When training for a sport, most of an athlete’s efforts go toward strengthening their physical skills such as endurance, strength, and agility. However, it is commonly believed that athletic performance is largely mental. Because of this belief, mental strength and durability is becoming a priority in sports. Practicing mindfulness during practice as well as matches or games can lend a number of benefits to athletes of any age.
Though performance anxiety may not affect every athlete, a large number of young athletes are prone to feeling anxious or self-conscious about their abilities and their performance. Training to improve their skills can help athletes combat the fear of failure, but integrating mindfulness practices can help them identify stressors, reflect on their situation, and adapt accordingly. By making themselves aware of what makes them anxious, the reasons behind the anxiety, and how they can improve their state of mind, young athletes can alleviate unnecessary, inhibiting stress and allow them to perform to the best of their abilities.
Mindfulness can also encourage more positive self-talk that replaces negativity and pessimism. Pushing for a present-oriented attitude as opposed to one that dwells on past mistakes or worries about future challenges can allow athletes to more realistically and effectively handle tasks at hand.
In a similar fashion, practicing mindfulness while actually involved in a sports game can help athletes stay focused on their surroundings, their goals, and themselves. Rather than dwelling on stress or irrelevant information, athletes can instead direct their attention to physiological changes in their own bodies as well as the behavior of both teammates and opponents. Because of this increased concentration, athletes facilitate a strong mind-body connection that enables them to perform better, even when under pressure.
With a strong connection to their own bodies, athletes can better assess their performance as well as their physical states. Doing so forces athletes to consider their strengths and weaknesses in a productive, safe way. Conducting a body scan that encourages a heightened awareness of minute details such as tension, temperature, and pain. By assessing these things, athletes are able to recognize their limits and work toward improving their endurance while avoiding unnecessary injuries.
The connection between mindfulness and athletic performance is still being studied. Even though the subject is relatively new, practicing mindfulness certainly helps athletes focus on themselves as well as their limits, making them more efficient and productive players.