Authors: Zeljka Vidic, Mark St. Martin, Richard Oxhandler
Zeljka Vidic, Ph.D.
1903 West Michigan Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5426
Zeljka Vidic is an Assistant Professor/Program Coordinator for the M.A. Coaching Sport Performance and the Undergraduate Coaching Minor at Western Michigan University
Mindfulness Meditation Intervention with Male Collegiate Soccer Players: Effect on Stress and Various Aspects of Life
Collegiate athletes face a unique set of challenges in an environment that demands their best in the athletic, academic, and personal arenas of their lives. In recent years, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has increased its attention towards the enhancement of collegiate athletes’ overall mental health with the goal of helping athletes cope more effectively on- and off-the court. One technique that has gained attention in the sport setting due to its all-around beneficial effects on health and well-being and athletic performance is the practice of mindfulness. This mixed-method study investigated the effects of a 6-session mindfulness meditation intervention on a United States NCAA Division III men’s soccer team’s (n=18; ages 18-22) stress levels and various aspects of their lives. Qualitative results revealed that athletes had overall positive perceptions of the mindfulness meditation intervention across various aspects of their lives in the form of: enhanced focus, increased calmness, improved awareness, and being more present-oriented. Quantitative results demonstrated overall decreases in stress over the course of intervention, however these findings did not reach statistical significance. Overall, the findings of this study suggest that mindfulness meditation training has the potential to be an effective approach to assisting athletes derive positive benefits on- and off-the court.
Keywords: collegiate athletes, mindfulness meditation, soccer, stress, well-being
High levels of stress are not uncommon for most college students as they enter college during a major developmental period in life. Social adjustments, academic challenges, and personal growth are some of the issues that are enough to increase stress levels to the point that they interfere with a student’s sense of well-being and performance. According to the American College Health Association (ACHA; 1), 31.8 % of students reported having experienced stress. Collegiate athletes are one subset of the student population that may especially be prone to high levels of stress. For collegiate athletes, the increasing pressures to perform in today’s collegiate athletic environment bring an additional set of challenges. According to Humphrey et al. (18), demands related to expectations to win, get along with teammates and coaches while battling for playing time, may lead to excessive anxiety, frustration, conflict, irritation, and fear amongst athletes. All the while, these challenges take place in an environment where their personal, academic, and athletic worlds are closely interconnected during a major development period of life. For example, stress for college-athletes can also naturally arise over the course of the semester due to various academic demands such as exams, homework, as well interpersonal challenges. This interconnectedness of different aspects of college-athletes’ lives means that success or struggle in one area can have a profound influence on the other areas of life. Thus, the inability to manage these challenges can ultimately compromise college-athletes’ mental and emotional well-being, as well as their athletic performance. Compounding this, research has shown that collegiate athletes may not have adequate coping strategies to deal with such stressors (12), and that higher levels of stress in athletes have been associated with mental health concerns (30). As a result, the recent initiatives by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA; 29) have been geared towards the enhancement of collegiate athletes’ overall mental health with the goal of helping athletes cope more effectively with the challenges faced both when training and competing, as well as when they are away from athletics. For example, researchers such as Etzel et al. (14) have suggested that athletic performance enhancement needs to first be approached with the intention of developing the whole person to be successful. One technique that has been emerging in recent years due to its beneficial outcomes on stress reduction and overall health and well-being is the practice of mindfulness. In addition to reductions in stress, the beneficial effects of mindfulness include improvements in the overall well-being across various populations, including the college student population (3-5, 26).
Mindfulness in Sport
The origin of the centuries-old mindfulness meditation practice has been derived from the Eastern spiritual traditions. The essential elements of mindfulness meditation include present-centered attention and nonjudgmental acceptance of experience (22). Mindfulness can be cultivated both informally (i.e. cultivating greater awareness in daily life) and formally (i.e. mindfulness meditation), with the latter being the main emphasis of this intervention. While one of the first sport-based mindfulness studies (23) reported positive effects with collegiate rowers, the expansion of mindfulness in the athletic context has especially been prominent over the course of the last decade (15). Specifically, mindfulness interventions in sport have mainly focused on the direct effects on sport performance (16, 21, 35), and the factors related to performance outcomes, such as more flow, less fear, and fewer task-irrelevant thoughts (i.e., 2, 8, 13, 25, 36). When it comes to investigating the relationship between mindfulness and stress, research has mainly focused on addressing on-the-court anxiety (i.e., 13, 24). Nonetheless, performance enhancement does not occur in a vacuum and it is greatly dependent on the functionality and balance of other aspects of life. However, research that focused on conducting mindfulness interventions that cover various aspects of college-athletes’ lives, from sport performance to academic and personal life, is still sparse (e.g., 37). For example, a study by Vidic et al. (37) focused on utilizing mindfulness meditation intervention to encompass various areas of student-athlete’s life (i.e., personal, academic, and athletic), with the results of this ten-session intervention revealing positive effects on collegiate basketball athletes’ overall stress levels, athletic coping skills, and positive perceptions of the intervention on various aspects of their life. The current study attempted to add to the limited research in this area.
