Bianca Andreescu won the 2019 US Open defeating Serena Williams. The young player seemingly came out of nowhere. The previous year she didn’t even qualify for the major tournament. Now, she is arguably one of a handful of young women tennis players along with Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka that are set to be the next generation of tennis stars.
In her speech Andreescu credited Mindfulness with helping her stay focused. It is her mother who taught her how to meditate when she was an adolescent. She added it to her daily routine and the practice became part of how she prepares for a match. Andreescu said she visualized beating Serena during a visualization session before the match. It certainly worked.
For certain coaches and players, mindfulness and meditation have long been part of the game. Years ago, I read Phil Jackson’s Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior. The championship-winning coach shares how he used zen techniques when coaching. My favorite quote might be “If you meet the Buddha in the lane, feed him the ball.” But in all seriousness, the book discusses how “Not only is there more to life than basketball, there’s a lot more to basketball than basketball.”
Jackson advocates the importance of the team over any one individual and staying in the moment. Even individual sports like tennis can take this into consideration. There is a team behind every player that takes the court. Staying in the moment is essential tennis and any other sport. There is more to the sport than the sport. Same for jobs we might have or creative endeavors we undertake.
I think about the days when I played high school sports and how helpful mediation and mindfulness might have been at that time. I didn’t come to the practice until my university years. It wasn’t something my coaches or teammates would’ve known anything about.
There is lots of talk about bringing mindfulness into schools. About how it can be helpful to children. While results have been mixed in some cases, it’s been reported to decrease discipline issues in schools. Mindfulness can be good for all young people, not just those who have already had discipline issues or athletes.
Seeing mindfulness and meditation integrated into more players training routines and talked about is a huge step. The more people hear about it the more likely they are to bring it into to their lives, or schools or work. The courts or playing fields can be an entry point for mindfulness. Athlete’s like Bianca Andreescu are role models for other young people. But we shouldn’t stop at the court because as Phil Jackson says ‘life is about more than basketball’ or any other sport.