Benefits of Mindfulness for student-athletes

Mindfulness enhances focus and reduces stress for athletes, improving performance on and off the field. Practice techniques like breathing and visualization.

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Focus , Recruiting

Have you ever stopped to think about how hard our minds work during competition? It's a constant battle against distractions. Whether it's the cheers of the rival team's fans, trying to remember plays, the pressure of a big game or even that annoying itch from your jersey tag that just won't quit, distractions are everywhere and even the tiniest one can prevent us from reaching our goals.

But here's the deal: rather than trying to avoid them altogether, you can train your mind to handle them like a pro. That's where mindfulness comes in. By practicing mindfulness, we can develop the ability to stay focused and centered, no matter what distractions come our way.

So, let's dive into the world of mindfulness and discover how it can level up your game to help you reach your recruiting goals.


Mindfulness is embracing the here and now, fully immersing yourself in the present moment and treating your thoughts and emotions with kindness. It allows you to acknowledge distractions without letting them consume you. By practicing mindfulness, athletes can improve their mental toughness and overall performance on the field, tuning out the distractions.

We caught up with Duncan Simpson, Director of Personal Development at IMG Academy, to discover the incredible benefits of mindfulness for athletes. Here's what we learned mindfulness can do for you:

  • Improve focus: Mindfulness enhances concentration and reduces distractions for student-athletes during training and competitions.
  • Manage stress: Mindfulness techniques help student-athletes manage stress, from performance pressure to maintaining grades to dealing with injuries.
  • Boost performance: Mindfulness fosters focus and reduces anxiety, leading to improved athletic performance and the ability to get into the zone or state of flow.
  • Assist with recovery: Mindfulness supports emotional and psychological aspects of injury recovery, helping athletes keep a positive and proactive mindset.
  • Enhance self-awareness and emotional regulation: Mindfulness increases self-awareness, enabling better understanding and management of thoughts, emotions and reactions for improved decision-making on and off the field.


Practical mindfulness exercises for athletes to improve focus and reduce stress include mindful breathing, body scans, meditation, movement practices like yoga, gratitude practice and visualization. Regularly practicing these exercises can improve your mental clarity, help you stay composed under pressure and increase your chances of achieving your athletic goals.

Mindfulness exercises for athletes

  1. Mindful breathing: Take a few moments to focus on your breath, inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth. Mindful breathing can be a game-changer when it comes to managing pre-game nerves or high-pressure situations.
  2. Body Scan: Find a quiet space, get comfortable and scan your body from toes to head. Notice any tension or areas of relaxation. Body scans help you tune into your body, identifying areas that need care or stretching after intense workouts or competitions.
  3. Mindful movement: Try activities like yoga, Tai Chi or mindful walking to focus on your movements, breath, strength and flexibility. It's a fun way to stay active while boosting physical fitness and appreciating your body's abilities.
  4. Meditation: Find a quiet spot, get comfortable and close your eyes. Whether you're focusing on your breath or a specific object, mindfulness meditation for athletes is a valuable practice, helping you find inner balance and the resiliency to bounce back from distractions or setbacks.
  5. Visualization: See yourself hitting that winning shot, crossing the finish line with a personal best or executing a flawless routine. By reinforcing positive beliefs and visualizing success, you build confidence, boost motivation and develop a winning mindset.
  6. Gratitude practice: Write down or say aloud what you're grateful for in your athletic journey. It could be anything from the support of your teammates and guidance from your coach to the small things that bring you joy. Cultivating gratitude helps shift your focus to a positive mindset.


As a high school athlete, you can integrate mindfulness into your daily routine in a variety of ways. Setting aside some time each day for exercises like meditation, deep breathing, visualization or practicing gratitude is a great way to prioritize mindfulness. But you don't have to limit yourself to designated practice sessions. You can apply mindfulness to everyday tasks such as brushing your teeth, cleaning your room or riding the bus to school. By staying fully present and engaged in these activities, you'll see how mindfulness positively impacts your performance and overall well-being as a student athlete.

Mindfulness doesn't have to be time-consuming or complicated—just a few minutes each day can make a big impact on your performance. Start small, be consistent and enjoy the positive effects mindfulness brings to your athletic journey.


Check out these valuable tips on how you can incorporate mindfulness exercises into competition from our IMG Academy expert, Duncan Simpson. From pre-game preparation to in-game focus and post-game recovery, his advice is just the beginning of what IMG Academy can offer you.

With personalized one-on-one training sessions with expert IMG Academy+ Mental Performance and/or Nutrition Coaches, you can elevate your mental performance game and unlock the power of mindfulness. Their coaches offer tailored guidance to enhance your focus, manage stress and optimize your nutrition for peak performance.

Before Competition:

"Set aside time for visualization before your event. Imagine yourself successfully executing your game plan. Picture every detail, from your movements to your environment, and the successful outcome. Visualization can help to build confidence and reinforce your abilities."

During Competition:

"Try to keep your attention focused on the present moment by using focus cues, rather than dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about future outcomes. This can help you stay engaged and react more effectively to what's happening right now."

After Competition:

"Engage in some form of mindful relaxation, such as mindful breathing, body scans or mindful meditation. This can help you to calm down after the intensity of competition, reduce stress and aid in recovery."


As we wrap up our journey into the world of mindfulness for athletes, let's take a moment to reflect on the words of Coach Ted Lasso: "Be curious, not judgmental." This simple, yet powerful philosophy can serve as your guide as you explore various mindfulness exercises and approaches until you find what works for you.

Remember to treat yourself with kindness and celebrate every step you take towards achieving your goals. Embracing mindfulness has the potential to bring on many positive changes in your life – including those pesky distractions in sports – so stay determined, keep a curious mind and most importantly, have fun with it!

At NCSA, we prioritize the total athlete experience, including your mental and emotional well-being. Let us help you reach your recruiting goals and unlock your full potential. Join us!

Sign up for the IMG Academy+ Focus on-demand course to learn focus fundamentals, create focus cues and master mindfulness.

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