It is also important to note that while offering somewhat promising results, minimal number of studies (7, 19, 31) have specifically examined the effects of mindfulness training with collegiate soccer players. For example, Baltzell et al.’s (7) results indicated enhanced mindfulness, awareness, and acceptance of emotional experiences as a result of mindfulness training amongst collegiate women’s soccer players, while Ivarsson and colleagues (19) and Quinones-Paredes (31) have reported more ambiguous results, however both studies reported non-statistically significant findings. Quinones-Paredes (31) specifically cited a lack of athlete compliance with practicing the techniques and low sample size as the contributors to the non-significant results. Thus, potential consideration when working with collegiate athletes include heavy time demands and the dynamic nature of collegiate athletics. Researchers (i.e., 6, 28) have thus suggested that an important consideration may need to be given to the importance of brevity, flexibility, and practicality in mindfulness intervention session scheduling. As suggested by Baltzell and Akhtar (6), some mindfulness interventions currently used in sport (i.e., Mindfulness Sport Performance Enhancement and Mindfulness-Acceptance-Commitment) require too much time and resources to be feasible to implement with athletes. Indeed, Quinones-Paredes (31) specifically mentions a lack of athletes completing mindfulness training as a limitation to his research. Thus, the current study has given a consideration to the above mentioned researchers’ suggestions for briefer, more flexible, and practical interventions. Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore the effects of a six-session mindfulness-meditation intervention on Division III collegiate male soccer athletes’ overall stress levels and the athletes’ overall perceptions of the benefits of the intervention on the various aspects of their lives (i.e., academic, athletic and personal).
The following hypotheses were proposed for this research:
- Hypothesis 1: Student-athletes were expected to display a progressive decrease in the overall stress levels over the course of the mindfulness meditation intervention.
- Hypothesis 2: Student-athletes were expected to report that the mindfulness meditation intervention provided them with the positive benefits across various aspects of their lives.
This study conducted six-one hour mindfulness meditation-based intervention sessions with a U.S. NCAA Division III collegiate men’s soccer team (n=18), ages 18-22 (M = 19.56, SD = 1.19) that occurred over the course of nine weeks. Participants completed pre- and post-test measurements of the Perception of Stress Scale (PSS; 10,11) and final reflective journals from which qualitative data was obtained.
Participants were informed at the beginning of the intervention that the study was approved by the human subjects institutional review board and that participation was voluntary. After the reason for the study and expectations were discussed and time for questions provided, pre-measures consisting of the PSS (10) and demographics survey were administered. Post-test measures were taken at the end of intervention, after six sessions, where participants were asked to complete the post-test measures of PSS and a final reflection about the mindfulness meditation intervention. The coaches were not present during the data collection and intervention meetings.
