Tackling The Real Opponent: The Mental Health Of Athletes

Despite an emphasis on participation and excellence, achieving success and avoiding failures takes centre stage for one and all.

Physical fitness and sport-specific training have always been considered the most crucial factors for success in sports. With a new scientific approach, strength and conditioning of muscles, groups specific to the sport and working with a physiotherapist to prevent and recover from injuries. Masseur and alternative therapies to recover fast for trainings and competitions have also picked up in recent times to perform at the best. Sports nutrition with what, when and how much to eat has also caught the attention of coaches, parents and players. But in spite of all these efforts, many a times players feel that they still couldn't find themselves performing at their best. Sometimes pre-competition pressures or fears caused due to anxiety that hinders the performance or sometimes their inability to focus due to distractions, anger and frustration make them lose the winning spot. At times freezing at the crucial moments due to the inability to make decisions makes all the difference.

The frustration of coaches, the helplessness of parents and unstable confidence of the player has paved way for understanding the role of the mind in their performance. Developing mental skills, same like physical and technical ones by using techniques and tools that empower athletes to lead through psychological barriers in the event, has made players from amateur to elite professional ones consider mental training as a crucial element in their preparation.

The crucial role of mind if left unattended

Sport is 10% physical and 90% mental wellbeing; this is well now understood well by players as well as their coaches and parents. How mind controls the body and despite working hard, the entire year, how a single negative thought “Will I be able to do it” ruins the efforts invested for an entire year. The power of the mind is debilitating one's performance at one end and facilitating the same with a winning edge on the other end. This proves how crucial it is to work on mental skill development. Role of mind is equally important in daily training as much as its importance in the competition phase. Daily stresses, slumps in confidence, wavering moods and emotions, a string of racing negative thoughts and physical symptoms of psychological issues are common struggles in the sporting world. The approach of contacting a sports psychologist just before the match/event has now been taken over by consulting the psychologist for regular weekly sessions to learn to manage the mind-body concerns and work on this connection.

Role of coaches and parents, as well as their impact on the psyche of the athlete, is also getting its due attention. While the mind of an athlete is most important, even the mind-set of their coaches and the parents are equally important. It is essential to create a holistic approach in bringing a change in their perspectives towards winning and success. Lack of time, lack of resources, myths that it is only for elite players have very much been wiped-out; the need of the hour is mental toughness training before playing the final match.

Sports player management now has sport psychology as an important element

Winning is still the biggest motivator for everyone involved in competitive sports. Despite an emphasis on participation and excellence, achieving success and avoiding failures takes centre stage for one and all. Whether one is playing an individual sport or a team sport, chief coach to subordinate coaches and sport science experts along with player's parents make a crucial part of the team which together influences the course of action for years along. Management of sports players involves binding the entire team strongly and keeping them on the same page is quite important. In this competitive world, increased exposure to international competitive events and leagues as well as advances in support from corporate as well as government sectors, the pressure to perform has become humongous on the sporting fraternity. With time, sports has moved from mere joy, a sense of satisfaction to pride and professionalism. The demand to perform is so strong that it comes with the tag of "Success at any cost”. But do we really need success at the cost of one's life? Mental health when disturbed affects one’s ability to recognize the self-potential gets bogged down by stress and being affected to contribute to society in general. A super talent wasted due to lack of intervention at the right time which could recover these challenges and bounce back to rediscover ones oneself and live life like never before would in a true sense stand the spirit of sport.

The mental health issue of an individual affects the same of their caregivers. Often parents and coaches are worn off physically as well as psychologically handling the players on daily bases. Lack of knowledge of how much it impacts the entire ecosystem and how much one can change this scenario by working on mental health status is the need of today's hour.

Sporting excellence at the cost of individual’s joy and happiness is a long lost story now. The new age theory is “No pain No Gain”, where survival of the fittest cannot just be on the basis of physical criteria but also on psychological aspects. Psychological well-being is the need of the hour. To sustain, retain and recuperate from these unseen challenges which if not tackled can cost a loss of real talent in this super talented country like India.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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