The Keyano College Huskies Men’s Volleyball team entered the 2018-19 season confident. Members had good reason to feel that way, ranked in the top three nationally in their division, they won game after game, often crushing opponents handily.
When adversity eventually came, the team would reach inside and harness a secret defense: the minds of its players.
Through Keyano’s Wellness Services department, the Huskies built that defense through embracing mindfulness in their athletic and academic lives.
The College’s team of Mental Health Coordinators knew from recent studies and from experience that student-athletes often face psychological and academic stresses. As a result, this fall the Huskies were invited to take part in a six-week Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement Program designed to promote mental health and wellbeing in student athletes.
More than 80 Keyano student athletes took part, building mindfulness, stretching the body’s limits mindfully, embracing “what is” in stride, and embodying the mindful performer. The weekly training also focused on an athlete’s ability to control thoughts and emotions, giving them a competitive edge.
The training immediately showed positive results for the men’s volleyball team by allowing players to release negative energy, said player Liam Matheson.
When adversity came in the form of a shocking first-game loss to a determined squad from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, team members used what they learned. Through breathing exercises they had been taught, the Huskies were able to calm down and find their focus.
That night, the Keyano team won the next game and would go on that weekend to take the following two games against NAIT.
“We were able to reset and calm down,” said Matheson. “The big thing for me was learning to not dwell on the negative, and about letting things go.”
Many Huskies on other teams also found the training useful to prepare for matches, to relax before going to sleep, and to identify health issues, stretch, and heal their bodies. Mental Health Coordinators noted the training has also improved athletes’ resiliency and capacity to stay focused and reduce performance stress.
“We were honored to work with the Huskies,” noted Mental Health Coordinator Natali Levasseur. “We are thrilled the program was successful and were able to provide athletes with knowledge of taking care of their wellbeing and assessing services when needed.”
Jonathan Lambert, Director of Athletics, Sport and Student Wellness, praised the cross collaboration between departments.
“Mental training for student athletes is often overlooked, but is a critical part of athletic success,” he said.