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Stay Loose: Helping Your Athletes Practice Mindfulness

By Nelson Gord, Next College Student Athlete Team Edition, 06/13/18, 12:00PM CDT

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Stress causes shallow breathing, so this is a great way to fight stress. Also, deep listening can help athletes focus. Coaches can use a singing bowl, chime or an app that can help groups to concentrate.

As adults we can sometimes forget that being a kid can be stressful, too. Fortunately, coaches can help their athletes stay loose and play to their potential by showing them how to practice mindfulness.

Was being a kid easier in the past? Who’s to say, but there is probably some sort of effect that social media, a busy sports schedule and academic workloads have on today’s kids.

Things just seemed simpler before everyone was anchored to a cell phone and college costs shot into the stratosphere. Meanwhile, parents who dream of their kids playing professional ball can sometimes go overboard when it comes to putting pressure on them.

So what’s a coach to do? One way that coaches can help their athletes relax and enjoy the game more is to help them practice mindfulness.

Listening to ourselves and our bodies can be difficult when we’re busy. Mindfulness means being present and in the moment, rather than focusing on the past or future. For athletes, mindfulness can be especially helpful because it means making an effort to stay in touch with their bodies and the sensations they experience. Athletes can take note of the thoughts and feelings they’re experiencing, but also how their bodies are feeling — which can help prevent injury.

If athletes are stressed or experiencing a meltdown, ask them to perform a body scan and explain what they’re feeling inside — whether that’s sweating, crying or pain. A helpful way to induce calm is to have athletes breathe deeply by using the diaphragm and inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Stress causes shallow breathing, so this is a great way to fight stress. Also, deep listening can help athletes focus. Coaches can use a singing bowl, chime or an app that can help groups to concentrate.

As for apps, there are several out on the market that can help users practice the basics of meditation and mindfulness. The most famous one is probably Headspace, which was largely created by a former Buddhist monk. The free features include a breathing exercise, but the paid features offer hundreds of hours of extra content. The Calm app offers soothing sounds of the sea (and other environments), while Stop, Breathe and Think records how you’re feeling.

Give some of them a shot and see how they can help you and your squad.

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