As the world of football moves forward together, advancements in our understanding of various sciences have improved the way we approach different things. The training has become more scientific, with drills aimed at both strengthening the players from a physical, technical, and tactical standpoint. The India U-17 women’s team, which is currently camped in Jamshedpur, is also getting an entirely new kind of training that looks into their mental health and development. With a Mental Conditioning coach being part of the support staff, the U-17 girls are hugely benefiting on that aspect, with every player receiving a one-on-one session, amongst other exercises.
“Right now, we are at the formation stage of these sports psychology sessions,” quipped Mental Conditioning Coach Nicole Menezes. “We have had one-on-one sessions with each player and we are assessing them on various parameters – their background, their motivation, their aim in the camp and in life in general.”
“The intention is to understand them and make an assessment. How much workload can they mentally take, and then prepare a suitable plan that will help them hone their skills so that they can go ahead and perform their best,” Menezes continued. “The girls are currently unaware that the mind is something that you can work on. We must understand that these are adolescent girls, and the right kind of mental guidance at this age could help them in the long run in their careers.”
Football is a demanding sport, and though the India U-17 women’s team is still in the preparatory stage of a camp, they have already started to receive a certain level of mental conditioning that is aimed at helping them as they approach competitive matches.
“Whenever you are part of an organised sport, results become hugely important, and when there’s demand for results, there is always room for expectations and a great deal of pressure because of it,” informed Menezes. “Not everyone is able to keep up and they need to learn how to handle the pressure, fear of mistakes and doubts.”
“If an athlete is trained well enough mentally, they will not feel such doubts and fears while walking out onto the pitch for a match. Just like they have physical warmups before matches or training sessions, there are a number of mental warmup routines that help them get in the zone even before they walk out there,” she stated.
A NEW CHAPTER IN INDIAN FOOTBALL
The India U-17 women’s team is training from within a bio-secure bubble in Jamshedpur, with infrastructural and logistical aid from the government of Jharkhand. While living in a bio bubble can also have a mental effect, certain exercises like breathing practices, meditation, and group therapy sessions have also helped them.
Along with these sessions, the technical staff have also been careful enough to plan a programme that would keep the minds away from the fact that they are in the bubble. Fun games both on and off the pitch have been arranged in order to help the players.
“Mental health is somewhat a new area for many of us, but everyone is becoming gradually more aware of it and working on it now. Especially with the bio bubble it can get difficult for the players,” said Assistant Coach Suren Chettri.
“It’s a new chapter for us all, but we all try to help lighten the mood in different ways. For example, we arrange different fun games on and off the pitch. We have a lawn in our hotel so when the girls have free time, we can play foot-volley or some similar games,” he added.
“When they are in their respective rooms, we sometimes also arrange online board game competitions. These are all aimed at keeping their minds occupied and away from the fact that they are imprisoned inside a bio-bubble,” said Chettri. “We also have an informal award ceremony every month, where we award players on various parameters – performance, hard work, cleanliness, how they treat their friends. These are just small ways to keep them motivated.