After his fourth back surgery, Tiger Woods who once walked in the golf course like a tiger, is staging one more comeback to competitive golf. Bracketed among the golfing legends for his 14 majors, there are major breakdowns in Tiger’s personal life, most of which originates from his mind. Reports clearly suggest that he resorted to drugs because of the excruciating pain in the back. In the late eighties Diego Maradona got into cocaine, used as anodyne to musk his ankle pain, being victim of savage tackles from Claudio Gentle, the butcher of Turin.
Significantly both the legends could not fight their pain with disciplined physical rehab. Their mind crumbled. And the story begins from here. Does disciplined physical training enhance mental strength?
To survive at the highest level, skill and remaining physically fit are two of the most important factors. However, it is the third factor – the mind that far overweighs the other two. I have heard that from most sportspersons. Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli both emerged from the same Achrekar school.
While the sheer mental discipline of Sachin stretched his career to 24 years, Vinod Kambli was done and dusted in 9 years. Sachin, during his extremely painful tennis elbow days had faith in the rehab protocol at NCA. He had a nagging pain in the feet. He cut down on his running schedule. He would swallow the pain and carry on his strengthening exercises. Kambli would dance, drink and throw tantrums when downswing enveloped his career.
I spent so many hours watching Rahul Dravid from close vicinity at the National Cricket Academy. Around 2009, he was struggling for runs. After finishing with his arduous physical training he would tirelessly work on his batting with the bowling machine. They said the machine got tired but not Rahul. The fruits of hard work eventually surfaced as runs kept flowing. Sandy Gordon, the Australian psychologist said that going through your rigorous physical training day in and day out itself develops mental toughness.
During your depressive spells, if you can hit the training arena with the same regularity and timing, then you are definitely working on your mind. Matthew Hayden the great Australian opener said, “Judge yourself the day you get a zero. Failure must not affect your usual activity.”
One afternoon in 2006, I was preparing to train Sourav Ganguly during his comeback days at the Eden Gardens. He was just expecting a call from South Africa as Irfan Pathan broke down in the ODI matches there. The news came that Laxman was called as replacement. A hugely dejected Ganguly perhaps was contemplating what’s the use of this physical grind?
I coaxed a glum faced Ganguly to get into the ground. After having trained like a dog he said, “Well, it’s a better feeling. The sense of dejection has disappeared. I am game for more challenge.”
Here Ganguly overcame his dejection to go through the training routine – that’s what Matthew Hayden preached. In that test series itself Ganguly was recalled.
After the 2012 Wimbledon, Roger Federer persevered to win another slam in 2017 in Australia. Federer had nagging knee, wrist issues and surgeries. With great discipline he worked on his fitness with Pierre Paganini. Far from Tiger Wood’s short cuts, Federer with his work ethics took his mental resolve to a different height. And there can’t be any better quote to sum up the moral of the story. Gary Player the octogenarian golf player says, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”
(Chinmoy Roy is a veteran fitness expert & trainer and has been associated in different capacities with Indian and Bengal cricket for decades)