Working with some preadolescent travel athletes recently, I was reviewing the basic mindfulness techniques that we teach – mindful breathing, seeing, and listening. Usually, for mindful body awareness, I prefer to use more active muscle contraction exercises to help young athletes understand the process of muscle tension. We show young athletes that tensing and relaxing their muscles is directly connected to the stress response, and help them learn to use that process in their performance training. Body scans have not always worked for young athletes.
However, this group of young athletes responded very well to the process of the body scan. One in particular was not engaged with our other modalities, but connected instantly to the body scan. After a short exercise, he said “it feels like my brain turned off.” The whole group felt calm. It was an amazing moment and a welcome reminder that assumptions about strategies to work with different athletes is not helpful to us as facilitators. It’s important to always remain open and look at all of the tools in the toolbox. You never know what athletes will respond to!