THE MAN IN INDIAN SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY
A Tribute to Bhishmaraj Bam.
Anjali Bhagwat, is a name in rifle shooting that became the World Number One in 10metre air rifle shooting in 2002 and also won her first World Cup final in Milan in 2003 ! Suma Shirur had struck a rough patch just before the qualification deadline for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Then at the Asian Championships in Kuala Lumpur, Suma shot a perfect score of 400 to win gold. Thus follows the success of the trio – Anjali Bhagwat, Suma Shirur and Deepali Deshpande in rifle shooting! The series of successes continues in the case of top badminton stars, P. Gopichand, Aparna Popat; cricketers Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Jatin Paranjape … tennis players; Harsh Mankad, Gaurav Natekar; golf players, athletes and many others. The list does not end here, these players won national and international acclaim.
Different games have different challenges… For example: sailing is a game of continuous activity without any break and golf is an exactly opposite game with long breaks in between two shots. Tennis players will think more about the scores while playing than the ball which they have to deal with. There are challenges of the game of chess, which need focus and selftalk. Also challenges faced by sportspersons need not always be professional in nature. Peak performance of any sportsperson is an amalgamation of physical and mental skills.
The human mind tends to get focused on temptations rather than the required choice of focus. Most of the players get awed by the reputation of their opponents or by the form exhibited. Controlling thoughts and moods is an essential factor and the player has to train himself or herself for that.
THE RISE OF SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY
While sporting countries like Australia and the US have a psychologist on board for every team, especially during major events like The Olympics, we have a few psychologists attached to the entire Indian contingent. None of the sportspersons in India have understood better about the powers of the human mind than the shooters whose rich haul over the years has proved to be an eyeopener for their counterparts.
A sports psychologist can influence the entire thought process of a sportsperson and help them cope with pressure at important stages of a match or a tournament. Generally, athletes find themselves weaker than the opponents. But after going through “mental training”, they are all so calm and mentally strong! Indian sportspersons have started demanding sport psychologists for their national squads.
There was a time when sports psychology was still an alien concept in India. And one name that linked with all sports-players and coaches, was “Bhishmaraj Bam, Sports Psychologist”. The science of controlling mind is “Manas-shastra” and it was compiled by the great sage Patanjali in his popular work called Yoga Darshan in which he has recommended the eight-fold path for attaining complete control over the mind. This rich cultural heritage has not only been studied in great detail but also practical applications in our day to day lives have been recommended by the late Bhishmaraj Bam. His focus on ‘strengthening the mind’ actually paid off and he became popularly known as “Bam Sir”! As the joint
director – intelligence bureau and as a sportsperson.
Bhishmarah Bam was born on 1 October 1938 to Purushottam and Uma Bam in the Nizam State of Hyderabad. As a student, he excelled at academics. After clearing MPSC exam, Bam joined the police force in June 1963 and his career as a police officer spanned from April 1973 to February 1982. He was the superintendent of police and from there moved to the Intelligence Bureau. He had a successful police career and excelled at crime investigation and interrogation, security – citizens, personnel, information and interrogation, Use of fine arms – practical shooting and combat shooting, human resources development and crisis handling. He served at the Intelligence Bureau from June 1982 both in Mumbai and New Delhi in capacities as an assistant director, deputy director and till his retirement from service as the joint director – Intelligence Bureau (a post equivalent to that of inspector general of police) in October 1996.
Bam was a decorated police officer and his exemplary contributions were recognised and he was conferred awards like Indian police medal for meritorious service in 1991, President’s police medal in 1996 and Chhatrapati Shivaji award by the Government of Maharashtra for contribution in the field of sports promotion in 1996. Bam moved in the top power circuit, from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s security structure to RAW, from regular uniformed police service to undercover operations. He worked, directly, with as many as five Prime Ministers, all of whom trusted him for his integrity and intelligence. His advice was always, free and fair, without fear or malice. Avinash Dharmadhikari worked as an associate of Bam during his IAS days.
Bam’s interest in sports remained an integral part of his police career where he won many medals at the police games, at the Maharashtra State Championships as well as National Championships. He captained the state police teams at the national level competitions and devised special training courses
A SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST CAN INFLUENCE THE ENTIRE THOUGHT PROCESS OF SPORTSPERSON AND HELP THEM COPE WITH PRESSURE AT IMPORTANT STAGES OF A MATCH OR A TOURNAMENT. GENERALLY, ATHLETES FIND THEMSELVES WEAKER THAN THE OPPONENTS.
for police officers as well as the staff and trained the team. He was a qualified rifle and pistol shooting coach and assisted the Government of Maharashtra in the experiment of Kreeda Prabhodini where he trained target shooters to become national and international champions. He was good at billiards and snooker as well.
AS SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST
In the early 1980s, when he was recovering from a severe slipped disc attack and was confined to bed-rest for almost six months, his shooting coach, Capt Solomon Eziekel introduced him to the concept of mental training and gave him books written by authors from across the world. He read all of them and combined that knowledge with his deep study of Indian philosophy and created his unique method of mental training encompassing ‘techniques of visualisation’, ‘the circle of excellence’ and ‘yoga nyas’.
Given his background of being a great sportsman himself, he was able to merge the concepts of mental training with the critical elements of each sport. Thus was
born “a sports psychologist”. He then started training the shooting team to provide the mental strength required to cope with match pressure and thus bring out one’s best performance. He was lovingly called “Godfather” of Indian Shooters.
Bam then extended his training to thousands of sportsmen across disciplines such as billiards, snooker, badminton, table tennis, swimming, cricket, tennis, golf etc since then and was regarded as one of the foremost sports psychologists and motivators in India.
In the world of cricket, he helped a well-known crickter Rahul Dravid and turned him into a world-class player. In the 2000 Commonwealth Games, Anjali Bhagwat received the gold medal because of his guidance. Kavita Raut, the international athlete of Nashik, got the support of Bam’s guidance. He also counselled and coached sports players Sachin Tendulkar, Jaspal Rana, Suma Shirur, P.gopichand, Ashok Pandit, Gagan Narang, Monali Gorhe, P Gopichand and Aparna Popat to name a few, won national as well as international acclaim. Today they are in turn responsible for creating other great sportspersons. These sportspersons have won medals, established records and won accolades for India at the recently concluded 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Bam trained the Maharashtra mountaineering team on the successful Everest expedition of 1998. He also trained the Mumbai and Karnataka Ranji Trophy teams, conducted trainings and workshops for national and elite panel umpires for budding tennis players at the
BAM WAS IN THE FOREFRONT OF THE PROMOTION OF SHOOTING AS A SPORT AND DEVELOPING SHOOTERS FOR INTERNATIONAL EVENTS. HE WAS THE SOCIAL SPORTS PSYCHOLOGIST FOR THE INDIAN SHOOTING TEAM AT THE 2010 NEW DELHI COMMONWEALTH GAMES AND THE OLYMPIC PROBABLES IN SHOOTING.
Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association. He has been the official sports psychologist for the Prakash Padukone Academy.
Bam was in the forefront for the promotion of shooting as a sport and developing shooters for International events. He was the social sports psychologist for the Indian shooting team at the 2010 New Delhi commonwealth games and the Olympic probables in shooting. He was instrumental in establishing many shooting ranges and introducing new shooters to the game of shooting.
His journey as a “sports psychologist” also made him a “counsellor for people from all walks of life” and that included people from housewives to dejected lovers to corporate heads to people from the film Industry like Mr Dilip Prabhavalkar (who played Gandhiji in Lage Raho Munna Bhai), Supriya Pilgaonkar to singers like Padmaja Jogalekar Padmashri to senior journalists. He had been counsellor to many patients who lost hopes to live. Patients were actually cured from their diseases and started living life happily with new hopes. Bam being an expert surgeon of the mind, would actually enhance the body and spirit by conducting a psychological surgery.
Bam wanted to spread the message of yoga as enunciated by Patanjali in his yoga Sutras so that society would benefit as a whole. He was delivering lecture on yoga on 12 May 2017 at the Senior Citizens Forum when he passed away due to cardiac arrest and breathed his last whilst doing something that he truly loved. We must try to learn from his behavioural traits like humility, simplicity, originality and creativity and ingrain them within us. That would be perfect tribute to India’s “sports psychologist” Bhishmaraj Bam, who led a multifaceted exemplary life, that remains a source of inspiration to countless !
( Courtesy: Shri Ajit Bam, Son)
A dream is a scripture, and many scriptures are nothing but dreams.