"I picked FLAME as my undergraduate destination largely because of the football field – I had hardly ever seen a ground so green to play in India. I look back at that time very fondly as it was in those four years that I found my calling," says alumnus Saumya Mehta as he goes down memory lane. His B.A in Psychology enabled him to pursue his passion for sports while excelling academically.
Saumya has now turned his calling into his career as he is doing a joint Ph.D. from German Sport University Koln and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam). He talks about how FLAME helped him blend his passion for Psychology and Sports, which served as a springboard to his higher studies abroad.
At FLAME, Saumya had an excellent academic record and made his mark with involvement in varied activities. He was on the Dean's Roll of Honour for three years in a row and delivered on his responsibility in Student Council, as well as the Sports Secretary in style. He asserts that academics were non-burdening as he was deeply interested in Psychology. "Moreover, there were several courses that didn't test our memory but our fundamental understanding of cause-effect relationships, logical reasoning. As sports secretary, I had to maintain the balance between the guidelines laid by management and allowing the students to try new events; this made me a better communicator and planner," he says with a smile.
Saumya also reveals his secret to unwind and stay calm on campus. He would head to the lush football ground at the end of the day. But it wasn't all play for him as he had developed a research interest as well. He is grateful to his faculty members, who were instrumental in his understanding of the empirical scientific method and being mentors that afforded space for random, creative thoughts. "They focused not so much on recall as much as exposing us to the ways of scientific research, and I use those lessons very often in my work as a researcher at the German Sport University as well as my Ph.D. studies," he states. His internship helped him put those skills into practice.
Saumya's FLAME Internship - an Erasmus Europe initiative brought him close to elite football in Holland. The internship focused on facilitating well-being in elite youth footballers, and he gained vital experience working with youth footballers at AFC Ajax, Vitesse Arnhem, and Feyenoord Rotterdam's football academies. Earlier, he had a stint as a content developer but was convinced to work in sport and connect psychology with it. "I wasn't sure how I would do this; there is no clear-cut pathway in our country for such work. I spent a few months working in sports content and media, followed by work at football youth academies, all of which were enriching," he takes us through the path he followed.
According to him, though work experience helps contextualize what one has learned, it should not be the focus when choosing higher education. Saumya's advice is to see how the course may align within a more prominent, long-term picture. It was clear to him that after a year as a professional that he needed to study further to have the bandwidth to explore new concepts. "So I decided to continue my academic journey with Master in Movement Sciences and Sport Psychology. More than winning, sport can teach life lessons of respect, process versus outcome, dealing with erratic emotions, discipline, etc., and it is the coach's job to illuminate them. I learned a lot from my football teammates, especially my batchmate Longceim Ingti Kathar, who was the absolute pinnacle of sporting dedication and unknowingly taught me how to study football differently," he concludes warmly, recollecting his memories at FLAME. He is undoubtedly studying football differently and paving the way for others to follow in his footsteps.