Or should it?
I have had the good fortune to be around situations…or rather, to be in the midst of things involving athletes and teams in various forms, shapes, and sizes! Be it small kids in a school, participating in, inter-school championship or professional athletes at national championship. Many parents and coaches talk about winning at all cost…. There is absolutely no doubt they are trying to encourage and motivate their wards! But is the end result motivation or Anxiety? Calmness or Clutter? I have found that whenever the focus has been on winning, there is anxiety written all over the player’s face!
In my humble opinion, by focusing on winning the medal – we add undue pressure and anxiety. This results in huge dissipation of precious energy. And the athletes need every ounce of energy to deliver their best – not just during the tournament/championship but also during the preparation. One can’t be thinking about the medal while preparing. One has a better chance at accomplishing the task at hand what they do when they do it without the pressure of the result. Besides, all you have control over is your preparation and mental state – not the winning of the medal!
Yes, the honourable sports minister, Vijay Goel, has said they have done the best to make arrangements for a better preparation by means of facilities and all the requisite support to all the athletes. This is excellent and very very encouraging. But sending out the message to the Olympic participants (athletes) that “Winning should be the only goal” or “athletes who win Olympic medals will be considered for Arjuna and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards”, according to me, adds an unnecessary pressure! Because the focus on winning leads to inefficiency in the ‘present’. Athletes can focus only on their performance. Winning is not in their control. The only thing in your control is to do the best you can. Phil Jackson (11 times NBA champion as head coach) said, “Create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome.”
Rewind. A large ground. A battle ground. And all that a wise man (who we know as Krishna) quotes to the best of the warriors (who we know as Arjuna) is “कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।” (Karmanye vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana). Meaning – You have the right to work only but never to its fruits. Let not the fruits of the action be your motive. All the big athletes who have won gold at Olympics, Wimbledon, World cup… tell us this alone is the very secret of their achievements. In short, just go out and do your job, do the best you can and the rest will follow!
Talking about focus, Pete Sampras once said “Mental toughness means focus only on the task at hand. This shot, this point, this day…The more we can center only on one shot at a time, the better we will accomplish it.” How simple yet so effective, isn’t it! I’ve heard echoes of this statement in interviews by our own cricketers saying their focus is on the processes.
The only time you can accomplish anything is now. On training or championship days – all you can focus on is your performance – not the medal ceremony.
We need our athletes to follow what the great Mark Spitz, gold medalist in swimming said “I’m trying to do the best I can. I’m not concerned with tomorrow, but with what goes on today.”
All the very best to the entire Olympic squad! Go Team India!