [the subconscious] to do the rest. But is this possible in this world of intense competition, professional goals and big dreams?
The athlete is a victim of his own thoughts that would lead to poor self belief, lack of concentration, performance anxiety, pressure, stress and muscular tension. And it has mostly to do with the realm of the unknown and events that are yet to unfold- that lurking fear beneath – the fear of loss.
Even otherwise, the sports person has issues not related to his game [family, career, finances, relationships, injuries etc] that would heckle him constantly. The life of a professional athlete is a roller coaster ride, with highs and lows- threatened by uncertainty and anxiety- facing lots of pressure and expectations from outside and within.
It is sometimes too much for the individual to absorb all the pressure, however strong he appears to be. Remember, the greatest test for a person is when he is challenged by adversity and setbacks. This is when he looks around seeking professional help and it is then the sports psychologist steps in to perform the role of a friend, guide, motivator, counselor, therapist and a mind trainer.
Besides lending emotional support to the individual in various ways, the psychologist teaches the athlete techniques for enhancing performance-like assisting him to develop positive mindset, to be in the present, focusing on the process, and allowing things to happen. The athlete is also taught with breathing techniques, emotional regulation, handling pressure, goal setting, visualizing a positive outcome and mental toughness.
Recently British Tennis player Laura Robson announced that she is working with a sports psychologist Richard Hampson to help revive her injury prone career.
Formula one racing champion Nico Rosberg recently disclosed that he had worked with a sports psychologist before winning his first ever world championship racing title. Rosberg has said hiring a sports psychologist was one of the key factors for him claiming the world championship.
Nick Kyrgios, the rising Tennis star, has been found guilty of uncontrolled emotions and bad temperament on a few occasions and has now agreed to work with a sports psychologist to overcome these behaviors.
For years sports psychologists have worked with teams and individuals ranging from recreational, amateur, professional and Olympic athletes- helping them to enhance their performance and lending them emotional support.
Sports psychology and psychological skills training is an important cog in the performance wheel that deserves its rightful place.
M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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