Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Mindfulness in Sports

Many athletes and trainers have revealed their use of mindfulness meditation as being a key component in the way they enhance athletic performance.

On January 3rd 2013, posted the following article about sports psychologist Michael Gervais in the Fitness section: The Sports Shrink: Michael Gervais, Psychologist to the Stars.

Here are some key quotes from that article:
"When elite athletes like three-time Olympic volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh and daredevil spaceman Felix Baumgartner are in a slump, they go see Los Angeles sports psychologist Michael Gervais. Sometimes boosting your performance requires sitting on a couch.
Six feet two inches of lithe muscle and golden skin, Kerri Walsh folds her lanky frame into a black leather chair at the Diagnostic and Interventional Surgical Center (DISC) in Marina del Rey, California, and tucks her knees to her chest. She towers on beach-volleyball courts, but in a baggy sweatshirt and pink flip-flops she seems more guarded than dominating. It’s May 2012, and the London Olympics loom.Alongside teammate Misty May-Treanor, Walsh has already won two gold medals, and she wants another. But after a frustrating week of practice games against international competition on Manhattan Beach, she needs a mental tune-up.
Walsh and dozens of other athletes who work with Gervais call him their secret weapon. His clients include snowboarders, swimmers, basketball players, golfers, and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. As a member of Red Bull’s high-performance team, he has taught the energy-drink maker’s athletes how to calm their minds for competition. He has guided them through grueling, weeklong mental boot camps involving meditation, yoga, and sensory deprivation to sharpen their minds.
He discovered his specialty was in one-on-one problem solving, helping high performers overcome what he says is a universal challenge for top athletes: “Being able to fully trust themselves and trust their skills in progressively higher stakes, and being able to harness the activity of their mind so they can be more present.” He earned his Ph.D. in 2004 and was soon working with top professionals."
Today, nearly every professional sport incorporates mental training. The U.S. Olympic Committee now has five full-time sports psychologists, and many more athletes meet with independent specialists like Gervais. As the field has gone mainstream, an athlete meeting with a psychologist has lost much of its stigma. In 2010, Los Angeles Laker Ron Artest even thanked his psychiatrist on live television after the Lakers clinched the NBA title. Many of the athletes in this piece declined to be mentioned by name—not because they’re afraid of being seen as weak but because they don’t want to reveal a competitive advantage.
After a phone call with the Seahawks’ Carroll and before his weekly meeting with a race-car driver, Gervais pulls his vehicle to the curb outside the DISC Sports and Spine Center in Marina del Rey, where he’s a partner. His cell phone on speaker, he settles into his seat for a quick meditation session. On the other end of the line is one of the world’s fastest swimmers, sitting on a couch in his L.A. apartment.
“Give your body permission to be present with this process,” Gervais says. “Deep breath in.... Out.... Pause at the bottom. There’s nowhere to go and nowhere to be, so allow yourself to be here right now.” Gervais has worked with the swimmer for several months on managing outside stressors that distract him in the pool. This is the first meditation session, which he knows can seem too soft for many athletes, too far removed from athletics. But it’s not about athletics anyway. That’s just the proving ground for how well they’re living. “Where does the amazing and beautiful take place? In the present moment,” he told me earlier. “If I can teach people how to be quiet in their minds, I’m going to increase their experiences of the beautiful and the amazing.”
As traffic zips by, Gervais talks the swimmer through his body, through the organs, into his mind. “Connect to that place in you that water cannot wet, that the wind cannot blow, and that fire cannot burn,” he says. “Without judgment, observe the activity of your mind by guiding your mind to one thing at a time. This is what it means to be present. Now allow every cell in your body to be open.”"

Basketball has as an interview in the Sports & Recreation section with sports psychologist and meditation teacher George Mumford titled: The Lakers Meditate?:
"For five years, George Mumford worked with NBA Championship team the Chicago Bulls, during the Michael Jordan years. He's also been involved with the Los Angeles Lakers. He's currently a sports psychologist and meditation teacher to many athletes and sports teams."
"I’ve worked with MJ (Michael Jordan), the Bulls, and Phil Jackson."
"I was a heroin addict for a long time, so I know. It’s a similar kind of high, but different. When you first meditate, you may feel good but it is not likely going to give you the same experience as certain drugs. When you take drugs, the drugs have an impact on your receptors and your endorphins. They are helping you experience something that you already have. They ignite and sensitize you to feeling your own endorphins. It’s internal. So the question is, how to develop that so you have other ways to access it? That’s when you have the experience of being in the zone." posted a video on 16th June 2013 titled: How Legendary NBA Coach Phil Jackson Taught His Teams Mindfulness:
"Phil Jackson says that when he began coaching the Chicago Bulls—and later the Los Angeles Lakers—he used the Zen philosophy of mindfulness to help build both teams. Watch as Phil explains why that practice helped build mental strength, and find out what happened when he asked the most famous basketball player in the world to do tai chi, practice yoga, meditate and even play in the dark"

Miami Heat star LeBron James practices yoga, and in this video uses breathing regulation:

American Football posted an article about Miami Dolphins player, Ricky Williams, on 26th July 2010 titled: Ricky Williams Invites You to Meditate With Him:
"Every Wednesday, in a small, dark classroom on the campus of Nova Southeastern University, the most recognizable Miami Dolphin leads a class on meditation.

Ricky Williams says for him, meditation is like food. He needs it every day. Every morning and before every game. And now he's sharing his stress relieving philosophy with South Florida.

"This is my passion," said Williams. "I think a lot of people are so used to being stressed, they don't realize they're stressed. And I was one of those people."
...just like many of his first-time students, even he wasn't so sure about meditation at first.

"My first time doing yoga and meditating I had the same preconceived notions," Williams said. "Luckily, I was receptive enough to be open-minded."
Baseball posted an article about New York Yankees player, Derek Jeter, on October 10th 2012 titled: Derek Jeter's Diary: The Real Season Begins:
"10-11 a.m.: Solo meditation among the ring pillars in the Champion's Den."


The Guardian online published an article about tennis player Novak Djokovic in it's Sport>US Open tennis 2013 section on 6th September 2013 titled: Novak Djokovic mindful of US Open threat posed by Stanislas Wawrinka.
"Novak Djokovic calls the secret to his tennis – and his life away from the court – "mindfulness", a form of meditation in which he confronts negative thoughts in his psyche then banishes them."
Shooting posted an article about female pistol shooter, Kim Jang-mi of South Korea, on 7th August 2012 titled: Kim Jang-Mi credits Buddhist mindfulness training for Olympic gold:
"Born in 1992, Kim Jang-mi of South Korea won the gold medal in the women’s 25-meter pistol Wednesday after setting an Olympic record for the best qualification score."

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No doubt there will be more stories such as these to come...

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