Footprints from Formative years:
During my school years, I was an introvert who didn't have many friends. My mother almost forced me to join a Trekking Club when I was in 10th grade, and I believe, looking back, she saw that I would need certain influences from outside of my house that would and could form my personality. At our trekking club, we had a trekking instructor named Bhide sir. And as it happened one fine day, we had decided to organize a small social gathering. There were about 20-25 of us there, the coach called me amongst everyone out of the blue and told me that you are going to be the Secretary of that entire social gathering. That I was going to be in charge of organizing this whole thing. And this one single incident actually changed me because I realized that somebody was ready to believe in me. And from that point on, I recall becoming a really friendly outgoing person, more relaxed, more fun-loving, confident and a happy-go-lucky person, and I believe that being introduced by my mother to the trekking club was one of the major turning points in my early life.
The second important incidence occurred following my post-graduation. One of my early-education apart from psychology studies was ‘orthodontics’. My father was a doctor and since he was a doctor, I just happened to say “I’ll be an orthodontist” when he asked me what I wanted to do after my 12th grade, without really knowing whether it was the right fit for me. I didn't have anything that was inspiring me nor there were any career counselors at that time and who could give me an idea of what I needed to do.
I began my practice in 1998 after receiving my post-graduate degree, I also recall being really outraged at that time, not only over India's hockey loss in the Olympics, but also over the Kargil conflict. I felt a strong need and desire to do something for the country. In September 2001, there was an article by the then chief of Army staff, General S. Padmanabhan who said something that completely changed my life. He said that, “if we can't win at sports, we can't win wars.” It really struck me hard. It was there in the paper that came as a headline, I had cut that newspaper article and I'm proud to say that today even after 22 years that original cutting is on my office wall which I see every day. That was the day in 2001 when I realized that this is my calling. This is what I want to do. Of course, without realizing what I was getting into, or not realizing the challenges, the resistances, or the prejudices that people had in general about the mental part of performance & mental fitness, and most importantly, about the difficulty of making this passion into a profession. But yes, these are the two early factors that shaped me into who I was as a person and the profession that I am in today.
Beyond the Barricades:
I think the biggest challenge for me was transitioning from one profession to another, especially in a profession which was not established. Because in 2001-2003, mental coaching and sports psychology were essentially non-existent in India, indeed all over the world. The hardest issue, I believe, was the concerns that I used to have about whether or not I was doing the right thing. Because it's great to follow your passion and witness all of that but the truth remains that you cannot play with money, right? Finally, you must preserve a specific way of life. You have a family to feed. You must meet their expectations. And whenever you shift from one profession to another, there is bound to be a downturn, there is bound to be a transition period and how you mentally hold onto the periods of doubt, anxiety, and sleeplessness. All of these events taught me a lot about myself, and I believe that understanding has made me a better person because I have realized and understood who exactly I am as a person, what my attitude is, and what my prejudices are. I've realized my own limitations, I've realized my own abilities, and I believe it's because I could go through that fire despite the difficulties I suffered, as I changed in numerous areas
A huge lesson for me was that if you have that drive within you, that inner motivation, that goes beyond the external motivations of results and money- it is this path that you are meant to take. I believe that force is tremendous, that energy is tremendous, and that it has the ability to fight off all of the challenges that you will face during those turbulent times, and I believe that has been my greatest learning and that it is something that I believe people should know, because most of them fail at the start. The beginning is the most difficult because you're transitioning and you'll meet a lot of failures, but the biggest failure you'll face temporarily, if at all, will be that of your mind because the mind will be at war against you and construct a defense system that will stop you. And this is how you get around it. That is the hardest and the most difficult battle for people. And I believe so, given the awareness that I will have to wage a conflict within myself rather than one with the outer world. I believe it is an important lesson for all individuals to go out and do what they truly believe in and dream for.
Finding the Passion-fuelled Purpose:
I think any team is an amalgamation of different personalities, different behavioral traits, different thought processes, different life experiences, different histories and the greatest challenge when you're working with any teams is how you make them as a cohesive unit, how you optimize their individual performance and more importantly, align that to a common goal and I think it’s a great challenge whether it's a junior or a senior team. One of my areas of work involves helping players be aware of their own mindsets and helping them be aware of the people or the individuals that are around them and whom they will have to play with, whether they like each other or not. The simplest mantra for this is that you might not be the best of friends, but you got to be the best of teammates and I think this is what drives teams to perform optimally.
