Mental health issues the latest sad but true phenomenon in the world of sport. The recent spurt of taking a break from the game by the Australian cricketers, led by Glenn Maxwell, is something which is a big cause of concern for sports persons across the world. It is said that the relentless schedule, intense public scrutiny and the fear of failure were problems that led to spurt in these issues, and that needs to be addressed urgently. Many of the players are stepping aside, unable to cope with pressure. Down in India, many sportspersons have quit sport citing mental fatigue. It is emerging as a key challenge for modern-day sportspersons. It is true that sports has become physically and mentally challenging.
Former Hyderabad fast bowler Puravu Harimohan says it is the fear of failure that has taken a toll on many sports persons’ career. “It is all about the support system and in this issue parents play a pivotal role in shaping their children’s career. Some children experience difficulties with regards to his/her mental health. They tend to lose confidence and that leads to frustration. A child should not be put into intense scrutiny. One has to understand the challenges before thinking to win. Putting pressure on children is a futile exercise,” he says.
There will be pressure around to perform but it doesn’t mean putting a child’s career at stake. When you overdo it, it leads to mental health issues, says Prof Dr Maj S Bakhtiar Choudhary, Sports Medicine specialist. “There are a lot of emotional issues during the making and becoming a successful sportsperson. A sportsperson has to look into many things like how will s/he do or will s/he win or whether s/he will be in the team or not. There are so many issues that go into a sportsperson before one becomes successful. Then, after achieving success, the next part is about how to stay at the top with same intensity. That plays a big part. It takes heavy load. It weighs on your success and failure.”
Choudhary further adds that one should not work beyond capacity; otherwise, it will lead to frustration. “Taking a break depends on the performance. If you are successful and taking a break, like how Indian captain Virat Kohli did recently, is one thing and taking a break for failing is another thing. The latter leads to frustration and that damages a sportsperson psychologically,” he says.
Syed Mohammad Arif, Dronacharya awardee and veteran badminton coach, feels that the word ‘pressure’ is around in any game. “Sometimes the hectic schedule, failures or too much work load can lead to mental health issues. The brave can only be successful and sometimes these successful persons also succumb to mental and physical fatigue.’’
Arif says in modern era, sports person are not accepting failure. “They take it to hurt. Sacrifice is the key and how many are willing to work to reach the top. In the past, they played a lot of passion but nowadays the huge prize money has put the pressure on young sportsperson. They want to success at any cost. I would blame the parents also who expect their children to be a Sindhu or Kohli or Saina. It is not possible. One should understand failure is a route to success. They should learn to lose first because this helps in becoming tougher in highly competitive international field.”
Choudhary adds one has to be open and honest with how they’re feeling and one should know that sport is always mentally and physically challenging. “Stress and anxiety are the biggest worries among sportspersons. These have to be addressed urgently. Some measures need to be introduced to help the players with their mental well-being.”
Injuries also lead to mentally illness among them. “It leads to stagnation of motivation. Man management is important and proper recovery exercises can help rebuild a career,” says the specialist.
Choudhary concludes by saying that one has to strike a balance and planning is the key here. “Sportspersons need support from parents and coaches. Expectations should be there for learning not winning. Enjoy the game and automatically performance will come. More than the talent, ability to work for a longer period of time helps a sportsperson to win and earn glory in international sport,” he adds.