Mind Matters: S Badrinath and team launch 'MFORE’ to provide mind conditioning to cricketers
Mental Health is an issue that is slowly being acknowledged and being brought to the forefront in Indian society.
Like most individuals, sportspeople and athletes worldwide are slowly coming forward to address their challenges and struggles, both on the field and off it.
To make this transition and acceptance easier, and to help athletes not view their limitations as setbacks, but as an opportunity to rise forward in full force and achieve their true potential, former south Indian cricketing champion Subramaniam Badrinath has started a non-profit initiative called MFORE, to help cricketers, coaches, and parents venture into mind conditioning to reach peak performance in sports.
Along with co-founder Saravana Kumar, Badrinath a right-hand batsman, who has previously played for the likes of Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore, is using his experience to build simple and sustainable training programmes for Indian cricket players.
These tailor-made programmes will help individuals overcome anxiety, performance pressure, self-doubt, and fear and achieve peak performance consistently, by helping them tackle the most challenging opponent till date: their minds.
Badrinath has said about the launch of MFORE, “Having undergone mental conditioning coaching during my playing days, I can vouch that it can bring in a positive difference in the players’ performance.”
For this reason, he has also teamed up with famous sportspeople of the country on a specially curated show, ‘Mind Masters by MFORE’ on Star Sports 1 Tamil, every Sunday 7 pm onwards.
Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli talks about how players can overcome difficult situations through mind skill training,
“I think mental health and mental clarity is the most important factor in life; not just in sports. With Badrinath and MFORE helping these cricketers, this will go a long way in understanding themselves better and going out there and performing despite the conditions and situations being difficult for them.”
Lending his support to the MFORE initiative before the lockdown, Mahendra Singh Dhoni shared his experiences with top coaches from various sports, including cricket, volleyball, tennis and golf in a session conducted by MFORE. During his interaction with the coaches, Dhoni emphasised,
“In India, I feel there is still a big issue of accepting that there is some weakness when it comes to the mental aspects, but we generally term it as mental illness. Nobody really says that, when I go to bat, the first 5 to 10 deliveries my heart rate is elevated, I feel the pressure, I feel a bit scared because that’s how everybody feels - how to cope with that? This is a small problem but a lot of times we hesitate to say it to a coach and that’s why the relationship between a player and coach is very important, be it any sport.”
In an exclusive interview with YS Weekender former cricketer S Badrinath talks about the launch of his NGO MFORE, the growing need to address mental health in today’s world, and the tailor made programmes being offered through this initiative
YSW: How did the idea of launching MFORE come about? What was your main aim/goal through this?
SB: The main aim was to create a platform where mind skill training can be imparted on a regular basis and a culture of mind skills training can be created amongst the sporting fraternity. It’s like how people train physically and technically. I have gone through quite a bit throughout my career and nothing came easy to me. Back in 2014 and 2016 I went through mental conditioning coaching and this was a positive influence for me as a cricketer, a sportsman and a human being, so I personally feel it is very important. This idea came about on a golf course when my partner and I were playing badly and that’s when we started analysing why we were doing it and the answers were always about the mind. So, the idea came from there to create a platform that deals with the mental ability of an athlete.
YSW: Why the name MFORE?
SB: The idea behind this name is really simple – the letter M represents the ‘mind’ and FORE stand for ‘forefront’, which basically means putting the mind in front and hence MFORE (mind fore).
YSW: What are some of the sustainable programmes you are offering?
SB: Our programmes are not generic. For example, if a team requests to do a programme, we insist on scheduling a meeting with the coach and meet up with the players. Each programme is specially designed; there is no point in doing a general programme and just going and talking to them, it doesn’t work that way. Every team, age group and sports have different sets of challenges and it is important for us to assess those challenges and design our programmes to the need of the individuals, teams, coaches with what they want to achieve and also keep their targets in mind.
YSW: Why do you think addressing mental health is extremely critical in today’s world? Do you think players will reach out on their own for help and support, through the launch of MFORE?
SB: There are two parts to this – the first being is to create awareness amongst the fraternity that mind skills training is needed and it’s something that athletes need to do on a regular basis. I think once this awareness is created, players and coaches will come to us.
We are focusing a lot on this aspect and it is also one of the major reasons that we partnered with Star Sports for their Mind Masters show on Star Sports 1 Tamil which is a part of creating mass awareness through television and impart the importance of mind skills training. The other part is also encouraging athletes to come to us.
YSW: How will the programmes being offered help ease anxieties, self-doubt, and fear amongst players, family members, coaches, and other members in the cricketing fraternity?