The second focus area is what our team ethos are, what our values are, what is our process and what are our approaches. For me this is very important as it becomes the base on which the team is going to function. Bringing out clarity and understanding of the values, making them clear to the team, their thoughts on the values or the ethos of the team or how they're being interpreted, all this is a very important part of binding everyone together towards the common goal.
And third is finally is to breakdown the goals of a team more than from a result point of view. One is, of course, to get success or achieve a title, but in my view the number one title, that a team should be aspiring for is to be the best version of themselves individually and collectively.
'My Mental Coach' and its irreplaceable Values:
Yes, ‘my mental coach’ is something that I'm really excited about from the time I started my mental coaching practice. I quickly realized that this is something that you can't just teach through books or conventional teaching techniques. Because any coaching is an art and a science. The science is what we can teach, but how can you teach the art of coaching? So, you cannot replicate yourself beyond a certain limit and I think that is why I was very clear that whether it's a junior athlete or a senior athlete, I'm going to obviously give my full undivided focus to that player to help him perform to his potential. And therefore, for a long period of time, I was happy working as a single person company. However, I realized this later, especially during covid phase that more the awareness that was being created on the subject matter more the students & aspiring athletes started seeking & persuading their parents asking for mental health training. I realized that I needed to do something about it and that's where the digital technology came to the fore. That's where my “mental coach” was born. And I'm really excited because it is allowing me to realize my vision of ensuring that mental training should not be privy to only those athletes who can afford it or those who are residing in the urban areas, I want mental training to be as easily accessible as physical training. And therefore, I want to innovate democratized mental training, so it becomes accessible to all and not want any athlete to be left behind or be deprived of the mental training.
Although, we are seeing great days in sports and how well we’re doing in every Olympic or any big Championship like the Commonwealth Games, the fact of the matter is that 90 to 95 percent of teen athletes get out of the sports by the age of 18 years which is a big number. Ever thought why is that happening. Why those athletes are stepping out of sports at such an age? Athletes who are unbelievably talented and have been categorized under Top 50 -100 Indian Athletes, despite having supportive parents who have sacrificed a lot for these talented children. What is going so wrong that they prefer to get out of the sport? The most influential factor surely is the inability to manage their emotions. They do not know how to manage themselves under pressure and how to manage themselves as a person & as a player or how to achieve that ideal balance between the studies and sports. And I think this is where ‘my mental coach’ can really add value to those athletes and let them have their best chance of succeeding at the highest level. So, that has become my next purpose now, and I'm very happy to share with you that we've recently tied up with ‘Shikhar Dhawan,’ through his venture ‘Da One Sports,’ which is a sporting venture, and we have partnered with them as their mental coaching partners. I look forward to connecting with and working with thousands of athletes and help them in this journey through this venture. Also, we have now started looking for like-minded organizations, academies, coaches, athletes, parents etc. to ensure that they too inculcate this as a natural part of an athlete's training routine and not see this as a problem which requires to be solved. Don’t see it through a problematic perspective, because it is not. There's no problem that you're trying to solve, it is just one area along with the technical and physical areas that you are optimizing to help you perform to the best of your potential. That's another mindset shift that I would want people to have when they look at mental training and that's what is exciting and I'm really excited about.
Sources for my Powerful Lessons:
For me, my experience over the years in doing so many things that I have been doing has been my greatest mentor. I cannot specifically pinpoint any one person as a mentor. But I can surely say that, there have been so many people who have shaped me as a better person. Starting from my parents, my dad and my mom, my early trekking teacher Bhide sir, and so many other people whom I have worked with in the past and even now, and all of them have shaped me and all of them are therefore my mentors.
I feel that your first mentor should be your experiences. And then, based on those experiences, after defining who you are as a person and knowing what mistakes you have made, a person can then seek a mentor.
This is how I perceive mentors and how I have approached individuals whom I mentor. It's all about helping them channelize their energies into having all the experiences that they believe in, and learning from those successes and failures. Because at the end of the day, everyone is looking for success, but I think the paradigm of success needs to change. And for me that has been the greatest learning that if you change your outlook towards success, you will start getting success every single day. You will be successful every day by going on that path itself. I feel therefore that this is the primary life lesson that I share with whosoever connects to me and this is something that I thought I would want to share with you.
A message for our readers:
Thank you for having me here. It's been wonderful. And I congratulate WAHStory for a great Journal that they have made for a fantastic platform for people to not only share their experiences for but for other people to be inspired in some way. And, you know, there's always so much that we can learn from each other. I have also learned a lot of lessons from the stories that I have read on this platform; from what other people have done in their life. It’s a great platform indeed, Congratulations for that. And thanks a lot for having me at WAHStory. Thank you.
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