New Book Explores Role of Mindfulness and Other Topics in Coaching Today’s Athletes

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In her new book, ‘Game-Changing Coach: Mindful Strategies for Peak Performance’, Mary Schumann, a licensed clinical and sport psychologist with experience working with Division I teams and George Mason University adjunct faculty member, explores key topics in coaching to help coaches better relate to and achieve optimal performance in their athletes.

Coaches and team leaders need to have a greater understanding of behavior, as well as practical tools in their repertoire when dealing with young athletes and teams. Relevant psychological research is emerging on issues related to sport.

In her new book, Game-Changing Coach: Mindful Strategies for Peak Performance, licensed clinical and sports psychologist for Division I teams and George Mason University adjunct faculty member Mary Schumann explores the role of mindfulness, in addition to other important topics in coaching athletes. Schumann discusses foundational subjects, such as: communication, positive coaching, goal setting, and motivation. She then goes into more depth by focusing on matters like teaching arousal management for anxiety, helping athletes with choking and slumps, and concepts like self-efficacy and mindset. Her understanding of this generation of athletes clearly results from her experiences working with teams and with adolescents in the clinic or university classroom.

Learning to be present with skills such as mindfulness is particularly important for today’s athletes. Young athletes today—while not integrally different from youth of the past—live in a more connected, multitasking environment than those from previous generations. They were born into a time of cell phones, internet, and social media, with tremendous digital connectedness. Being mindful and in the moment is hard to come by for our current generation of athletes. This inherent difference in their world affects their familial and other social relationships, their sense of self and development of independence, and their academic lives.

Schumann believes that technology also impacts their athletic relationships. One coach told Schumann that his athletes often didn’t talk to each other on the bus driving to games, preferring to have headphones on and all eyes pointed downward toward screens. Schumann uses her experiences working with Division I teams and teaching sports psychology as an adjunct faculty member for George Mason University to incorporate stories about coaching life, which bring her concepts to life and put them in the context of real-world coaching.

Schumann says, “Coaches and team leaders need to have a greater understanding of behavior, as well as practical tools in their repertoire when dealing with young athletes and teams. Relevant psychological research is emerging on issues related to sport.” She adds, “I have tried to translate some of this information into strategies, such as mindfulness and goal-setting, or ways of helping athletes to manage performance pressure to help empower coaches to be more effective in helping athletes.”

Mary Schumann, Ph.D.

Mary Schumann, Ph.D. is a clinical and sports psychologist who practices in Fairfax, Virginia. She has taught at George Mason University since 2001 as an adjunct faculty member. She also has twenty-five years of experience as a clinical psychologist, working with adults and adolescents. Currently, she is teaching sport psychology at George Mason University.

Dr. Schumann has worked with several Division 1 NCAA men's and women's teams, teaching mental training skills to help them to improve their athletic performance. In that role, she has taught self-regulation skills, such as: mindfulness, skills to deal with anxiety, frustration, and negative emotions, as well as communication, confidence-building and goal-setting. She has also taught mental training skills to international athletes and coaches, visiting the U.S. in the sports diplomacy program for the State Department.

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