While awards may not be something new for Professor Emeritus Jitendra Mohan, Department of Psychology, Panjab University (Chandigarh), considering his extensive research and work in the fields of experimental, positive and sport psychology, but the recent Honor Award of ‘International Society of Sport Psychology’ (ISSP) for the year 2021 during the 15th World Congress of Sports Psychology at Taipei is definitely one which has left him humbled.

After all, he is the first Asian to receive the award, which is presented every four years in recognition of significant contributions to national and international sport psychology through leadership, research, and/or other professional service.

“This one is really special, not just for me but the field of Sports Psychology, which for decades did not get the attention it deserved, especially in India. Of course, in the recent past, sports bodies and players have recognised its importance and it has become an important element in training especially when competing at the world stage,” Dr. Mohan, who has served two terms as a member of the Managing Council of the ISSP, the oldest and largest global society of Sport Psychology, which boasts of thousands of members across the world tells IANS.

It has been an interesting journey for someone who came to PU for his MA in Psychology and was not an athlete. It was by sheer chance that he was introduced to sports psychology on the campus.

In 1975, PU had organised a training camp for the Indian Hockey team for Hockey World Cup, and the then Vice-Chancellor had requested Dr. Mohan and three others to help them.

“I spent a lot of time with them as a psychologist, and helped the team to the best of my capacity. That is when I gained several new perspectives in the field of sports psychology which was relatively a new area then. I understood how it could be instrumental in imparting an edge to players. Everything changed for me after that. By the way, the team won the championship.”

For someone who has written 300 research papers, 28 books including five on sports psychology and guided around 95 doctoral students, he stresses that in order to make a mark on the international level, it is important for decision makers to understand that sports is a lifetime commitment which calls for sacrifice, support, encouragement and financial assistance.

“An elite athlete requires immense support. And we need to start with young children. There have to be more playgrounds, sports need to be encouraged at the school level, and not just as an extra-curricular activity, there needs to be infrastructure and equipment — only then can we expect to compete with the world’s finest,” he says.

Adding that young women from the countryside entering sports and winning medals in the past few years has been a great achievement for the country, Dr. Mohan says that besides the government, corporates too need to come forward and do the needful. “Abroad, we see a lot of companies, and not just major ones supporting players and teams. If this happens in India, it would be a great boost to players, especially those hailing from rural areas.”

Stressing that it no longer makes sense to ignore mental training to excel in sports, and Indian players are fast understanding its importance, the professor says, “I get requests not just from teams but also individual players who realise its importance in getting a real breakthrough. This kind of training is intense and involves multiple sessions, but the satisfaction one derives from observing the change in a player’s outlook is worth all the effort put in. One important thing is that sports psychologists should be more visible. Players here must know that we exist, just like in the west.”

Admitting that there was a need to narrow down the gap between research, teaching and practice, he opines that the country needs to have more sports psychology clinics.

“That way, theory will materialise into real benefits for players. Also, a team comprises a manager, coach, physiotherapist and a nutritionist. Now that we have done so well in Olympics and Paralympics, much more attention should be paid to every aspect, which includes Sports Psychology.”

Lamenting that despite the importance of the subject, it is still not being taught in many universities, Dr. Mohan says, “Unless we have enough students taking up the subject, there will be heavy dependence on foreign experts.”

–IANS

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