Throughout my life I have been an athlete or a coach in a couple of different sports. In each sport, I was always exposed to visualization and mindfulness training. In today’s society, mindfulness practice is becoming a normal part of training for almost any sport. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Derek Jeter, and Ricky Williams are all pro-athletes. What do they all have in common…MINDFULNESS! Sport committees and organizations around the world hire sports psychologists that utilize mindfulness with athletes on a daily basis. Teams and coaches participate in group meditations to embrace the mind-body concept to produce better athletes.
Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement (MSPE) was developed by Keith Kaufman and Carol Glass in 2006. Their research examined how various types of applied mindfulness are related to sport anxiety, self-efficacy, and flow in athletes. This can be applicable to any sport. It is introduced over a four to eight week time period and includes the following mindfulness exercises:
- Mindful Eating
- Sitting Meditation
- Body Scan
- Hatha Yoga
- Walking Meditation
- Specific Sport Meditation
Once learned, mindfulness can be applied to the physical side of the sport. It can drive athletes “into the zone” or what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi proposes as a “flow state”.
Flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task although flow is also described as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one’s emotions. (Wikipedia)
The following are benefits that athletes have achieved through the practice of mindfulness:
- Mind-Body Concept
- Increased Positivity
- Prevention of Burn-Out or Injury
- Improved Focus and Concentration
- Skill Mastery
- Awareness of the Present Moment During Performance
- Increased Self Confidence
- Ability to Make Better Decisions Under Pressure
What other benefits do you believe athletes gain from practicing mindfulness? Do you believe that incorporating mindfulness into sports will lead to better performing athletes?