SB: All of this is a part of the awareness that we would like to create, and we have specific modules for coaches, we have already designed a really nice programme called ‘’The Transformational Coach’’. It is specifically designed for coaches and we have analysed that the stakeholders of the athletes- coaches and the parents and we will address and customise the programme for all of them. The important specifications for us are the age group of the athletes, the gender and the sport that they are playing. It comes down to what their challenges are; each one’s challenge in today’s world in sports is very different. It’s correct to mention that this is integrated since they are also stakeholders of the athlete. So, we can’t just go for the athlete alone and produce results. It is important to create that awareness and knowledge of mind skills training for the whole fraternity, which includes parents and coaches.
YSW: Who are some of the cricketers who will be collaborating/helping out with the initiative and what roles are they currently undertaking?
SB: We are getting a lot of support from cricketers to create awareness; M S Dhoni came to our first programme of “Transformational coaches” where we trained 20-25 coaches across sports in Chennai. M S Dhoni spent about 90 mins and patiently answered all questions. That was a very big programme for us and it gave us a lot of insight into what we can include into our programme and what are the challenges coaches face.
The fraternity including Virat Kohli, Mike Hussey, Brian Lara, Anil Kumble, L Balaji, R Ashwin and many more have given their inputs on how important mind is in sports - I don’t think we need any other endorsement. The top athletes say they have achieved what they have because of their mind, this is the perfect testament to mind skills training, and I don’t think I can ask for anything more. When it comes from these athletes, we feel it will reach the masses.
YSW: Coaches play an important role in the players’ performance and accomplishments. How many sessions will be held for the coaches to help them effectively communicate the right advice to players?
SB: Coaches are an integral part of the team, and at MFORE we look at how coaches can innovatively contribute to the team for the growth of players – the training involved techniques and process of the mind to achieve this on a daily basis. Everything must be done on a regular basis, it cannot be a one-off session. Whether it's an athlete, a coach or a parent, we must impart skills on a regular basis. The physicality of an athlete changes with every passing year and keeping that in mind their goals change as well – we see a growth graph; from an amateur to a professional. Every phase has a different set of challenges and depending on that the training programme is designed.
YSW: Do you have any sports psychiatrists on board? If so, who are they? Who are the other important core members at MFORE and where did you find them?
SB: We have a plethora of sports psychologists who are in touch with us, from India and globally as well. There are a few who have reached out to us as well to work with us, we are extremely happy with the response we have received. They design the programs and impart the mind skills part of the program – especially working on the need of an athlete, coach or team. We won’t be able to name them as it’s against the ethical code, as they are psychologists.
YSW: What are some of the outbound activities you will be carrying out to help players bond better?
SB: We have identified quite a few sectors in and around Chennai and Bengaluru – we have some beautiful outbound activities that can be designed especially for team bonding. It’s an extremely important area, and we are looking at exploring a lot in that field. We have already identified the sports, the type of programmes that can be done – we are in touch with them.
YSW: Star sports has recently launched your show ‘Mind Masters MFORE’ since you have already 5 episodes planned, will there be more to come in the future?
SB: We have got a good response after the first episode, which is great. Through Mind Masters, we want to reach out to the masses and create awareness on the importance of Mind skills training for the sports fraternity. This is a great platform for the initiative, and we have received immense support from the fraternity for this.
YSW: What is your long- term vision/future plan for MFORE? Do you plan to expand, are you looking for funding?
SB: The long-term goal for MFORE is to be part of something big in Indian sport – probably an Olympic Gold or World Cup winning team. The dream is to be part of and be associated with a win that brings laurels for the country.
Additionally, we want to expand and grow – reach out to more and more people - for that we are looking and are open to support, in terms of funds and donations as we are a non-profit initiative. That is the reason we are trying to create awareness – people are investing into infrastructure and facilities; it is important to invest in this area as well. Mind is a huge phenomenon; this is what will make the difference in a moment – it could be a World Cup win or a medal for India. This is going to be key – if we get more support and funds, we can create a big difference in the future.
YSW: How is the COVID-19 lockdown affecting athletes and cricketers worldwide?
SB: It is affecting athletes across the world – we have already put some programmes together to help athletes and sportspersons for this. We can’t go out there and physically do it, but we are doing it through digital platforms. We are aiming to do at least two programmes a month for a group of athletes from here on until this lockdown comes to an end. We intend to keep them motivated and inculcate new mind skills through which they stay connected to their game, reduce their anxiety and keep their motivational levels up. People have approached us, and it’s an important time for us to make sure athletes receive necessary training during this time.
Edited by Asha Chowdary