Director of Coaching Bulletins
Wake up! That is what mindfulness or being mindful is simply asking us to do. It is being present in the moment and being aware of yourself and the people and happenings around you. It is bringing a sense of kindness and curiosity to the moment so that we can choose our response. Practicing mindfulness supports a readiness to learn, strengthens attention and concentration, reduces anxiety, promotes self-reflection and calmness, reduces stress, enhances social and emotional learning, and supports a holistic well-being. What coach wouldn’t want a group of players with these competencies? These ideas have been around for thousands of years in the martial arts, yoga, and in the professional athlete’s world. They are very much mainstream in professional soccer clubs and national team curriculum and training today. More and more, our understanding of the power of the mind expands, to the point we now know numerous ways we can grow mentally throughout our entire life. As teachers of this great game we call soccer, we should ourselves be practitioners of self-awareness and self-management. As we create habits of attention and awareness, we will become better teachers of the game.
Here are a few ideas that you can begin to introduce into your training sessions.
Before you start a session, bring the team in a circle and have them take 1 minute to “get their minds right”. Have them breathe slowly, concentrating on only their breath. Notice the coolness of the breath being inhaled. Notice your chest or belly or both expanding. Maybe feel the breath on the back of your throat. Notice the warmer breath as you exhale. Maybe notice a release of tension in your shoulders or neck. It will be different for everyone. The point is to focus on the moment and the experience of breathing in and out. For the first one or two times, ask the players what did it feel like? There is no wrong answer. Through the process of sharing a few experiences, the players will begin to hear and feel the value of this simple practice. If a player can find value in this, it will become a supporting habit. Players will squirm and maybe goofy about it…but stay with the discipline. It works! This mere 60 seconds allows players a chance to positively transition from where ever they came from or what they just experienced. Maybe they had an argument with a parent, maybe they learned they got a poor grade on a test, maybe they know they have a to get to work after training, or they just came from another school sport. All these things can stick and distract a player during your session. Give the players a chance to check in with themselves, get themselves physically and mentally on the field, and really “show up”. It allows you as a coach to recognize and acknowledge and meet the players right where they are, which is a tremendous boost of feeling cared for and valued. A coach can then start with a clean moment to welcome players, appreciate their presence, and explain what you are planning to do that session, knowing the players are now there and focused.
You can build on this idea of a controlled breathing habit in games. Have players consciously catch their breath during throw-ins, goal kicks, or restarts. If you are out of breath, you cannot focus on what is happening in and around you in the game. Giving the players this responsibility to manage themselves during a game, is very powerful and is a confidence builder. They begin to realize they are in control. Being able to calmly and consciously focus and make clear decisions is absolutely critical to improving as a player both in training and games.
If players begin to create a habit of being present in the moment and being awake and aware of themselves and the environment around them when they are young, just think how it can build into a life-long skill that can help them well beyond the soccer field.
There is an endless amount of ways we as a club can begin to teach great habits of mindfulness to our players. Let’s take a breath and see where we go from here.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207.462.0246.
Love the game!