In an era of unparalleled competition and high stakes, the toll on mental health has been immense to say the least. Sports personalities across the planet deal with performance pressure almost every day and if they fail at any juncture, the remedy to cope shouldn’t be limited to better your physical fitness only.

Sports psychology is the founding stone on which athletes can overcome their performance fears, anxiety issues and most crucial of them all – help them achieve greater heights by inculcating composure and renewed intensity.

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Nanaki. J. Chadha whose innate passion for sports made her pursue a master's in the field of sport psychology from Loughborough University is taking strides to make her case. Nanaki is a Sports and Performance psychologist who is nearing completion of her doctoral degree at Staffordshire University, United Kingdom, alongside awaiting confirmation of Chartership status under the British Psychological Society (BPS).

In an exclusive chat with, Nanaki whole-heartedly spoke about her initial steps in the field of sports psychology. “I was introduced to the subject of psychology when I was in the 11th grade and instantly developed a liking for the subject. I was intrigued by how the human mind functions and the impact our thoughts can have on our behaviour.”

“Having played competitive sport and experiencing its high psychological demands from a young age, I recognize the importance of mental preparedness.” Being a sports person herself, Nanaki first foray into the world of sports was when she picked up a tennis racket at the age of eight before finding her way onto golf.

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“The pressures that I encountered as a budding tennis player eventually made its way onto the greens of the golf course. At my peak, I was not only ranked amongst the top ten women amateur golfers in a country of billions but was also part of the Indian National Squad.”

She recalled how the unavailability of a sports psychologist at the time to help her overcome her fears was what made her to decide to pursue this field.”In order to fill this apparent void in the sporting ecosystem, I decided to merge my passion for sport and psychology and give back to the community,” she revealed.

Nanaki further explained that sports psychologists study athletes’ thoughts, emotions and behaviours and employ ways to enhance their performance and well-being on the field by providing effective solutions. Currently, her research focuses on the examination and application of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) in performance setting such as sports.

“I personally feel that REBT can help all of us to think in a more rational, logical and pragmatic manner, thus, promoting performance and well-being.”

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During her five year stay in the United Kingdom (U.K.), Nanaki worked with athletes from the grassroots level to ones playing at both national and international levels across sports like cricket, golf, football, hockey, athletics, gymnastics, swimming, rowing, rugby, water polo, and taekwondo. “I worked with multiple national and international sporting organisations, including the Indian Golf Union (IGU), Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), Northamptonshire County Cricket Club, City of Stoke Athletics Club and Staffs Elite Programme.” 

Recollecting her session with a nine-year-old swimmer in the U.K., Nanaki came across a unique challenge of communicating her methods in a simplistic manner to a young and budding athlete but was happily astonished after a spell of positive results.

“I had concerns such as “will the athlete be able to comprehend and apply the intervention effectively in her practice? But as the sessions progressed, the athlete revealed that she was not only able to apply the principles of sport psychology to her sport but also used it in her day to day life, especially in pressure situations at school.”

Given the scope of challenges that athletes face in their life, Nanaki stated that her field of study can help these sports persons overcome lack of self-confidence, intense competitive stress and emotional turmoil that may cloud their judgment. The attitude of ‘Winning is everything’ adds unnecessary pressure which indirectly takes course as a performance killer, can be avoided through sports psychology.

Adding a qualified sports psychologist to organizations and accepting the idea of sports psychology is what Nanaki believes will bring the change in the future. “In the next 10 years, I hope and would like to see sport psychology getting its due importance in all sports across the country and integrating it into the athlete's daily training routine.”

Nanaki is one of the few candidates who is emerging as a flag bearer for implementing effective methods of sports psychology to improve performances of sports personalities. Success and nothing less for the lady whose eventful journey will inspire the future breed of budding psychologists in the country.

Feature image courtesy: Nanaki J. Chadha