Exuberant joy and great disappointment – emotions are part of the fascination of sports events. Emotions also have a significant influence on the performance of athletes: Those who can control their emotions, are more successful. For this reason, many top athletes are training their mindfulness. Studies of researchers of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) now reveal that capabilities of maintaining concentration and controlling emotions can be trained just like muscles. Their findings and tips for the training of professional and hobby athletes are now presented in the publication Achtsamkeitstraining im Sport (mindfulness training in sports).
“Exercises to train mindfulness have an effect similar to that of strength training,” says Professor Darko Jekauc from KIT’s Institute of Sports and Sports Science. “Regular training enhances mental strength.” Mindfulness means to concentrate on the present moment, i.e. to consciously perceive body sensations, thoughts, and feelings without assessing them. “Emotions, such as joy, anger, fear, or helplessness are noticeable on the physical and mental levels and influence the performance,” the professor for sports psychology explains. “Living in the here and now helps people get out of their circles of worries, overcome difficult emotions, and consciously experience the most important moments of life.”
Emotional Stability Results in Stable Performance
When athletes are able to reduce own assessments and increase their acceptance of the current situation, their emotional stability increases, Jekauc says. Those, who are emotionally stable, tend to assess situations more optimistically instead of concentrating on difficulties. Prominent examples of successful athletes through mindfulness training are Novak Djokovic in tennis, Steve Kerr and Kobe Bryant in basketball, or Malaika Mihambo in long jump. Basketball coach Phil Jackson, who won a total of eleven NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, used mindfulness training as his “secret weapon.”
Training Program for Professional and Hobby Athletes
Mindfulness training consists of concentration exercises, including breathing methods, as well as of techniques to observe own thoughts and feelings without being ruled by them. “It is the objective to make life in all its facets, including work and sports, more mindful,” Jekauc says. The sports psychologist and his team have now published a program to train mindfulness for professional and hobby athletes alone or in groups. The eight program units contain practical exercises as well as information on their backgrounds and effects.
Darko Jekauc, Lea Mülberger, Susanne Weyland: Achtsamkeitstraining im Sport – Das Übungsprogramm zur Förderung der sportlichen Leistungsfähigkeit. Springer, 2022.
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