How to stay motivated at home? Water polo players have “a prescription”

Serbian water polo players have been synonymous for success and as such have been beloved by the nation for years. In the decade after us, in the middle of the last decade, they were the most trophy national selection in the world, with nine consecutive gold medals won in major competitions in a row: European and World Championships, Olympic Games, World League and World Cup. Photo: UNIQA/Nebojša Babić

With undeniable talent, tremendous quality, expert guidance by the coaching team and a good atmosphere that has always adorned the Dolphins, the motive was one of the key factors that enabled them to be unrivaled from 2014 to 2017 and achieve a triumphant streak which can be  rarely seen in the world of sports and it will be hard to reach.

Poker of players from that generation – Andrija Prlainovic, Milan Aleksic, Dusan Mandic and Sava Randjelovic, also brand ambassadors of UNIQA Insurance, talked to each other about the motive that sports psychology underlies in the pyramid as a base for achieving a top sporting result, before technical and tactical training and physical preparation. Like in sports, in life, motive is the main driver of all activities necessary to achieve small and big life victories. How to stay motivated at home in times of isolation and social distance is a question to which these four top athletes, who have been motivated by the great champions’ motives, have tried to answer and, through their examples, may be an inspiration to others.

For them, the current situation is even more specific, as they have been unable to train in the pool for more than a month, which, according to them, is the longest period of separation from the water polo they remember. Sava Randjelovic and Milan Aleksic were quarantined for 28 days, as they returned from Budapest and Barcelona to Belgrade in mid-March, while Andrija Prlainovic stayed with his family in Hungary and Dusan Mandic stayed in Montenegro.

Photo: UNIQA/Nebojša Babić

– My motive has always been some progress, so motives and goals have changed as I grew up – Andrija Prlainovic began the story:

– When I was in the junior categories, I dreamed of entering the senior national team, and that sporting motive to be better every time, to advance, has dragged me throughout my career. At the beginning of preparations for major competitions, journalists always ask us if there are motives for further proof. I am a supporter of whoever cannot find the motive should not be there. I think that’s why individual sports are fairer in that sense, because you can’t make the result without motive. In a collective sport like water polo, you can sometimes hide, because there are 13 players. However, in a top sport without that sporting motive you have nothing to look for. Any amount of relaxation is unacceptable, because that’s when it’ll meet you. When you’re not motivated the right way, you’re better off sitting at home. Another important thing. Pleasure is a very dangerous feeling, and this is not just a sport, but any other sphere of life. When you are too pleased and have the realization that you have won everything, you are in great danger at that moment.

Photo: UNIQA/Nebojša Babić

In his words, Milan Aleksic follows:

– There are some situations that happen on a daily basis. There may be unjust judgments, and then you try to channel that dissatisfaction with additional motivation, not to waste energy on croaking or protests. If you succeed, then you can really swim faster, be harder to keep quiet in decisive situations, but it’s also been learned for years, through experience. I think in sports you find motives periodically, from match to match, or from season to season. At least that’s the my case. I can’t imagine a professional athlete without the motive of being better than their opponent, not even competing with themselves and their own capabilities at some moments. I do not know how I would play if I did not find motives, because there is really a lot of physical effort. There are few fools who would be mistreated so much without motive and purpose. Again, these motives are different. Why not to say, to some, motive is glory, to some the result, and to someone the money, and that is all legitimate. Everyone finds themselves and feeds their energy with some motive – notes Aleksic.

Photo: UNIQA/Nebojša Babić

Experts say that characteristics (height, speed …) and ability (intelligence, endurance …) are different for each individual. Motive is not a feature, but it is a condition for improving ability. On the other hand, to use skills in the right way also requires a motive, which can be internal or external, and Sava Randjelovic cited the situation that motivated him most in his career.

– Jargonly, the click occurred in Athens in 2013. I was a member of the Red Star at the time, we played a game with Olympiakos which we remember to lose. After that game I had a pretty serious conversation with Andrija Prlainovic. I do not want to talk about what Prle told me on this occasion, but that conversation influenced me a great deal and greatly contributed to my great motivation and later career advancement. I was 19 and very fortunate to have such a grandmaster and a man like Prle as a teammate. With his advice, things got better for me, as if at that moment I was cutting something and just pushing forward. It really meant a lot to me in those moments.

