Till Paddy Upton was appointed as the mental conditioning coach of the Indian cricket team in 2008, not many in the country were aware of such a job. The South African was with the Indian team when it won the World Cup in 2011 and became world’s No. 1-ranked Test team in 2009.
Upton’s compatriot Jody Martins, who has recently been signed by the Kerala Cricket Association for a similar job, believes there is plenty of scope for a mental conditioning coach in sport. And he is glad that he has got an opportunity to work with a First Class cricket team in India.
“I already have had two online sessions with the Kerala cricketers and am looking forward to being with them physically,” Martins told The Hindu from Mossel Bay on Friday. “I was pleasantly surprised to find that some of the players were already into things like meditation and visualising; I would help them make use of such practices in their cricket.”
Martins, a Cricket South Africa Level 3 coach, said he decided to focus on the mental aspect of training when he began to wonder why some of his wards became better cricketers than the others. “I felt the reason could be mental,” he said. “Though being a mental conditioning coach may not be financially as rewarding as being a normal coach, I enjoy this job.”
He said every team needed someone in the supporting staff who could help the players psychologically. “Of late, people have become more aware of the importance of mental health in cricket because cricketers like Ben Stokes have opened about it,” he said. “Before him, a few international players like Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott had also admitted to having mental issues. Recently, New Zealand’s woman cricketer Amelia Kerr also took a break citing mental issues.”
Martins said a mental conditioning coach could play a proactive role with athletes. “I think coaches like me could do offer a lot, especially now when the players have to deal with the lockdown and quarantine,” he said. “As Upton said recently, the players would be physically refreshed but mentally drained after the quarantine.”