Mreenal Chakraborty likes to refer himself as ‘Mental Toughness Trainer’. He is the man behind some very significant achievements in Indian sport. The most noteworthy among them is Junior Hockey World Cup victory after 15 years in December 2016. Mreenal Chakraborty is currently in Berlin working closely with Indian Archery Team participating in World Cup there. His only focus now is ‘Gold and Only Gold’ in Tokyo Olympics 2020. A candid chat with him helped Sportsavour to know the blend of physical, mental and emotional fitness in achieving maximum success in life.
- Let us start with your most significant achievement-the Junior World Cup Win. How did you motivate a team that has not won a World Cup for 15 years?
It’s a great achievement for all of us. I was called to join the team as a mental toughness trainer mainly due to Coach Harendra Singh’s demand of having a sports psychologist in the team. Harendra Singh is one of the best coaches that India has today with a great outlook. He has been training juniors for a long time and found that though being extremely talented, they have mental obstructions that were not allowing them to give their best on the field. I joined the team almost two years before the World Cup. I also found the same problem like the coach. That was mainly because most of the players came from economically-fragile class and suffered hardships in their growing-up days. So I started talking to them separately, understood their problem and then gave solutions to overcome those problems. Maybe the solutions were different but the base of rectification remained the same. I asked every one of them to think about their mind like the gears in bike. Just like the gear operates the bike, its the same way minds drive our body. It is the mind that determines our focus, confidence and ability to reach our goals. So the first thing I tried to put under their skin was to think positive.
- And that yielded a great result. But here comes the curiosity that why you chose to be in such a profession that is not so popular in this country?
My heart and soul is for sports. I was myself a hockey player and played for the Indian Railways team from 1993 to 1996. Before that I was also an active member of the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and played with Dilip Tirkey. I dreamt of playing for the national team but a serious injury cut short my playing days. At that time I was going through one of the rough patches of my life as I could not think anything other than hockey. But my life took a turn when I met my spiritual guru under whose guidance I decided to do something that would help others to overcome the difficult phases of their life. I went to UK to study Masters in Human Resource Management from AR University, Cambridge. Then I learnt Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) under Richard Bandler, the renowned co-developer of NLP. My research thesis on Performance Management won me the TRIMO International Award and I was the first Indian to get that. I was offered lucrative jobs but I wanted to work for my country. Thus I came back.
- Can you explain this NLP for us?
In very simple words, NLP is a method to find out the exact mental and physical deficiency of any person, specially a sportsman. And once the deficiency is found out, then working on it becomes smooth. This helps to achieve the impossible. Basically, it is an inside-out approach to the work that we are doing.
- So you were back in India where there was little scope to work. How did you manage to convince people?
Sports psychology was only used in cricket and I was also not sure about how I would be accepted in other sports. But there are some like-minded people who really stood by me. I started working with players individually and also sometimes with organizations. During those days I also worked with women’s national football team. Actually the results were speaking for me. Recently, I worked with Indian Table Tennis team as well. For individuals I have a certain approach but whenever I work for teams I have a special line… “We Dream the same Dream, We think the Same Things. We are Dream Team, We are Champion Team. We are Born to Win. Jai Hind ….” My soul motive now is to work with the Indian archery team with utmost care and help them win gold in Olympics. The players are so talented, a little change in their psychology will work wonders for our country.
- Is really Indian sports scenario changing?
Yes definitely, there’s a huge change in perspective, motive and approach. I could not dream of having a sports psychologist during my playing days. The administrators have understood the need and they are really going for it. The lesson is simple. If we want to move to a higher level, we have to let go of some of our old ways of thinking and adopt new ones. The result will eventually speak for us. But it is not recommended to hire a sports psychologist before a tournament or an event. Everyone needs time and its better to have our eyes on the future and plan things accordingly.
- Lastly, can you please give an inspirational message for our readers?
It is a real story. It was in the 1912 Olympics, athlete Jim Thorpe who represented the U.S. in track and field, rose up on the morning of his competitions and found out that his shoes were stolen. Luckily, Jim ended up finding two shoes in the garbage, but they belonged to different pairs. One of the shoes fit his foot but the other one was bigger. So Jim wore an extra sock and with two different shoes won two gold medals. This, I think, is a perfect reminder to everyone that giving excuses for not achieving something is not a great idea. Jim Thorpe could have easily relied on excuses for losing the race. But he didn’t. He made a fantastic existence and gave his life a new meaning.