Bengaluru, July 27: The talk with a present world 17-year-old generally could revolve around gadgets, geeky stuff, movies or the latest season of a Netflix or Prime Video series. But a chat with Aryan Joshi can surprise you.
It is not only because Aryan speaks about mental strength but also because how deeply he has thought about it. He has even launched a channel - Mental Strength Matters - to raise awareness about a topic that often gets treated as taboo in our society.
Aryan, son of former India and Karnataka cricketer Sunil Joshi, has taken the baby steps while following in the footsteps of his father, playing for Karnataka in the age-group cricket. But the lockdown forced by the Coronavirus pandemic has restricted cricketing activities and Aryan in a chat with MyKhel details how he arrived at the decision to initiate a conversation on mental strength.
"The idea was shaped up during the lockdown period when there was no real chance for outdoor/physical activity, skill building in terms of cricket for me at least. So, I thought the other aspect we could improve upon is mental strength, and hence I was thinking about raising awareness about it.
"And I got few more people and interviews were done and it became a long-term initiative. Initially, I was thinking it as an initiative for the lockdown period, but I now want to continue with it," said Aryan, a class 12 student of the Mallya Aditi International School.
Perhaps, it was a tad easier for him to think and talk about such a delicate topic because of the presence of Joshi Sr, who had seen and interacted with several cricketers during his playing days and during coaching stints with various teams, at his home.
Aryan said he had a chat with his father ahead of starting to deal with such a tricky topic like mental strength. "Before starting the Mental Strength Matters (MSN), I had a chat with my dad (Sunil Joshi) and told him I wanted to start a channel to raise awareness about mental strength because over the years mental strength has become an important part of all sports, on par with physical calibre. So, I pitched in the idea first and he too supported me in it and it took off.
"He thought it was a good idea because during his time, it was not even thought of let alone given any importance. Now, with the development of sports, mental strength has become a part of sports and he supported me," said Aryan.
Joshi concurred. "I think it is a fantastic initiative. When he came up to me and spoke about the topic, I was very happy because at 17 I never thought about such issues. It really made me excited and readily told him to go ahead because finally he has to do it and not me. By reaching out to various athletes, and we are a large country and people pursue several sports disciplines, he will also learn a lot. They (other sportspersons) would have faced various challenges from their under-14 days.
"I was so happy to listen to the challenges Sakshi Mallik faced. Athletes were not allowed to go out and train in the present state in Haryana, and she trained within the restrictions, Mithali (Raj) had a different challenge, Jhulan (Goswami) had a striking story to tell, travelling in bus some 50-60 kms to practice cricket. Pankaj Advani had a different challenge.
"It's all about sharing the importance of mental strength with people, especially with those who are involved in sports, particularly the young ones," said Joshi.
One intrinsic fault in our society while addressing mental strength issues that it often sidesteps young minds. In case of sports, several senior teams make avail the services of a mental conditioning coach. But the same facility is not extended every time to junior teams.
Aryan realised the pitfalls of it at a very young age. It was quite obvious that people would expect some noteworthy performances from the son a former India cricketer.
There was a 200 he made in a Karnataka under-14 league game and then last year Aryan combined with Samit Dravid, son of Rahul Dravid, to produce a big stand where both the players made in excess of 150. So, how did he deal with the twin pressures of being a 'star kid' and to sustain the level of performance?
"I think each young athlete has his set of challenges. For me, I thought it (the label of Sunil Joshi's son) as an added pressure, everyone expected to me to perform on a higher level because I am cricketer's son. I faced that challenge initially during my under-14 time.
"That innings (150) and another innings at the under-14 level where I made a 200 in a league game, that way if you look at it, there is pressure on you always to perform from in the under-14 group or in the zonal matches to get selected to the next level, under-16, under-19 etc. Now, I think I am mature enough to deal with those pressures and I do not let it come my way," said Aryan.
For Aryan, the Mental Strength Matters talk with sportspersons from various disciplines has also been a chance to learn how some high-achieving individuals walked over obstacles.
"Every sportsperson has overcome such variety of obstacles, so different from each other and the way they were dealt with were too different. For example, I had interviewed Mayank Agarwal and he was telling me about meditation etc and that had really helped him get into the Test cricket team recently.
"On the other hand, I spoke to Mithali Raj and she had a crucial injury before the world cup and she played through the pain because she knew how vital her presence was for the team. So, each athlete face different challenges, even if you come from the same sport. So, I have been trying to get such inside info and laying out for people to understand the issues and deal with it," said Aryan.
Aryan was clear on his view that the issue of mental strength should be addressed from the grass root level in sports and was not averse to the idea of having the topic as a part of the school curriculum.
For that, Aryan advocates the need to shun conventional approach to such complex-natured issues and initiate more conversations.
"There is a bit of conventional thinking and people are not very open about how their thoughts are moving or how their mind works. I think this is the best time we should be open about it because people are becoming more aware about these issues. It is a better idea to be open about it than hiding it, especially from a young age.
"We, right now, have physical education in every school, I think it will be good to add a portion about mental strength too - the factors that affect mental strength, the factors that build mental strength and that aspect is as important as the physical training and natural ability in every game. It should be a part of the curriculum," said Aryan.
Joshi too stressed on the need to take a wider look at mental strength so that even athletes from mofussil areas are benefitted.
"As a cricketer, as a coach, mental strength is very important. If you listen to every successful cricketer, he speaks about mental strength. What is mental strength? The way he took up various challenges, that's mental strength. The elite athletes reached the top level after facing and surviving those challenges, there is something in them that helped them face these challenges. So, the MSN team led by Aryan has reached out to people across India and talked to them so that young athletes can learn and transform themselves into champions in every sport.
"The athletes in metro cities will be aware of these issues but what about those in rural areas? I feel there is abundant talent in rural areas and that needs to nurtured. Hopefully, the MSN can contribute to this," said Joshi.