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Mindfulness: "the Haaland case".

Mindfulness, an increasingly decisive factor in sports - The Haaland Case

Tony Rham

Currently, significant progress has been made in various aspects of sports, such as physical preparation, nutrition, rest, technique, planning, and analysis. Even in the field of psychology, teams, clubs, or individual athletes now have psychologists in their coaching staff who address and monitor possible mental pathologies and take care of the emotional well-being of athletes.

However, when it comes to mental training for improving sports performance, there is still much to be done and communicated. Specialists in this field have a specific mission within these multidisciplinary teams: to offer tools that enhance the overall performance of athletes in an increasingly competitive world, where every detail makes the difference between victory and defeat.

More than twenty years ago, when I started my training, mindfulness was seen as a practice associated with Eastern spirituality. Fortunately, today is not the case; there are numerous scientific studies supporting that mindfulness, its tools, and procedures provide not only emotional well-being but also valuable skills for athletes looking to improve their performance - in other words, 100% of athletes.

In a recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (1), we see how various groups of professional athletes in basketball and table tennis improve their performance when mindfulness is incorporated into their training. Similar studies are emerging every day worldwide. Having mentally trained golfers, boxers, surfers, or athletes is something I have experienced first-hand, and I am pleased to affirm that the overall performance of the athlete improves empirically with mindfulness practice.

The most high-profile case today is the twenty-two-year-old footballer from Manchester City, Erling Haaland. He celebrates some of his goals by sitting with crossed legs in the classic meditation posture, acknowledging the importance of meditation for him. Additionally, in every interview he has the opportunity to give, he talks about how he has improved with the incorporation of meditation into his work. In this player, we also see other qualities that not only impact performance improvement but also contribute to more conscious behaviour, team cohesion, and public image. This is evident in his statements responding to the mockery from PSG players about his famous Zen celebration. Haaland says, "They (PSG players) have helped me show that meditation is important" (2).

And what have athletes like Haaland found in this discipline? Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, the ability to live here and now without being affected by other circumstances such as thoughts, beliefs, emotions, frustration, anxiety, or an adverse score. In these practices, I also include, as a fitness trainer, conscious attention to the body, as seen in breathing exercises and visualization in action. It is necessary for an athlete to be aware of their body, its limits, its functioning, and by this, I do not mean receiving lessons in physiology or biomechanics but becoming self-aware of one's abilities.

But mindfulness goes beyond mental processes and full attention. Its practice also leads to improvements in quick decision-making, spatial visual intelligence, memory, reality perception, or mind-body coordination—in short, advancements that make the incorporation and adaptation of this discipline to any sport even more interesting.

And where to start? After years of observing athletes' concerns, fears, or thoughts, let's be practical; we need to start with what will improve their performance in the shortest possible time. Therefore, the player must learn to manage their mind. In this specific training, which must be integrated into the overall planning, the player learns and practices the mental tools that will improve their performance without worrying about the outcome, learning to flow with the present moment in what is known as the famous state of flow.

The performance of athletes, for example, dedicated to eSports, largely depends on these skills. They are obliged to work on them, but mastering these mental management tools, understanding how our minds work, and handling disturbing states in competition apply to any athlete, regardless of their sport. So, remember, mindfulness can be one of the things that make the difference between you and your rivals—give it the attention it deserves.

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1 - International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health - https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601...

2 - Haaland and meditation: https://www.marca.com/futbol/b... Fotografía