Pete Carroll, head coach for the Seattle Seahawks, is no stranger to "meditation" -- in fact, he encourages his athletes to incorporate mindfulness exercises into their daily practices. I've always said that sports, as is life, is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. Meditation has been shown to increase happiness and decrease stress. By doing so it enables an athlete to get into the "zone." The zone is a place where your psychological awareness is totally focused on the job to be done. It doesn't allow for any distractions to cause you pause in completing your goal. In this case completing plays for a successful win.
While working for the Jets as their mental health clinician, I can remember riding on the family bus to Giant's stadium and everyone being happy and ready for a great day. As I looked at the team bus with the players on it, it appeared not to be as jovial. There were solemn faces, players thinking about the many films they saw that week of their opponents, hoping that they and their team mates would not suffer injury at this game. And praying that they would complete the task they've been hired and paid millions of dollars to complete. As the fans get ready for Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 1, what's happening in the minds of our players?
It's a given that all athletes are concerned about their speed, strength and endurance while playing in the Super Bowl, but all of them are very much aware that having their heads on straight that day will make or break them. Mental toughness is bigger than any physical attributes these players walk on that field with.
Meditation and the hypnotherapy I provided my players included concentration on what was important on that defining day. One down at a time, blocking out all other distractions which include, but are not limited to: the fans, their opponents, coaches, media, family, weather, uncontrollable distractions that are part of any game. They were programmed to think like a winner and maintain a positive attitude by quickly bouncing back from bad calls, bad breaks and mistakes made by them or their teammates.
Talk about stress. The Super Bowl for a player brings on the highest level of stress for any athlete. That in and of itself could destroy performance. These players are pros and their minds are adept at managing stress by staying calm and loose under the pressure of the game. They accomplish this by maintaining self-confidence, avoiding intimidation or getting psyched out and, most importantly, keeping their motivation and intensity up.
We can learn a lot from these gladiators. The obstacles these athletes need to overcome in the Super Bowl are equal to the obstacles that any one of us have in our lives, whether it be that big job we are competing for, that illness that blindsided your family, the relationship breakup that seems to have pulled the rug out from under you, or the fact that your loss of income is causing you to foreclose on your home. Winning at life requires the same mental toughness as is needed to win this Sunday's Super Bowl. Begin this year off right and learn from our modern day gladiators how to strengthen your mind through twenty minutes of meditation a day. Life is a lot like sports, be the champion you were born to be.
Sports psychotherapist, Dr. Donna Dannenfelser, as seen on the Dr. OZ Show, The Today Show, ESPN's Crowd Goes Wild, TMZ Sports, Bloomberg News, Flipping Out, and was the inspiration for USA's hit show, Necessary Roughness weighs in on social issues that raise their head during NFL season. Read more about Dr. Donna on her website at Drdonnad.com
Her meditation tools and instructions can be found at: Heartcockles.com