Mindfulness from Day One
If you knew that your child was going to be on the world stage, performing before millions of people and that his or her success depended on their response to adversity, when would you start training them? My advice is to start early.
This article is an excerpt from Dr. Stone's book Play Forever.
I believe that the mental fitness required for success as a top competitor is largely formed in childhood. As children, our errors of both judgment and action are met with a wide range of responses. Our teachers and parents may exhibit love or disdain for our actions. They may respond with a teaching moment or with severe discipline.
What may be needed, instead, is training in the skills that enable young people to control their thoughts and emotions—skillsets that empower them to become tactical when faced with adversity, to become calculating when surprised by unanticipated events, to become cunning when attacked, and to be mindful at all times.
The mature athlete brings to the game his or her life story of success and failure, which often needs to be accommodated rather than built upon. It should be recognized that an early introduction to mindfulness—often expressed simply as the ability to put a pause between the brain and the tongue—may determine our overall success in life. Mindfulness deserves skillful childhood training; an education that should continue throughout one’s life.
This is possible. We enroll our children in all kinds of afterschool activities: from religious schooling to arts and crafts, from sports camps to computer programming sessions. But where do they go to get the type of mental training that allows them to respond skillfully? Apparently not from team sports, which are often filled with violence and exhortations to hit harder and get “psyched up.” Coaching in individual sports certainly addresses the mental game, but it often comes too late.
One of the key lessons I have taken from my observations of professional athletes and their equanimity (or lack of it), is the importance of sophisticated, intuitive, and careful coaching of children. Their initial approach to sport will be imprinted in their psyches forever. When mindfulness is taught in the beginning, all else is coachable.
For more sports insights on how to prepare and protect youth athletes, check out Play Forever: How to Recover from Injury and Thrive, available on Amazon now.