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Mental toughness alone separates No. 1 from No. 2
Indians should focus on themselves, feels Sandy Gordon

Paarl: Sandy Gordon didn’t have to, but he made it a point to wish the Indian cricketers as they left the team hotel for the BoE Park here, Wednesday morning. It was a nice gesture and showed Gordon is more than just a hot-shot sport psychologist.

Gordon, who is returning to Perth after making “presentations” at a couple of seminars and sessions with the Indians, is always hard pressed for time. He did, however, speak to The Telegraph late Tuesday.

The following are excerpts

On his background

I started off as a physical education teacher in Glasgow and even played part-time soccer... I then did a diploma course at Aberdeen University and moved to Canada, where I completed a Masters degree in sport psychology at the University of Alberta. I did my doctorate there itself. (Adds laughing) As you can see, I was a slow learner.

On sport psychology

It’s the study of human behaviour in a certain environment... It takes into account the motivation to participate in a sport and the consequences of such participation. Why does one participate' What happens thereafter' Questions are sought to be answered. Essentially, sport psychology is about enhancing performance, helping sportspersons grow.

On his approach

I try to inject some fun into sport, try to make the environment more enjoyable. As I’ve already told you, I keep telling everybody they should take their jobs seriously, yes, but shouldn’t take themselves seriously.

On sessions with the Indian squad

I’ve designed game plans that are realistic and challenging... I’ve talked about them and the manner of executing those game plans. It’s not that I’ve prepared a blueprint, in fact, I’ve involved the players and asked them to list their targets. Sport isn’t about winning, it’s more about getting the process right. Once that’s done, the results will fall into place. (After a pause) You need to have faith, patience and discipline.

On what needs to be done by Sourav Ganguly and Co.

They should focus on themselves, not so much on the opposition. An individual in control is better equipped to deliver... How tough are the Indians' I wouldn’t like to be hasty in my judgement.

On his association with Australian cricket

I’ve been with Western Australia from 1987 and, from 1998-2001, was also contracted to the Australian Cricket Board (ACB)... Even now, I’m occasionally asked by the ACB to work on some projects.

On being part of Steve Waugh’s Support Team during Australia’s successful World Cup campaign in 1999

Four factors helped Australia: Coach Geoff Marsh’s wonderful approach of not looking at the negatives, which facilitated a positive culture; the high level of mental motivation and embracing that “No Regrets Tour” theme; the quality of leadership from both the captain and vice-captain (Shane Warne) and the Australians’ stubborn, never willing to give up approach. Their bloody-mindedness...

On the “No Regrets Tour” theme

(Laughs) It was coined by Steve himself... Basically, there was the possibility that some in the squad wouldn’t again get to play in a World Cup and, so, Steve felt nobody should end the tournament with regrets. The theme did wonders — Australia just kept winning after a lopsided start. I’ve advised the Indians too to decide on a theme.

On Steve (Waugh)

Mentally, probably the toughest cricketer I’ve interacted with... Great motivator and an exceptional leader.

On the cricketer he admires most

Adam Gilchrist. He’s got great attitude, possesses superb skills and aims to be a winner. I regard him as a perfect role-model.

On whether he has worked with non-cricketers

Yes, I’ve been associated with golfers (through the PGA) and quite a few soccer players. The basics, after all, remain the same.

Finally, on the difference a sport psychologist can make

Let me answer it this way — assuming that all other things (talent, fitness, resources) are the same, it’s mental toughness alone which will separate a No.1 from the No.2, a gold medallist from the silver medallist... Since you’ve asked me, a sport psychologist can make a sportsperson tougher in the mind.

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