Psychology Behind Hits and Misses of sports.

                                         Psychology behind Hits and Misses of Sports !

There is an old adage, “You’ve lost the plot”. Going by its literal meaning and looking  at India’s dismal performance in International events (one does not have to search memory and force it to recall recently concluded Olympic), would it be correct to say that we have lost the plot as far as such high performance and large scale events are concerned.

Let’s not ponder over it, which the time anyways will answer. But one thing is for sure. The plot has been set for this article.

Sports psychology is all about addressing the issues concerned with optimal performance under extreme pressure and stress. Not only this it concerns with well being of athletes and other systemic issues associated with sporting.

Sport’s today are instrumental in developing sense of patriotism and nationalism in one’s mind and heart. More so, with the playing of National Anthem in most of the sporting events kindles feeling of patriotism and the National identity takes over. This also becomes a point of National Integrity among citizens from different part and regions of the country; along with fostering tolerance and respect, which is very important for promoting international peace.

All said and done, We need to search an answer for a question which is not tough to quote but certainly is not easy to answer and that’s something we have been hearing for almost decades after any International event and the beauty is that the speed with which it takes the central stage in Indian media and common discussions, it disappears with the same or perhaps in a breakneck speed.

As a practice, we leave it to our readers to answer it and think over it, What is preventing India from doing at par with other Nations in International events like Olympics???

Let’s analyse it from psychological viewpoint (Indian Context):

Sports, in the collective psyche of Indians doesn’t feature in any significant place but is perceived more as a means for amusement.

Some reasons to which it can be attributed to:

1.Need for Power being more than need for Achievement(nAch) in an average Indian:

Due to widespread hierarchical mindset engrained in the cultural psyche of an individual, he or she tends to be motivated more for accumulating power thus landing higher in the hierarchy or being affiliated to those in power, rather than toil for personal achievement which is seen as something that goes unnoticed or not “rewarding enough”.

And this is the reason, profession which has got power attached to them are highly revered in power driven society like ours. Power is more attached with authority and money and both are being largely absent for an average sport person. Achievement and internal motivation, which should be the main guiding force pushing sport person to achieve great feats are generally driven to the back seat. Hence, large section or even those who have sporting aptitude are generally not interested in pursuing it.

2.Sports not promoted as an integral part of life:

Less significance of sports in the life of people is reflected in government policies. Sports is hardly recognised as a nation building, character developing element which has the potential to uplift India’s standing in the world forum.

Achievement, which according to the Theory of Achievement Motivation is the outcome of the conflict between two tendencies as studied by Atkinson.

a) Tendency to approach success:

Given by [Ts= Ms * Ps * Is]

                Where,   T = Tendency

                               M= Motivation

                               P = Probability of success

                               I = Incentive

                              S = Success                    

In the Indian scenario, both ‘Ps’ as well as ‘Is’ are low.

Probability of success is not an stand alone entity, it is related to good sporting infrastructure, high level of training and right opportunities which is generally unavailable to an average Indian, due to lack of national focus on sports and a huge population combined with a rat race for survival.

Incentives (Is) are abysmally low for any budding sports person who can hope for any recognition or monetary reward only after winning big medals but not at his/her grassroots stage where s/he requires it most for honing his/her talents.

This makes overall tendency to approach success very low.

b) Tendency to avoid failure:

       [Tf = Maf * Pf * If]

Motivation to avoid failure (Maf) is high in general among large section of population as survival and basic needs what rules the mind of an average Indian and fulfilling it is high on agenda.

The tendency to avoid failure is much higher, thus making the person less likely to even try and work towards sports or challenging tasks, thus giving rise to high Probability of Failure. ( That’s why it is said, No Pain, No Gain).

The recent dismal performance of the Indian contingent at Rio Olympics could be a reminder of our lackadaisical approach towards sports attributed to  psychological reasons described above.


Generalist Perspective

Abhinav Bindra– Only Indian individual gold medallist in Olympics (10 mts Air Rifle Shooting) , draws a comparison between Indian government spending on sports v/s other medal winning countries;

He says: each medal costs the UK 5.5million pounds, which helped UK rise in medal tally from 2004 Athens Olympics.

That is the scale of investment needed per medal if any outcome could be expected.

Calculating by number of medals by strength of population, China being most populated ranks top of charts whereas India, counting the recent 3 (2004 Athens, 2008 Beijing, 2012 London) Olympics, if medals were to be distributed equally to whole population, India ranks last.

Large gap between rich and poor making it hard for the poor and lower castes to obtain sufficient nutrition, education, and making a living all in all inhibits the country’s mammoth potential for a glowing sporting presence. Psychologically sports achievement being a meta need can come only once basic needs have been fulfilled.

Awareness : Information about Olympics in rural and semi-urban areas of India is unimaginably low.

Researchers conducted a study in rural areas of Karnataka and Rajasthan and investigated further:

They asked villagers about the best job that they had ever heard about. In Rajasthan most villagers said- software engineers, architecture, doctor, lawyer. Some said teachers or soldiers. There was not much difference in Karnataka which had a better economy. There was neither mention of sports nor any knowledge of Olympics.

There is seemingly absenteeism of so called “ Culture of Sports“. Not to mention, there are No or at best very few role models who can inspire the young generation to pick Sport as a profession and a career. Few role models that exist are inclined to a particular game and hence we see all investment and focus being made towards betterment of it. This needs to be changed if we want young generation to pick diverse sports.

A major hurdle is non-availability of good sporting infrastructure and governmental support to the athletes – which completes the circle and whatsoever interest a minority has is lost.

So, its not some fix is required here and there, its a comprehensive policy and multi-pronged approach required to build upon India’s shortcomings in this particular field. Not to forget the cohesive role sport plays not only in our society but world over. Cricket has played an important role in binding our diversity rich country. But other sports need to be brought at par. Mahatma Gandhi founded three football clubs named ‘Passive Resistors Soccer Clubs’ in the 1900’s during his stay in South Africa to fight against racial discrimination.  He realised the “cohesive power of sports” in bringing all strata of people together. We need to take this approach further.



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