By Todd Wilson, Owner, HolisticA Fitness
I’ve spent 4 sessions with players learning and practicing mindfulness techniques including mindfulness of breathing (anchor) using 3 minute Check-Ins and 4×4 breathing techniques, mindfulness of thought, mindfulness of emotions and heartfulness (sending kind thoughts), and the weaving of mindfulness into their daily lives. Mindfulness and mental fitness practices allow for heightened attention and concentration, help reduce stress as well as anxiety, and help players cope with difficult emotions on and off the court.
The players practiced mindful posture and breathing techniques allowing them to be in the present moment, fully aware and nonjudgmental of any thoughts, feelings, or emotions. By practicing non-judgmental and open awareness, you are better able to regulate your emotions, improve your attention, and concentrate better on the task at hand.
Players were asked how much of basketball is mental vs. physical? Do the athletes regularly practice drills to improve ball skills? Are they involved with some sort of strength and conditioning training (at least during the off-season) to develop strength, power, and the energy systems needed for the sport? If basketball is more than 50% mental, how much mental or mindset training is done? We can strengthen the pathways in our brains that regulate emotions, allowing one to enter (or allow it in) The Zone. In as little as 10 minutes a day of practice, athletes can improve their mental fitness and learn to better deal with tough emotions. This type of mindset training or “mental fitness” is exactly what Olympic, collegiate, & pro athletes do. Examples include Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Michael Phelps, the Seattle Seahawks (NFL), men’s basketball team at American University and many more.
Mental fitness can be the great differentiator between elite athletes and the rest of the pack, even if they are at the same physical skill level. The athlete with the higher emotional intelligence has the ability to stay focused on the goals and tasks at hand, giving them an edge.
Mindfulness is truly a great way to improve performance in oneself on and off the court, and in everything we do!