It will be over-the-top to say that one player merely reading a book on the mental aspect of sports helped India beat Pakistan to a hockey gold medal at the recent Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea recently.
But India hockey goalkeeper PR Sreejesh did admit that reading and carrying Dr Rudi Webster’s Think Like a Champion benefited him in no small measure in the build-up to the event.
Sreejesh came up with some breathtaking saves as India beat Pakistan 4-2 via the shoot-off for the Asiad gold after 16 years.
The mental side of sport is either ignored or not taken as seriously as it should be in Indian sport and that is what can separate the good from the very good; the stalwarts from the true greats. Noted sports psychologist Dr BP Bam has worked extensively and wonderfully with our shooters, but there has to be more embracement of this vital aspect.
Reading the right kind of books and possessing good reference material is critical too. It is believed that Sunil Gavaskar used to go through the list of county bowlers who he would face on his tours to England and make it a point to find out more about their strengths and weaknesses before he took the field to face them. Gavaskar was a great reader during his playing days and his reading taste was not restricted to cricket.
Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman were known to be keen readers when they piled on big runs for India. Laxman’s favourite book was Sacred Hoops written by former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson, while Dravid read an array of books after being truly inspired by what he read in Sunil Gavaskar’s autobiography Sunny Days in his formative years.
Back to hockey. While the team is surrounded by some highly skilled individuals like Terry Walsh (chief coach), MK Kaushik (coach), Jude Felix (assistant coach) and high performance director Roelant Oltman, India’s hockey bosses would do well to include a mental expert. After all, they have now qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics.