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Amit Gadkari: Ensuring Mental Well-Being of Student-Athletes

Amit Gadkari: Ensuring Mental Well-Being of Student-Athletes


Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.

Hi! It’s me, Spiffy, the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs making a difference for all of us around the world! Today’s rockstar is Amit Gadkari, founder and director of Nudge Sports!

Spiffy: Welcome Amit. Let’s jump right in. Can you tell me what challenge Nudge Sports is addressing?

Amit: Thanks for having me, Spiffy. Our primary focus is on the mental well-being and performance enhancement of student-athletes. We typically categorize student-athletes as those students who are engaged in competitive sports. They are subject to immense pressure both on and off the field. Our qualified sports psychologists work with them at an individual as well as group level where they focus on their holistic development. With our mental conditioning program, key issues such as performance pressure, fear of failure, lack of motivation, peer pressure, and handling failure are tackled through personalized programs. Apart from this, we work with parents and coaches as statistics have indicated them to be a primary reason for a student-athlete to quit the sport at an early age.

Spiffy: What motivates you to do it?

Amit: I was a student-athlete having represented my school and college in both badminton and cricket. Eventually focusing on cricket where I also represented Mumbai at the under-15 and under-19 levels. I realized a tad later that one of the key reasons why I could not go all the way was fear of failure. Access to and understanding of sports psychology and mental conditioning was nonexistent during my time. Sport these days is a specialized industry. The mental side of the athlete decides whether he or she will reach the top. Ask Novak Djokovic, Virat Kohli or Neeraj Chopra. Through Nudge Sports, we are looking at plugging the gap and offering structured mental conditioning programs to athletes across all sports.

Spiffy: What would you say is the impact of your work?

Amit: Nudge Sports works with individual athletes as well as sports academies. We started less than two years ago and within a short period of time, we have worked with almost 500 athletes across 18 sports and conducted more than 2,000 individual sessions with a team of 30 sports psychologists. We were able to reach 20 cities in India and athletes also in five other countries. Our focus has been on the holistic development of athletes with a systematic program that involves their detailed psychometric assessment and a 12- to 18-session program with periodic reviews and progress reports. We also have sports psychologists based at the academies available 24/7. Our objective is to make mental conditioning an integral part of the athlete's daily training routine.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone/initiative by you or your org. What impact does that make?

Amit: One of the groups of athletes that we work with are the tribals and low-income student-athletes. Typically, they are a part of an academy and our sports psychologists support them with mental conditioning for their performance enhancement and mental well-being. In their case, we also conduct awareness sessions on menstruation and its impact on sports performance, personal hygiene, the importance of sleep, and more. We work very closely on their mental wellness as most would have come from a traumatic childhood due to financial constraints or social disorders.

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Amit: As I mentioned earlier, our work focuses on the holistic development of a student-athlete. We take pride when we hear from the parents how their son or daughter has not just become more confident but is taking more responsibility and exhibiting a high level of empathy and compassion. We believe that only if one becomes a better individual can one become a better athlete and excel both on and off the field. Our review process tracks these improvements which are slow and silent but critical for one's well-being and mental health.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Amit—it’s been an honor!

Amit Gadkari is the founder and director of Nudge Sports. With over 27 years of corporate experience coupled with his passion for sports, Amit is leveraging mental conditioning in sports to enhance an athlete's performance. Amit has pioneered a structured approach to sports psychology working with more than 70% of sports psychologists in India, using technology to reach a wider audience, and adding value. He still plays competitive cricket now, representing India’s west zone in the league for individuals over 50 years old. He is an avid blogger and a voracious readersomething that allows him to express his vision. (First published on the Ladderworks website on March 19, 2024.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.