Even with all the data available to coaches across the country about the benefits of training the mind through mindfulness and meditation practices, very few leaders are willing to understand the importance of training the emotions and the mind. And just as we discussed last week, in the realm of professional athletics, more and more coaches are implementing meditation into their programs. Some go as much as hiring a meditation coach, such as Phil Jackson did with Lakers and Knicks. But in the college and high school ranks, meditation, mindfulness, and much of anything that has to do with training the mind is thought of as a waste of time.
Not only is this wrong, it’s irresponsible. It’s irresponsible to not train your team’s mind. It’s irresponsible not to discuss how to react when your athletes feel particular emotions. It’s irresponsible for coaches not to give the athlete the absolute best training program possible - and that what training the mind provides. It adds the mental side of training to your athletes palette, making them not just a more well rounded athlete, but a more prepared athlete. Hell, if we are not preparing our athletes to be their best when we put them out there to compete, what the hell are we even doing coaching in the first place?
So here are three specific reasons on why you should be teaching meditation to your teams:
Meditation will Improve Your Team's Ability to be More Confident
As we have spoken about before: confidence comes from how you speak to yourself. If you are not aware that you are saying negative things to yourself, how are you expected to be confident? Well to start, mediation allows you to heighten your overall awareness. Aware of how you are speaking to yourself, how you are communicating with your teammates, even how your body language may be affecting your play. In having a regular meditation practice, you learn where your thoughts tend to go when you are in challenging situations and how to create a pathway in which you can change your internal dialogue. ‘Sucking it up’ or ‘just playing through it’ doesn’t cut it most of the time. Train yourself to create confidence whenever and whatever the stakes is something that all athletes should be trained to do.
Mediation will Improve Your Team’s Ability to Be More Competitive
We tend to tell the athletes on our team to ‘just go out there and compete,’ but we don’t tend to have a pathway to do so, nor do when things get tough, do we know how to do anything other than try to ‘fire them up’ by yelling and screaming and trying to increase their intensity in a given moment. Meditation teaches you to how to quiet the thoughts in your mind and focus on the moment at hand. In that moment, where you are totally focused on the things that you need to accomplish, whether it be one pitch, play, or important piece of a routine - then you can really compete.
Meditation Teaches Your Athletes to Breathe Correctly
The number one reason that athletes become tense when stressed is that their breathing becomes shallow, ineffective, and weak. As your tension level goes up, those who have not trained how to breathe lose their ability to compete, focus, and be at their best. And even though tension is the enemy of success, the very skill of recognizing tension and creating a good breath to cease it can be the difference between an elite and average athlete. So why on earth would you not train your athletes how to breathe? Meditation is a perfect and stress free way to train an athlete to not only breathe better, but to you use that breath as a way to make them more focused, centered, and confident.
You never see elite athletes perform on the big stage who don’t take big, relaxing breathes to help them get focused. This is because they understand the benefits of breathing and how that can increase the output and greatness of their game. So if you are looking for your team to become elite, or just be better than what they are now, then train the whole athlete - train them to cam the mind and take a deep breath. However, make sure you start with meditation training.
As we said in the beginning of this article, there is nothing wrong with getting your team in the right place both physically and mentally. You are not wasting a training session or a conversation with an athlete if you discuss with them how to get in the best mental place to succeed. So, having said this, we cannot say it more clearly when we say that if you are not teaching meditation to your athletes, whether in junior high or in college - YOU ARE SHORT CHANGING THEM. If you have a team that is trained in the mental AND physical game, then you are going to not just have a better team, but a team that will compete harder, be mentally tougher, and be more self aware than nearly any team you face.