How fitness coaches get mindfulness easily
Why should fitness coaches care about mindfulness? If you want strong-willed athletes which win matches their mind has to be in the right place. The higher the level of achievement the more possible distractions come down on them. This is an article to help you to find the right tools for focus. It is based on the book "The mindful athlete: Secrets to pure performance" written by George Mumford.
What mindfulness does for coaches
Mindfulness has become a buzzword. It used to be called stress management in the past. So why care about this?
As a coach, you should care about the mental health of your athletes. Only strong minds will stick to their diet. Strong minds will show up in time for training. Strong minds will know which shot not to take to stay healthy for the season.
A team of strong-willed, calm and precise athletes who focus on one goal will outperform many other teams. That is how Otto Rehagel managed to win the German championship with Kaiserslautern. He repeated this at the European championship with Greece.
How your athletes perform with mindfulness
Mindfulness helped me to perform better. Since I introduced it into my routine beginning 2018 I am less angry and more focused. My lifts have gone up and I get more done in less time.
If you feel like your athletes are fit but do not win dig deeper. Is your team frustrated? Is your team exhausted? Are they able to focus? What kind of mechanisms do they have to deal with distractions? You can be their help to focus and first you have to identify the distractions. The enemies of your athletes are lack of focus, stress, panic, feeling inferior or superior.
One of these might well be the reason
Lack of focus is often a symptom for beginners. The options of practice are so many that they run around like a headless chicken. It is your job to teach them what works and what does not. It is your job to explain to them how their skills fit into the big picture.
Stress occurs when skill and challenge are not aligned. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi believes that you are in the Zone when your skill and the situation's challenge are high and equal to each other. If the challenge is higher than your skill you get stressed. When your skill is higher than the situation demands you get bored. You can help your athletes by observing and nudging them.
Panic is triggered in fight or flight situations which can be very relevant in sports. While stress related more to a general build up over a season, panic triggers in a game and leads to immediate mistakes. As a coach, it is your job to identify the situations in which your team behaves irrationally. Once identified drill patterns into them which keep them calm and focused.
Feeling inferior can stunt your team's performance. This happens when you are at the receiving end of a bad streak. Another situation is when a star team pays you a visit. In both occasions, it is important to stick to the facts and best practices. Steer your team away from fatalism and negative emotions. Focus on execution.
All-star teams can have a tendency to feel superior. While this feeds ambition and confidence it can also lead to recklessness. One fault can lead to a lost game. A lost game can start a bad streak. A lost game because of bad morale can lead to the trainer being doubted by management. If your team wants to keep you as a coach they better lose in spite of leaving everything on the pitch. Not because their heads were stuck in the clouds. Again it's best to detach yourself from the emotions as Much as you can and look at the facts.
How to improve your athletes?
Mindfulness and reflection can fix these mental extremes by activating the right systems in your athletes.
The first is the sympathetic system. It is activated by fear, anxiety, and stress. The second is the parasympathetic system. This is activated when you are calm and composed. It releases the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which lowers your heart rate and makes younger relaxed. Mastering mindfulness opens up more connection for your athletes to this system to perform better.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is the godfather of mindfulness. He said that mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment as if your life depended on it. Based on this George Mumford formulated the concept of the five superpowers:
- Right effort
Mindfulness is all about taking in the current moment. Focusing on as little as possible and only on what matters most in the moment. To achieve this in your athletes they have to first learn how to slow themselves down.
This is best done through the breath. Once they have slowed down themselves they have to develop awareness of what they are thinking about.
After mindfulness comes concentration. Letting go of everything irrelevant. Let go of the row you had with your wife. The paycheques you expect. The bills you have to pay. Just focus on the putt, jump shot or pitch.
When you are mindful and concentrated apply the right effort. Just enough and not too much to get the deed done. Help your athletes that it is not always about maximum effort, but the right effort. This prevents injury and wasted energy.
Finally, you and your athletes have to trust that everything happens for a reason. The more trust you put in them they will put in you.
Zidane was not able to practice mindfulness. It cost his team the championship and his career. You want athletes who take a deep breath and focus on what needs to be done. Headbutts don't win trophies.
Mindfulness will make your athletes grow as professionals and in their private life. A balanced focus machine will put perform a boiling hot mess when things get tight. You as a coach can pay attention to the mind of your team and reap the benefits.
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