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Shaping nerves of steel on field

- Psychologist from Sheffield United teaches TFA boys the mind game

The beautiful — and often bruteful — game of football is not just about nimble footwork, but also about keeping nerve against unbridled attrition on the sprawling greens.

Germany’s clinical extra-time demolition of Argentina at the Maracana fresh in mind, cadets of Tata Football Academy (TFA), Jamshedpur, are learning why winning the mind game is absolutely necessary for lifting a prize as prestigious as the World Cup. And their able mentor is Christopher Bradley, a sports psychologist from Sheffield United FC, a League One team from South Yorkshire in the UK.

The 26-year-old, who has completed his masters in psychology from Sheffield Hallam University, is conducting group workshops as well as individual sessions. He is even helping academy mentors to “transfer lessons” to their wards. “I am here as a visiting faculty from Sheffield. I find the boys impressive and willing to learn. It is a short visit, but I will try to assist the boys and their mentors to the fullest,” Bradley told The Telegraph on Monday.

The young psychologist is covering topics on commitment, confidence, emotional control, concentration, communication, self-reflections, self-awareness and developing a professional attitude. “I am supposed to conduct eight group workshops. Individual sessions are optional. The sessions for the boys is conducted in the afternoon while mornings are reserved for coaches,” he said.

According to Bradley, extensive research has been done at his varsity on topics of key psychological effects on athletes. “It is a long-term athlete development programme,” he said, adding that he would also assist the TFA cadets and trainers during their upcoming exposure tour to Sheffield. “I would love to work with them again. Becoming mentally strong is a key component in sports,” he remarked.

Given an opportunity, Bradley wants to travel farther to China and Hungary, where Sheffield runs academies, to conduct sessions on sports psychology. The mentor from the UK is expected to be back in Jamshedpur around Christmas to resume his workshops.

Budding players are all praises for Bradley’s sessions to steady nerve. “I have never been a part of such a workshop. A game of football can be very stressful. We are learning how to cope on the field. It is enlightening,” said a TFA trainee.

Promising 19-year-old centre back Aiban Dohling said Bradley’s sessions were all about commitment. “As a young player, I need to be focused and confident. His workshop helps control emotions,” he added.

Fellow cadet Konsham Chinglensana (18) said he had learnt to look at and only at the target. “Distractions can be galore on and off the field, but not paying heed to them is the trick. Stress vanishes when you start thinking positive.”

Defender L. Johanthan Ginthianlal said the sessions had already upped his performance level. “He is teaching us to believe in ourselves without being arrogant. Once you learn that, a game is already half won.”

The Tata cradle has had old ties with the Sheffield club and faculty members keep visiting the steel city to hone skills of cadets. Besides Bradley, Lee Walshaw of the South Yorkshire-based club is also a consulting coach here. Godron Young is looking after the technical wing of the academy.

Should Jharkhand have a dedicated sports psychologist?

Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com


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