by Pickleball Superstore January 30, 2023
The American basketball coach, John Wooden once said, "You can tear down more between practices than we can possibly build up during practices." He believed what players did off the court was just as valuable and that mental and emotional conditioning fueled success on the court and in overall life. Considering he won ten NCAA national championships in twelve years, I imagine he knew what he was talking about.
Just like you take the time on the court to perfect a game or take it to the next level, off the court is the time to work on your mental and emotional well-being. And waiting to train these skills in the middle of a game or any perceived problem is like trying to teach coping skills to a toddler in the middle of a tantrum, good luck!
So, let's get started. For some, the tools/tricks we will provide may be new. For others, it may be a reminder. So, take what resonates, and most importantly, have fun!
The Tuesday Tip this week is a simple tool that helps you master the moment, and it's so easy you may overlook the significance of it, and it is the "sigh." Sighing is linked to "psychological relief, shifts in autonomic states, and resetting of respiratory rate," according to a recent study published by Stanford University
The study found that five minutes a day of breathing techniques had mental health and physiological benefits. And of the breathing techniques studied, "cyclic sighing" had the most significant improvements, including decreased respiratory rate.
Try it right now. The study had participants take two inhales through the nose. The first was a deep inhale to expand the lungs, followed by an immediate short second nasal inhale and then an extended exhale through the mouth, longer than the inhale.
If you tried it, did you notice your mind calm down, even if only for a brief moment, and the shift in your body? A simple sigh can slow down the moment, gain mental clarity, and regain your center.
If you have time, allow yourself five minutes of sighing, and we invite you to practice it throughout the day; before you read an email, answer a question, turn on your car, or engage with your partner or children. Let it become a habit, and then bring it to the court.
Consciously sigh before you serve or as your opponent prepares for their serve.
In the altered words from Master Oogway, from the movie "Kung fu Panda," your last stroke is history; the next play's result is a mystery, but NOW is the only game you are ever playing, so sigh and stay present.
Teaching mechanics in any sport is important. Teaching how one needs to understand the game or hit certain shots is important. But teaching an athlete how to breathe SO THEY CAN ACHIEVE better mechanics and understand the game will make them better in the moment, better over the entire match, and teach them a skill that they can use not just in sport, but in their everyday life.
The issue is, many of us do not understand proper breathing and meditation. Because of this, pickleball players get tense, anxious and play more tight during tournaments or critical points. Not only does meditation and proper breathing instruction teach you how to be more aware, but that awareness allows you to know when you are breathing correctly and when you are not getting enough oxygen into your system.
Take 10 minutes out of your day and learn to breathe and get centered. This will help you get to a place that is calmer and more focused - and it'll help you on the pickleball courts. Here are some tips that can help you get some breathing training:
As you are stretching, focus not so much on the stretch, but on the breath you are taking during that exercise. It may only be 30 seconds, but doing that several times in a training session will be beneficial.
Before you go through an exercise, take 30 seconds to focus on taking long, deep, calming breaths to slow down your heart rate and increase your ability to focus on the task at hand.
Download an app for additional off the pickleball court help. Headspace and 10% Happier are both great applications that provide easy breathing trainings and explanations for any level of athlete or person in business. And it can be done anywhere.
Get into the habit of taking the right breaths before your serve, before a return of serve, as you are walking to your position before critical points. Practice breathing during drilling sessions and rec games so you are prepared and ready for tournament play.
The goal here is to calm your body and mind, get focused and perform well on the pickleball courts - while also having fun. And it all starts with just a simple breath.
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