The galleries at the National Ranking Table Tennis Championships in Puducherry were asturing but for Keerthana Swaminathan, one of the leading Sports and Exercise Psychologists, the tournament was ornate with a lot of work.
With dozens of table tennis players under her tutelage for sports science and psychology, each passing tournament gives room for new analysis.
Sitting with an athlete and their team (of coaches and parents sometimes), Keerthana Swaminathan makes sure to impart a lot of take aways for her wards, making them better with each tournament.
Speaking to Sportskeeda, Keerthana Swaminathan threw light on how she has been working with dozens of paddlers as they go about their business.
Given the demands of modern sport, the mental well being of an athlete also takes equal importance to the physical well being. Keerthana Swaminathan analyzes an athlete's match and provides feedback on how to be mentally tough.
"For me, the first and foremost thing is to make the athlete be independent. The athlete shouldn't be dependent on anything or anyone for him to surge ahead in his career. I watch a lot of my trainees' matches to analyze and help them in their mental strengthening and sports science," the Chennai-based psychologist said.
Intricacies of working with athletes
Keerthana Swaminathan believes there is always something extra to work with an athlete. Just like how winning makes an athlete elated, sometimes when the player loses a match, it opens a lot of doors for Keerthana to work on.
"Winning and losing is always a part of the game but for me, an athlete losing is more progress than an athlete winning. That is because there is a lot to ponder and a lot to work on when an athlete loses. Winning alone is not progress, always," she explained.
Just like how each player is different, Keerthana works with different players by adopting a different approach. For that, Keerthana and the athlete's coaching team sit together and work on what the players' needs are.
"The goals of working with the players are very volatile and change with each passing tournament. Especially when players participate in multiple categories, the focus changes easily. I have to sit down with an athlete, their coaching staff and prioritize and work accordingly. Else, it ends up in a burn out," she said.
The sports science expert believes being independent will help the athlete in improving leaps and bounds.
"Most of the time athletes need help in as they are not able to make their choices. They also need to keep their emotions in control. A lot of parents micro-manage their wards and that has to change. It leads to an internal conflict and pressurizes the child to not be themselves," she said.
Keerthana Swaminathan and the athlete work like a team
Keerthana Swaminathan finds herself working with a team of coaches, analysts and high-performance coaches along with the athlete. Does it make for a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth? Keerthana opines:
"Many of the coaches these days are moving beyond the traditional belief that the coach is the be-all for an athlete. There is a lot of transformation from the coaches side too. They are seeking a lot of things with respect to sports science."
For Keerthana Swaminathan, it is easy to work with 'younger and newer coaches'.
"Younger coaches are easier to work with as they have been there, more open to suggestions and feedback. Having said this, it is not that older coaches are tough, but the young coaches realize that they have missed sports science at some of their careers and would love to see their wards impart it," she explained.