Mindful Sports emerges from the idea that mindfulness can be effectively taught to children through sports. Mindfulness practice is now a widely utilized form of teaching children valuable self-regulatory skills in school settings, helping children learn methods of lowering stress and improving their focus in the classroom. Mindfulness is also a valuable strategy to help athletes optimize their performance. Mindfulness training for children through sports is a newer approach that combines the research-proven methods of both school-based mindfulness practice and sports performance mindfulness training. The result is Mindful Sports.
Mindfulness is the paying attention on purpose to the present moment, without judgment, and the continuous return to that moment as the mind wanders. Mindfulness training is the practice of focusing awareness, typically on the breath or body. Research on mindfulness training with adults shows a spectrum of positive results, including stress reduction and cognition management. The results of mindfulness training for children are equally positive. Over the last fifteen years, research shows that mindfulness practice helps children’s relationships with stress and anxiety and improve their focus. The majority of research studies on children’s mindfulness are based in a school setting. However, physical activity and sport are beginning to receive more attention as a valuable learning environment for mindfulness training.
Professional sports teams seeking an edge against competition often have full-time mental skills coaches. These coaches are often turning to mindfulness to support the process of optimizing their athletes’ performances. There are inherent stressors and pressure in sports that challenge athletes to face difficult emotions and thoughts. Mindfulness training helps high-level athletes return to the present moment without judgment, allowing for rehearsed physical skills and natural talent to flourish. When faced with fear, doubt, nervousness, and stress, athletes can use mindful skills to help them return to the moment, trust their training, and manage distractions.
Mindful Sports teaches age-appropriate mindfulness skills to children through sports. Sports helps teach children many important lessons, including teamwork, commitment, and perseverance. By learning mindfulness through sports, young athletes will be ready to face those challenges head-on. The foundation of Mindful Sports is to introduce children to self-regulatory methods through fun and engaging games, allowing these skills to become second nature. As children experience the benefits of mindfulness alongside their sports education, stress may no longer seem like a mountain preventing them from their goals. It may become understood as a part of the natural process on the journey to exactly where young athletes need to go. Through mindfulness, children may also decrease the chances of future burnout (caused by unprocessed stress) and preparing themselves for higher levels of competition. Most importantly, they are learning skills transferrable to off-the-field settings, helping them to face the multi-dimensional and complex challenges of adolescence and adulthood.