Not many can boast of making a career in something they love. With 95% of the people I know in my age-group opting to make their career in studies, I feel unique taking up a sport seriously. Although it is risky, I felt it was the right choice. Many people look at me bewildered when I prioritise sports over academics. The love for the sport makes it all worth it.
However, being a sportsperson is not always rewarding. This is more so in a country where to gain recognition and support for sports is difficult. In light of this, facing failures makes one question the very motivations which built the love for the game too.
I have attended selections 8 times and failed in the first four attempts.
It felt I wasn’t good enough to be playing higher levels. I questioned my own abilities. At my present stage too, having represented my city and state, there is pressure from everywhere to perform.
Coaches and other senior officials are left distraught when I under-perform and I have no choice but to listen to their wrath – I am picked on when I don’t do well. Added to this is the pressure I put on myself – I have to be exceptional at what I do and I should be noticed for my capabilities. Giving up the academic life should not be in vain. All this contributes to me not playing with a free mind, without any pressure or expectations. Emotional turnovers are a part and parcel of my life – I go back home jubilant if I’ve performed and sulk when I have had a bad day.
These rough patches have made me doubt my ability, I have been afraid of reaching nowhere. I have even felt negatively about the game I love so much that it caused me to under-perform. Mentally, I have taken a beating number of times. Although my physical efforts were a 100% in, mentally and emotionally I was low.
Being a sportsperson is like a rollercoaster ride. Rewards are extremely rewarding but to get to that, I have gone through terrible phases in my young career. It is during times like these that I turn towards sources of support.
My coaches who reinforce self-belief saying I am capable of demolishing oppositions single-handedly, my family who has made me understand that negatives come with the positives, and me – I have always told myself I have the capability to come back stronger after a rough time. I read stories of legendary sportspersons fight career threatening injuries or phases of underperforming and I watch many motivational videos available on the net.
If I have to assess this situation from a distance, I feel psychological well-being is the essence to any sport. Each person’s threshold of stress differs and they need support accordingly.
It’s important to channelise every move you make into positive thought. This would make a sportsperson mentally and emotionally well balanced and prepared for the best as well as the worst. Even after a failure, the brighter side needs to be brought out.
I chose to write this note because I have fallen in (and at times still fall in) what I call emotional pits. This is not just me, many of my friends have quit the game due to their experiences. I have observed them to be unable to effectively address failures and build the mental toughness required by the sport.
I feel a sportsperson has to live up to a lot many expectations and prove himself/ herself in a society which wants to see proof of performance for a road that’s not usually taken.
When I see what I and my friends have gone through, I feel so strongly about the need to involve psychological experts to work with young players. A lot of talented persons who are up on top with respect to technique miss out on opportunities because they can’t deal with the pressure. Professional psychological support can help streamline each and every thought and action of an individual in a positive way towards achieving their respective goals.
The dialogue on mental health facilities should not just be limited to hospitals, corporate sectors, schools etc. I feel a lot many times, sportspeople miss out.
Psychological support is extremely necessary at every stage of a sportsperson’s career – from building a career in the sport, to sustaining the pressures along the way and most importantly, to dealing with failures. I have gone through bad times and come out of it. There are still times when I feel extremely low and pressured. Although I’ve understood how to stay mentally strong now after many bad experiences, I definitely feel I would have been a much better player than I am with effective psychological support at earlier stages of my career. I don’t see anything of this sort yet but I hope to see it in the near future so that we can have healthier, happier and more successful players from our country.