It is a moment of reckoning for Indian sportspersons and never before they have confronted a huge and an unexpected challenge as COVID 19 , which has turned their world upside down. Faced by a pandemic, virtually the entire world has now entered an uncertain phase that is dominated by lockdowns, stopping of all forms of travel and a number of associated restrictions. In such a situation, the impact is particularly high for athletes and sportspersons who to stay mentally and physically fit, remain focused and energetic and be ready for competition once the situation improves.
The issue is compounded when world-class events like Wimbledon, the Olympics, IPL and major football leagues are either cancelled or postponed. Sportspersons who have meticulously planned their training schedules to peak during such events are now faced with a complete overhauling of their training programs. Tennis super stars such as Roger Federer and Serena Williams, who are hoping to keep tryst with destiny at Wimbledon or Indian cricketers , who were eyeing the lucrative IPL deals and shuttle queen P.V.Sindhu, who was gearing for Olympics, all are pushed to a corner, from which they need to think out of box and make the best use of this forced period of hiatus.
While there are the fortunate few who continue to train at sports camps under the supervision of their coaches, trainers and teammates, many others are not so lucky and have to work independently while stuck at home.
In such unusual circumstances what should sportspersons do?
The key is in building Resilience, says the Sports psychologist and mentor, M. Krishna Kumar, a Master USPTR tennis coach who has trained several hundred sportspersons, including Davis Cupper Vishnu Vardhan. According to him, resilience is the ability of our mind to bounce back from an emotionally disturbing experience or situation to meet the continually changing needs of the environment through a mix of flexibility and adaptation.
`` It would be stating the obvious to add that our resilience has never been tested more than in the present situation. Building resilience helps in overcoming the tribulations created by the pandemic situation, one that might likely continue for many weeks and months, says Krishna.”
How one goes about developing resilience? Establishing a proper Routine , reflecting on short term and long term goals and building a resolve to overcome the challenges are the three key factor needed to develop resilience. :
A sportsperson who is playing at the highest levels usually has a very stringent daily schedule that covers physical training and technical drills in addition to maintaining a strict regime of diet and sleep.
In periods of forced inactivity, there is a tendency to relax on the routines of the past. It is exceedingly important that they should not break any routine and where there are no facilities for training drills, develop innovative routine to compensate. `` As far as possible, despite constraints, I make sure that I do the necessary drills at home to keep my focus and fitness’’, says Sindhu.
During a hectic sports season, the sportsperson is hard pressed to take a step back for a review and reflection, given the hustle and bustle of continuous travel, high intensity training, the stress of competition and keeping track of rankings, there is often little time to reflect on the journey, without worrying about the destination. Improving levels of self-awareness can greatly contribute to this endeavour. Pro golfer, Anirban Lahiri views the lockdown as a respite to reflect and re-jig his career.
The sportspersons need to keep aside time every day to reflect on the activities that are needed to be done, the goals that have been set – both in the near and long term - and the challenges that might be present on the path. For instance, sportspersons could begin with this simple activity, suggests Krishna Kumar :
Find One challenging situation and ask Is your approach restricted to only one option. They can write what they think will be the worst case, the most probable and best-case scenario. They can, and then decide on the purposeful action to take. The Indian golfer, Aniban Lahiri says 11 the lockdown in a way is a welcome break for someone like me, who is on the tour circuit, to be at home with the family, it also gives me an opportunity to reflect on the game and plan for the future keeping in my mind , the changed scenario”
Selecting a course of action is not enough without the application of willpower. As the days progress, there is every chance that the original plan will be derailed, that the goals may dilute one’s resolve. Strengthening the resolve is essential to sustain the progress. `` During this trying phase, I am doing my best to keep myself self motivated’’ , says badminton ace Ashwini Ponnppa, who is making a bid to qualify for the Olympics in the women’s and mixed doubles .
The role of coaches and mentors also play an important role during this crucial period. , in the absence of on court training, many have adopted online training successfully to keep the athletes on track.
Thus combining routine with reflection and strengthening with resolve should help our sportspersons to build Resilience to conquer the sporting challenges that has come in the wake of Covid 19 crisis.