For whatever reasons wise or otherwise, India’s sports administrators have ensured that India’s Tokyo-bound athletes in various disciplines like track & field, hockey and weightlifting are asked to stay in training camps across Bangalore and Patiala and away from families during the pandemic.
This, despite international competition, is unlikely to resume till next year tentatively.
While they are sure to be looked after in terms of diet and medical attention, the restrictions on their movements might be a good time to prop up some peripheral knowledge that will ensure time is well spent in camps and there’s no mental stagnation during what is in sporting terms, a dead ball situation.
Here are 10 things to do:
1. BASICS OF FINANCIAL PLANNING
International athletes play at the top level for a short time compared to your usual professional, and their earning patterns also reflect windfalls while they are still in their 20s (should they be successful) and then a steep fall in earnings after retirement. But sound financial advice and self-reliance in taking investing / saving decisions at this stage can come in handy for later years. This would be a good time to educate the young athletes on the basics of finance – contracts, endorsements, saving, online investing, medical insurance, long term pension plans and some rudimentary shielding against scamsters. While parents, player agents and informal advisors tend to form tight knit groups around international athletes, there’s no better security than being aware of where the money is coming from, and where it will go.
2. PICK A SHADOW GRADUATION SUBJECT
While some might be pursuing degrees alongside their sports training, the pandemic break from non-stop international travel and competing, might be a good time to think of what life would’ve looked like, had they been college-going students for those who don’t. Federations and SAI could even tie up with different universities to help India athletes kickstart graduation courses in subjects that interest them; not necessarily for degrees, but as primers to what formal education in Sociology or Botany or Accountancy or Economics or International Relations, looks like. India hasn’t warmed up to the idea of continuing education whenever life offers some free time. But in a sports-saturated world of training & competition, this might be a good distraction, especially without the mandatory stressful exams.
3. LEARN PHYSIOLOGY
There’s nothing more fascinating than breaking down to understand the movements of athletes. It can only be interesting when the sportspersons themselves can learn about the muscle groups, the bones and joints and tendons involved in their athletic skill. While most tend to learn about tendons when injuries strike, it can’t be less than marvellous to learn about what exactly goes on in the body when they are performing their feats. Biomechanics, kinesiology and 3D simulations are extremely instructive in tweaking technical kinks. But just knowing your radius from the ulna or understanding various movements that come together to achieve Olympian performance, could be educational for athletes.
4. LISTEN TO THE MASTERS
Whether it’s the likes of Tendulkar, Dhoni and Dravid talking about performing under intense pressure, or someone like Abhinav Bindra or Sushil Kumar or Leander Paes narrating their own Games experiences, this can be a good time for some “Ask The Experts” sessions on what to expect at the Olympics. While many first-timers are on teams to Tokyo, this will also be a good time for past medallists to put into perspective journeys that aren’t always about success, while touching upon their non-medal campaigns as well. While Tokyo will be an unprecedented experience, athletes will still benefit from talking to those who have gone through these very countdowns before. Cross disciplinary interactions can also set the tone for the experience of the Games village.
5. LOOK BACK AT HISTORY
Both athletics and hockey are rich in anecdotes of past Indian teams and it’ll serve as both inspiration and education for athletes to get to know a little more about the history of their sport at the Olympics. Of moments of despair or triumph, of the early stages of evolution of their sport, of the lesser known names that might have represented India in the past and how fortunate they are to be accorded all the facilities that their predecessors might not have had access to. While hockey’s 8 medals always add a tinge of pressure to every team that goes to the Olympics, a year ahead of the Games will be a good time to absorb that pressure and trace the footsteps of the giants of the sport.
6. THE LANGUAGE
While there is a raging debate in India on whether proficiency in spoken English even matters or not, this might be a good time to brush up on what is one of the international modes of communication. No harm in picking bits and smatters of Spanish or Japanese or any other language either. What might be a little more interesting and of immense use too, is learning rudimentary levels of a language of a teammate, for India itself has a variety of spoken tongues. Also sport is an excellent situation where those from different parts of the country are thrown in together for extended periods, and there is only one rule to learning languages — more the merrier.
7. BASICS OF COACHING
While many players are at the start of their careers, an introduction to coaching in their sport might help athletes understand a dimension of the sport from a more rounded perspective. Besides teaching them about communicating with teammates as in the case of hockey, the elementary aspects of coaching will also open up the science of the sport to athletes. It can also widen their minds on aspects like decision-making, strategising and team building. For individual sports, an ABC of coaching can help in analysis of videos of opponents and a bit about on-the-spot resolutions of challenges that can come their way.
8. A BIT ABOUT TOKYO
While athletes need tunnel vision about their sport and going to the venue and performing without any heed to what’s happening around, a spot of learning about Japan or the capital will not go waste. While some athletes have been known to go to extreme lengths to rewire their body clocks – sleeping, waking times to that of host city, here a bit about the culture, the food, the weather patterns, the stadium design, as well as totally unrelated interesting trivia about Japan might be a good idea to cultivate from now. You don’t need to bite into Sushi sitting in Bangalore, though why not if you can, really?
9. KNOW YOUR OPPONENTS
While video analysis is part of preparations, athletes can get themselves acquainted with the history of opponents, and their journeys for that tiny edge that can come handy. A bit about trends in their playing styles if any or simply the situation in those countries can offer insights into what to expect at the Games. While draws come in closer to the Game’s, this might be a good time for a comprehensive sweep.
10. PLAY JENGA
Whoever tells you it helps in focussing or building team spirit is not telling you the right reasons to play Jenga – because it is fun.
Write letters of gratitude to parents and early coaches and school teammates, set nicknames in stone, write team songs and generally enjoy being thrown into a situation which for better or worse, is what reality is.
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