The proper use of the mind separates champions from good players. To handle pressure, you must think clearly and sensibly. The top players know how to think, how to concentrate and what to do in tough situations - Psychologist Rudi Webster quotes Garry Sobers as saying in his book, Winning Ways
At the highest level, sportspersons are faced with many pressures on their journey to peak of glory. Generally, the ones who are mentally tough navigate through the slumps better than those who are weak in their minds. They are the ones who scale the peaks, while the fragile minded fall by the wayside.
In other words, players with the requisite ‘mental toughness’, are more likely to be successful in their sport.
Sports is laced with many such examples, where players are at their peak of their careers one moment and then falling into depths of unfathomable lows. Lack of mental help has left many potential great athletes bite the dust of mediocrity.
This is where the role of sports psychology has garnered importance in modern times.
Sports psychologists help sportsmen to enhance their skills, cope with competitive pressures, fine-tune the level of awareness needed for optimal performance, and stay focused amid many distractions.
Sports psychology has had a long association with the game of cricket. Recently, Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise, Kolkata Knight Riders appointed Dr Rudi Webster as the mental skills coach ahead of the fifth season of the cash-rich league.
The West Indian influenced the careers of many great players like Viv Richards, Greg Chappell, Brian Lara and also have helped Team India during their tour of West Indies in 2007.
The 72-year-old transformed the Clive Lloyd-led West Indies team that was thrashed 1-5 Down Under in 1975-76 into battle-hardened warriors and within two years helped the side register a series win in Australia for the first time.
Webster was also instrumental in lifting Viv Richards from the dumps and converting him into one of the most explosive batsman in the history of the game.
Greg Chappell had a nightmarish run against the West Indies registering seven ducks in the summer of 1980. The Australian became so despondent and depressed that he considered quitting the game.
A timely advice from Webster saw a major reversal in the fortunes of the former Australian skipper. Immediately after the West Indies tour, Australia went to New Zealand and Greg scored three centuries in four matches.
In the current scenario, sports psychologists play an important part in the careers of sportspersons. They help players manage their stress, clear doubts, instill self-belief, overcome anxiety, manage expectations and handle pressure.
Sports-psychologist help sportsmen recognise destructive emotions like fear, impatience and disappointment, and provide solutions as how to prevent them and deal with them when they are present.
In a way, sports psychologist help players understand themselves better and make them see things more clearly which helps them stay protected from cracking under pressure.