Chennai, 4th March, 2024: Onur Cukur, a setter for Kolkata Thunderbolts in the ongoing third season of the Prime Volleyball League powered by A23, has garnered a lot of fan-following because of his impressive showing on the court. The Turkish volleyball star, who hails from Izmir, has represented several European clubs throughout his career, including Galatasaray HDI Sigorta, and has also represented the Turkish national team. But despite his travels across the world, he lights up when talking about his time at home.

"Izmir is a city I holds dear to me. All my family is there, I still try to spend my summers every year with my family and I miss them dearly, when I am traveling for studies or abroad," he said.

Onur began his volleyball career in Turkey at a young age of 9. Cukur’s early exposure to the sport was influenced by his mother, who herself was a former player. Despite being pushed to the sport initially, his passion for the game only grew, leading him to play professionally in Turkey, the United States, and the Czech Republic. "I played in Turkey until I was 18 where I also represented the U-20 national team, afterwards I started travelling abroad."

Cukur pursued his education alongside his athletic career, studying sports psychology in the United States at the Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona. His decision to delve into sports psychology was fueled by a lifelong interest in the mental aspects of sports, recognizing its often-overlooked impact. He also shed light on the crucial role mental health plays in sports.

“Choosing between education and athletics was the only option for me. My parents made sure that my mind was not just in one place and they always wanted me to ensure my education is not affected," he said.

Cukur maintained good grades in high school and eventually went on to pursue a course in sports psychology at the Grand Canyon University in the USA.

"I wanted to play professionally. But I wanted to have a career beyond the court, as you can play only for a limited time. I needed a degree and I chose sports psychology because was always very interested in mental aspect of sports," he said.

Presently, apart from playing volleyball, Cukur is continuing his education, pursuing Masters in sports Psychology, and wishes to find a role in the same fired after retirement.

“Mental health is a huge part of sport, and not even just sports, but in daily life as well. It can be easily overlooked. We need people to get educated about it. It’s almost like training your body and you cannot perform to your maximum, if you don’t have control of your mind,” he said.

“Recently, it’s starting to get a lot more attention. People are starting to understand the impact it has on the performance,” he added.

Sharing his thoughts on India, Cukur expressed enthusiasm for the growing popularity of volleyball in the country. He opined, “It’s very fun. It is Different than anything else I have experienced before. I have played in like Turkey, Europe and in the USA, but the culture here is different,” he signed off.