Although mindfulness training for athletes is an area of increasing interest, few studies have focused on the qualitative experiences of athletes in such programs. Before beginning six sessions of mindful sport performance enhancement (MSPE) training, 45 mixed-sport collegiate athletes reported what they hoped and expected to get from the training, and responded afterward to open-ended questions about their experiences. Participants’ responses were coded for themes, with high interrater reliability. Athletes initially hoped to gain psychological benefits in both sport and everyday life, such as relaxation and less stress or anxiety, better emotion regulation, mental toughness, and self-awareness, as well as sport performance improvement. Overall, they found MSPE to be a positive experience and reported many of the same benefits that they expected. Participants also provided constructive feedback and recommendations for future MSPE training. Finally, there was evidence to suggest that athletes’ expectations predicted similar improvements in outcome measures.
Erin G. Mistretta, Carol R. Glass, Claire A. Spears, Rokas Perskaudas, Keith A. Kaufman and Dennis Hoyer
Carol R. Glass, Claire A. Spears, Rokas Perskaudas and Keith A. Kaufman
College is a stressful time for many students, including student-athletes, who may benefit from mindfulness interventions focusing on present-moment awareness and nonjudgmental acceptance. Mindful sport performance enhancement (MSPE) has shown promise in previous open trials for promoting both athlete well-being and psychological factors related to sport performance, and this first randomized controlled trial of MSPE was conducted with mixed-sport groups of 52 NCAA Division III student-athletes. Each of the six sessions included educational, discussion-based, experiential, and home practice components, with meditation exercises progressing from sedentary mindfulness to mindfulness in motion. Whereas wait-list controls showed significant increases in depressive symptoms, those who received MSPE evidenced non-significant reductions in depressive symptoms over the course of treatment. Furthermore, once controls had also received MSPE, treatment completers (the 41% who attended at least five of six MSPE sessions) demonstrated significant increases in flow, trait mindfulness, satisfaction with life, and self-rated sport performance, along with reductions in worry, with medium to large effect sizes. There were no significant changes for treatment completers from post-treatment to 6-month follow-up, suggesting that improvements were maintained over time.