Photo: UNIQA/Nebojša Babić

Dusan Mandic returned the memory and recounted his experiences, as well:

– It was very difficult in the group stage of the Rio Olympics. We went through various emotions, but we also often met each other, we had numerous conversations and then in the quarter-finals everything started as we wanted. I remember that feeling before that Rio final. I’ve never remembered that before or after. It was the most special feeling, the motive to win gold was huge, I was under some incredible excitement – said Mandic and then added:

– There was another moment, and that was in the final of the World League in Belgrade. My wife was pregnant, just before giving birth, and she came to the game. I felt a terrible adrenaline rush, I was very motivated because she came to watch me in that condition and support me. That match was in many ways specific, with that unprecedented rain shower in the finish of the match. The stakes were also big, the fight for an Olympic visa and our opportunity to defend the gold won in Brazil – Mandic noted.

All four are big champions, and as such, they discussed whether or not the winner is born in the head, and in that process, motive is a crucial factor.

– Of course, the winner is created – Prlainovic said first.

– Each personality is built up from the earliest childhood through a relationship with its parents, then with teachers, coaches. That is how personality and that winning spirit or mentality are created. I think the born winner sounds nice just for the headlines in the media and that it may just be the artistic freedom of a journalist, but it doesn’t exist in the real world. Believe me, no one is born a winner, he is slowly created through growing up and it is a painstaking process. It is necessary to build a personality in this spirit to become a winner one day. And, again, the winner is the passing category. I know many athletes who were champions and ended up infamous. You know, the hardest part is staying the winner. In fact, the greatest success is that you last, and it requires enormous work, which again, on the other hand, is firmly linked to that motive. Well, when that’s gone it’s hard to be a winner.

Mandic fully agrees with Prlainovic:

– There is a misconception that a winner is born, because supposedly we all have the internal strength or character to fight or not. I think athletes, those who have reached the professional level, have this internal desire to prove themselves greater than others. Still, a key factor is dedication to training and perseverance in getting to the top. To become a champion, the journey is very long, and it requires tremendous will, desire, perseverance and renunciation. A lot of things have to be sacrificed, leisure, some little joys that are common to people are not available to us. Everyone sees our hands raised after a victory, or the medals that shine after a competition, but they don’t think how you got there and how much pain and energy was put into it. This is not achieved in just ten days, it takes one life to complete.

Aleksic goes a step further in his observation:

– In the sport there is no past in the sense that when you win something, you naturally follow things in the next competition. That is why we constantly emphasize that the past does not exist in sports. It’s just that you don’t live in sports in the past. Medals are no guarantee of a successful future. If you don’t work you won’t win anything, so the motive to push yourself forward again and again is crucial. Success can only be talked about when your career is over, as a player you only have to look ahead. It’s very cruel, when you are not the first to fall into oblivion, because someone else has come to your place. Without motives and work, this cannot be achieved. And believe me, it’s not easy at all.

And how in these difficult conditions each of them individually finds motivation:

– I tried to get something positive out of everything that was going on around us. I told myself this could be an opportunity to fully regenerate both physically and mentally from busy seasons and games years back. It helped me stay positive. On the other hand, as for automaticity, I approach every training at home. Because, I am aware that if I do not work on myself that returning to the pool will be very difficult and with these regular trainings I want to help myself, said Sava Randjelovic.

Mandic has only one goal in his head that he says is enough as a driver:

– It takes a lot of consistency and discipline to train with the proper fervor, primarily because of the fact that no one has an idea when the situation will normalize. There is complete uncertainty and therefore nothing can be planned. But there is only one thought that comes to my mind, and that is that next year is the Olympics again and that is what drives me. We will have a year to prepare for this, and I want to make the most of it. That’s my driving force. The Olympics as the world’s largest sporting event are something I have been dedicated to maximally, and I have been training for my whole life and I want to be fully prepared.

And as they spend their free time in the past few years, there was a special theme:

– I read a lot more than usual. I have watched many films, certainly more than in the last three years together. I am currently reading a book called Thessaloniki, a city of spirits, a book that talks about Christians, Muslims and Jews, their relationship in this Greek city through five centuries of Ottoman empire.

Sava Randjelovic had his recommendation:

– I have to admit that I sleep much longer than usual, and I like it well. I spend most of my time reading motivational literature. I liked most the book  “Watch the wolf you feed,” which is composed of multiple stories, tells of happiness, full of helpful hints, and suggests that we not look back at the past, but just go ahead and make it all happen for a reason. I highly recommend it as it will contribute to everyone’s instant motivation.


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