Indian table tennis player Achanta Sharath Kamal said we will have time to get form, fitness and touch back. Currently due to coronavirus pandemic all sports events has been suspended all over the world.
“I told the younger players that we need to accept the situation. Of course, we’ll lose shape, form, fitness, touch… everything. But, we will have time to get all that back once we come out of it (lockdown) as tournaments are not going to start anytime soon,” says the world No. 31.
Kamal has learned the mental conditioning from Dr Swaroop Savanur and how to stay calm when it is really challenging time for athletes to plan for training, travelling and games.
Savanur said that normally athletes talk him with the goal to win the competition but during this lockdown period the goals are focusing on the mental imagery techniques.
“The challenge during lockdown is unique because normally athletes are talking to me with the goal of a competition. But right now those goals are distant. The Olympics have been postponed and that uncertainty is leading to a lack of focus,” says Savanur.
“I am currently focusing on their metal imagery techniques by which they can maintain muscle memory, which is very crucial. So, when lockdown gets over, they will realise their muscle memory is not too far from what they thought would be after lockdown.”
“The way forward for elite players (like Sharath) in these times is to defocus. I tell them to defocus from the game, except for 3-4 hours when they should be doing what their trainers want them to do. They should become normal persons after that where they are not thinking about anything remotely connected with their sport. Because if you try to think about the game too much, uncertainty can get to you,” says Savanur.
As India enforced the lockdown in the last week of March to control the growing pandemic. Before that Sarath Kamal won silver medal at the Hungarian Open and he also won Oman Open earlier this year. He is currently India’s highest ranked player in men’s singles.
“For me, personally, there was a lot of anxiety about qualifying for the Olympics. The corona situation added to it. But then I was told (by my mental trainer) that I cannot be anxious about things not in my control. The important thing is to keep yourself positive which is very important, especially in these difficult times. While earlier the goal was about improving my game and mental toughness, now it is more about sustaining ourselves, remaining positive,” says Sharath, a record nine-time national singles champion.
Kamal has said all the players across the world are not able to practice as they would want to in this lockdown period. But he believes that once the pandemic ends players will have some time to get back in shape.
“We are not alone in this race; all the players around the world are not able to practice as they would want to. But we will have time once things clear up… If we start training in June, we’ll have three solid months to (July, August and September) to get back in shape before the competitive season begins,” he says.
However, the restriction have eased but Kamal feels it is too early to start training. For him staying safe is more important than sports.
“I feel it is too early. Training can wait until the situation improves significantly.”
“During the early days of the lockdown, I said to myself, ‘I must do this, I must do that; I must keep myself fit’. I was completely driven towards my fitness goals,” he says.
“But soon reality dawned. Stuck in the apartment with not much equipment, I realised I couldn’t do much. So, the next best thing was: whatever little I do, I should do it to the best of my ability. I kept myself in constant touch with my mental trainer, called him once every week, indulged in a bit of yoga, which was my childhood passion until it got lost in the humdrum of travel and competition.”