Here is what Sports Psychologist Dr. Jyoti Kanitkar has to say about the field of Sports Psychology and the experiences she had in all the years of her practice.
When and why did you decide to take up Sports Psychology?
I have been in sports for a very long time and I have represented school, college, university and state in Cricket, Softball and at school level several other games. It’s a must for a sport psychologist to have experienced participation in the competitive sport so that she actually knows what Sports is all about and what kind of problems a player faces.
What are the similarities and differences between Cricket and Softball?
Both are played with a bat and ball, which means you, need eye-hand and hand tool coordination and dexterity. But the techniques are different. In cricket, you play with a straight bat, and in softball; the bat is horizontal or slanting. The ground is big and the game is played in angles, a pentagon. Whereas cricket is played on a strip and the larger ground is circular. Eye-hand coordination is extremely important in both these games.
In my school days, I used to play softball as well as cricket and I used to enjoy both, but then I decided to focus on one sport and I started playing cricket. I have played Softball for Maharashtra in various tournaments.
What motivated you and guided you to choose this field?
I clearly noticed the change in atmosphere and the approach among the players when we lost a match. The morale went down and it was just not normal. The energies and the motivation to perform were something, which was lacking.
I was reading a novel at that time and one of the characters in the book was a Sports Psychologist. It was so interesting. So then, I started reading about it. At that time there was no Google, no internet nothing. Around 1986, I started reading whatever was available through books, research papers, reference books, etc.
After reading a lot for almost a year, I came to know that there is so much psychology in sports, and handling it is extremely important. Team spirit and the bonding between the players are extremely important.
How was your experience through your formal education years in Sports Psychology?
When I went to University to ask about Sports Psychology, there was hardly anything available. The sport psychology association that was very recently formed had conducted only one seminar and Sports Psychology 2nd seminar or conference was going to take place in November 1986.
By the time, I was very sure that I wanted to work in the field of sport psychology. I decided to do a Ph.D. in Sports Psychology and I knew the path was not going to be easy. For a Ph.D. you need a major subject to be chosen. Among the 4 topics kept in front of me by my guide Dr. Ashok Nirpharake, I chose Achievement motivation and thus chose it as my Ph.D. research work.
I was probably among the very 1st few people who did something like this. Ph.D. is definitely not easy and it took me many hardships to do this. During those years, I got married, had a child, and still managed to continue my studies. I completed my Ph.D. when I was 35.
Which was your 1st project as a Sports Psychologist?
I started visiting and training the Kho-kho teams of Dnyan Prabhodini in Pune and Nigdi Jnana Prabodhini. I experienced many things while working with these kids and I loved to build their team spirit and mentality. As I always wanted to work in a group of players or a team, this was a wonderful experience for me.
I developed new techniques and methods to analyze team players and their psychology.
What helped you during your practice?
As I said before, I have been a player and I know what kind of thoughts come to our mind during our playing days. Another aspect, which helped me, was my M.A. in Clinical Psychology and training. That knowledge helped me a lot in my practice.
Probably I was the first person to do a Ph.D. in Sports Psychology during that time.
What are your most memorable cases or moments?
When I was in Delhi, I used to go with the swimming team in Delhi and experienced the progress of many young swimmers and players. A girl was five years old and used to come every day for swimming training in Delhi winter. Such was her dedication. As confidentiality and privacy matter a lot in our field of Psychology, I cannot disclose the name or details.
What is the most common issue faced by players?
Anxiety is the most common issue faced by players. Anxiety to perform and to succeed. Players face a lot of fear when they are playing at the highest level. Millions of people always expect great results, which is not possible every time. I always tell players to believe in themselves and give their 100% when playing.
Do you think that Sports Psychology still lacks the reach in the Sports Community?
There are hardly any colleges or universities that have a proper course or a facility for Sports Psychology. Lack of trained lecturers, teachers, and mentors makes it extremely difficult for someone who wants to pursue this field. For someone to learn Sports Psychology, you need someone to teach it, and this is the major concern in our country.
The main point that every Sports Psychologist should do is; think like a player. Put yourself in their shoes, study a bit about the sport and its technicalities and then do the consultation.
While training I also need to think about the next person or player’s requirement.
I think studying this topic abroad will be beneficial because foreign universities have the methods and systems required.
People still think that Sports cannot be a career and education should be given priority over sports. This mentally needs to change. Sport has so many careers but the starting point is always your love for the sport.
Jyoti Kanitkar Ma’am is always ready for discussions and consultations regarding Sports Psychology and careers in Sports Psychology.
Dr. Jyoti Kanitkar
Phone Number – 9899104975.