5 Coaches And Athletes Who Use Mindfulness To Win

'Mind over matter' has long been a phrase tossed around in the domain of athletics. It brings to mind feats of brute willpower. But now the phrase is taking on a new meaning: mindfulness--the art of being fully present. A mindful athlete is a focused and efficient athlete. No time is wasted fighting reality. These athletes are grounded in the present moment, which allows them to respond to the game as quickly as possible. Mindful athletes are consistently in the zone.

The following five figures are just a few on the ever-growing list of successful coaches and athletes who use mindfulness to improve both in and out of the game.

 1. Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson is a vocal proponent of mindfulness. The 11-time NBA championship-winning coach has a long-running interest in Zen philosophy and has strived to integrate this interest into his coaching style. In a 2013 interview with Oprah, Jackson talked about bringing a mindfulness practice to his time with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. The practice ensured that his players were centered and present, facilitating optimal performance and team synergy.

 2. Novak Djokovic

12-time Grand Slam singles winner, Novak Djokovic, attributes his rise in the high-pressure game of tennis to his daily 15 minutes of mindfulness. Djokovic speaks about it in his book, Serve to Win:“I’ve done so much mindfulness that my brain functions better now automatically…I used to freeze up whenever I made a mistake. Now when I blow a serve or shank a backhand I still get those flashes of self doubt but I know how to handle them”.

 3. Steve Kerr

Phil Jackson isn’t the only one espousing mindful leadership. Coach of the championship-winning Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr, asks his team to embody three values unconventional for the aggressive game of basketball: Joy, mindfulness, and compassion. As odd as they sound, these values stem from Kerr’s belief that winning the inner game is critical. In a 2016 interview, Kerr claims that the book, The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance, was key to helping him realize the importance of self-mastery through mindfulness.

 4. Shawn Green

Former MLB player, Shawn Green, attributes his 328 home runs to his meditation practice. Green speaks of the importance of not being controlled by our thoughts in his book, The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 mph: “We believe we are our thoughts and egos and nothing more. I always suspected there was more to my true essence than my incessant and repetitive thoughts and the insatiable desire of my ego. I had been searching for that greater part of me via the exploration of Zen and meditations, but it wasn’t until that work took root in my swing that I truly began to disconnect my thoughts and connect with my deeper of being.”

 5. Pete Carroll

Pete Carroll, the coach of a championship-winning Seahawks team, is another coach to be influenced by The Inner Game of Tennis. The book contributed to Carroll’s revolutionary coaching philosophy that focuses on cultivating inner mastery in every one of his players, rather than imposing a rigid system onto his team and expecting them to conform to it. Under the direction of Carroll, the Seahawks undergo team meditation sessions and are instructed to focus on the present moment. Like previously mentioned coaches, Carroll emphasizes that mindfulness is necessary for a team to act as a cohesive unit.

 Image: USA TODAY

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