Teaching mechanics in any sport is important. Teaching how one needs to understand the playbook is important. But teaching an athlete how to breathe SO THEY CAN ACHIEVE better mechanics and understand the playbook will make them better in the moment, better over the entire season, and teach them a skill that they can use not just in sport, but in their everyday life.
The issues is, much like we discussed recently, coaches are not teaching proper breathing and meditation in their practice sessions. Because of this, you are seeing teams that play in the face of tension, tightness, and a less-than-desired version of themselves. Not only does meditation and proper breathing instruction teach you how to be more aware, but that awareness allows you to know when you are breathing correctly and when you are not getting enough oxygen into your system.
I am not advocating that coaches get away from teaching fundamentals or mechanics. You need to be a master of teaching these skills in order for your team to be successful. However, what I am saying is that taking 10 minutes out of your team's schedule and teaching them how to breathe and get centered will not just help them retain the information you taught them, but get them to compete in a place that is calmer and more focused.
If you are thinking: ‘I only have 2 hours of practice time a day, I don’t have time to squeeze anything in,’ here are some tips that can help you get some breathing training into your sessions:
As your team is stretching, have them focus not so much on the stretch, but on the breath they are taking during that exercise. It may only be 30 seconds, but doing that several times in a training session will be beneficial
Before you go through an exercise, take 30 seconds and have the group focus on taking long, deep, calming breaths to slow down their heart rate and increase their ability to focus on the task at hand
Have your team download an app. Headspace and 10% Happier are both great applications that provide easy breathing trainings and explanations for any level of athlete or person in business. And it can be done anywhere.
Talk to your team about their breathing after an exercise. How was your breathing? How was your mind? Where you tense or relaxed? I see that you look tight, how is your breathing right now? Just asking simple questions such as this will make your team more aware of how important their breathing is to their performance.
You are not trying to reinvent the wheel here. All you are trying to do as the leader of the team or organization is to teach another skill to your group. That’s what effective leaders try to do. They understand that although a specific skill is important to success, that it can’t be accomplished unless your athlete is calm, focused, and has all the tools necessary to succeed. And it all starts with just a simple breath.