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Why Athletes (and Everyone Else) Should Mediate!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #51

Meditate? NO THANKS!

Is that your response when someone talks about meditation as well?

Well…you can teach old dogs new tricks because I have changed my tune…and I think you should, too!

When I meet with athletes and teams, even I squirm a little when I bring up the “M” word. “What will they think?” I think. “Will they buy in or turn me off before I even get started?” Legitimate questions since raised my eyebrows in the past, too!

I skirted around the topic with my Junior College men’s soccer team from California at first. The coach, who has a degree in Sports Psych. set me straight. He said that he isn’t afraid to get his guys into this stuff. His guys need and he needs me to share the benefits with them!

Even so, to get immediate buy-in, we are starting with “breathing techniques.” Just in case!

Don’t like the thought of sitting and humming to meditate? Me either!

So, let’s make a pact. Let’s call this attentional control and take it from there – because that is really what it is!

I just finished reading “The Brave Athlete” by Simon Marshall and Leslie Patterson, and they have some good advice when it comes to introducing mediation…I mean…attentional control training to our athletes (and to ourselves).

The benefits of attentional control training are well documented. Since we know we need to control ourselves before we can control our performance, this seems like a no-brainer (this is sort of a play on words…get it? 😊).

The whole idea is to relax our minds. We have a pretty good idea of how to rest our bodies but resting our minds…good luck (if you’re like me, at least!).

Relaxing our minds allows us to reduce the critical noise in our heads (when I say critical I don’t mean necessary), the unwanted or uninvited thoughts and the constant chatter that diverts our attention away from the task at hand (which obviously impedes our performance).

Research shows that attentional control (our mediation euphemism) can not only help reduce anxiety but can also restructure our brain. According to Boccia, et. al., (2015), mediation can change and influence our self-perception. It can change the way we judge our aptitudes and can enhance our memory, control our attention and ultimately, our behavior.

The problem? Try laying somewhere comfortable and not thinking. Go ahead…try it!


But…we can get better at controlling our breathing AND how we REACT to the bazillion thoughts that tell us we suck at attention control training!

Marshall and Patterson recommend we approach those pesky thoughts (that take us down the rabbit hole way too far) by reacting to them the same way we reacted to the fireworks last night!

When you are watching fireworks, do you think deeply about each one that explodes beautifully in front of you? Sure, there are some that stick out more than others, but we are off to the next one before the smoke clears from the previous one!

How awesome would it be if we could use this approach as we compete or perform?

Thought in…

Boom…. new thought in.


We quickly shift to the next thought not really giving too much thought to the one that just exploded in front of us

This is what attentional control can do!

If we practice doing it in a relaxed state, we can work our way to doing it when the pressure is on.

Control your breathing when you can…have a better chance of controlling it when you need to do something important!

It is not unlike any other skill we learn. We don’t learn to ride a bike all at once, or hit a ball, or shoot a goal. There are many steps in the process with any new skill…even when we do the skill without even thinking (meaning breathing and thinking, of course).

We started doing a simple 5 x 5 breathing for 5 minutes every night before bed with our son. It is as much for us as it is for him. Our goal was to get him calmed down so he would not be up reading in his bed until 10:30 PM and up again at 7:00 AM ready to go (but not getting enough sleep for a little guy).

I am not sure what he is thinking, but I know I think A LOT during these 5 minutes. At first, I was ticked that I could not control my thoughts. “I am disciplined! What is my problem?” I thought about it a million times. Not sure I was reaping the benefits of my exercise!

But Marshall and Patterson’s approach struck a chord and it was all I could think about last night laying on a blanket at Portage CC watching the beautiful display of our independence!

Start with something simple like our 5 x 5 reset breath technique. Instead of reacting to each thought that takes you away from your breath, think of the fireworks and then get back to feeling your breath in and out through your nose. Feel your belly rising and falling. Count to 5 in, 5 out. I try to get 30 full breaths in 5 minutes. Knowing this keeps me more focused on the task at hand and out of my own head.

Just think! If we can get out of our own thoughts and into the skill or task ahead of us, what can we really do?

The more we are in our own thoughts, the less bandwidth we have to attack our goals.

This is a simple way to improve our self-control, our focus and our performance!

Give it a try. Maybe after the bonus fireworks tonight!

Happy Independence Day off from work!!

Have a great week!


P.S. Want your team to build tools to enhance performance? I would love to design a program to fit your team’s needs. Let’s set up a time to talk about how we can build your team’s mental toughness. Give me a call or text at 234-206-0946 or send me an email at

Julie Jones

Certified Mental Performance & Mindset Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946



Be strong and courageous. Joshua 1:9


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