Mindfulness Meditation Intervention. This study implemented six-one hour mindfulness sessions with collegiate soccer players using mindfulness meditation as the core of the intervention protocol. The intervention occurred throughout the competitive soccer season (end of August to mid-November) over the course of nine weeks. The dynamic nature of the athletic environment required some minor scheduling adjustments (e.g., moving of practice time, coach deciding to re-schedule the intervention session to work on another need, changes due to tournament schedule) to be made as far as the consecutive scheduling of the intervention. The researchers understood that this may be the reality of the situation when doing interventions with athletic teams. A practitioner with 30+ years of experience of practicing and teaching mindfulness meditation to college students led the sessions. This study utilized the same protocol used in the Vidic et al.’s (37) study with collegiate basketball players, however based on Baltzell & Akhtar (6) call for more brief mindfulness interventions with athletes, this study focused on briefer intervention that comprised of only six sessions. Specifically, the structure of the intervention began with approximately 15-20 minutes of education regarding mindfulness, including the mechanisms of how mindfulness works, benefits, and applications of mindfulness to the various aspects of life (e.g., mindful eating, mindful walking, mindful interacting, etc.), as well as the athletes’ informal reflections about the previous week’s practice. This was followed by 15-20 minutes of guided mindfulness meditation that has been termed calm-abiding meditation and comprised of four elements, including: (a) awareness, (b) presence, (c) relaxed ease, and (d) spaciousness. These elements were repeated in every session at the beginning of the training, which was followed by 10 minutes of silence. While not a required part of the intervention, participants were encouraged to practice being more aware and present in their day-to-day life. Finally, the session ended with 10-20 minutes for questions or greater clarification of the practice, encouragement and examples of how to apply the practice in daily life.
Focus of the Mindfulness Meditation Intervention. The calm-abiding meditation utilized in this study consists of four elements, including: (a) awareness, (b) presence, (c) relaxed ease, and (d) spaciousness. These four elements were used to help guide participants towards the increased capacity for awareness of their state in the present moment (i.e., awareness), feeling a sense of relaxed-ease that results from being in the present moment (i.e., presence), lowering judgments about past-future thinking (i.e., relaxed ease), and experiencing a sense of spaciousness or openness to the current experience (i.e., spaciousness). The main focus of the calm-abiding meditation was to provide college-athletes with direction and an opportunity to develop competence as they worked to bring their minds more into the present moment. The increased awareness of the source of the so-called ‘self-induced suffering’ that mostly comes from steering away from the present moment can represent a significant change in the students-athletes’ cognitive thinking. According to Weinstein et al. (39), an emphasis on the present-centered focus enables participants to appraise fewer situations as stressful. This is similar to the Buddhist’s concept of ‘fruition of training’ which implies that the trainee’s acquired capability of living more in the present enables the return of their awareness from distractive, past-future thinking to the current moment. Similarly, Jha et al. (20) have found that an increase in focus on task-relevant cues is a result of focusing on the present moment and things that can be controlled, which has been emphasized in this intervention. In addition, Shapiro et al. (33) have emphasized that the process of mindfulness or intentionally paying attention with non-judgmental attitude can results in a process called de-centering or developing a significant change in perspective regarding one’s internal processes. The simplicity of the four elements of the calm-abiding meditation is meant to yield to a presentation of simple, understandable and practical concepts that can be easily applied in student athletes’ lives. The same meditation was utilized in Vidic et al.’s (37) study and a more detailed description can be found in that study.
The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS). The PSS (9,10) was developed to be a global measure of an individual’s beliefs of how stressful certain parts are in their life. Items are rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 0 (never) to 4 (very often), with an overall score ranging from 0 to 40 for the 10 items included in the scale. Scores around 13 are considered average, with high stress groups usually having a stress score of above 20 points. Concerning psychometric properties of the PSS, Lee (27) found Cronbach’s alpha to be >.70 and test-retest reliability >.70 across twelve studies with adult populations. Further, Roberti et al. (32) revealed a strong convergent validity between the PSS and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (r= .73, p < .001) with a sample of 281 college students. With regards to the criterion validity, the PSS was moderately to strongly correlated with emotional variables such as depression or anxiety in various studies (27). Qualitative Reflections. Data analysis and interpretation was based on the interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA; 34). The IPA has been identified as a fitting approach to explore how individuals perceive particular situations and how they are making sense of their personal and social world. All three authors first independently read and analyzed the transcriptions to identify meaningful themes using the method of clustering of units of meaning to form themes (17) and then met as a group to analyze transcripts for agreement. Verbatim quotations were provided as a means of establishing reliability of data.
This mixed methodology study collected both qualitative and quantitative responses in order to assess the impact of this six-session intervention.
Perceived Stress Scale. The paired-sample t-test was used to examine the mean difference in pre- and post- results for the PSS. The paired-sample t-test analysis demonstrated decreases in the overall mean PSS score from the pre-test (M = 16.06, SD = 3.88) to the post-test (M = 15.06; SD = 5.66; t = .79), however, this reduction did not reach statistically significant levels, p = .44). Thus, even though the PSS score indicated a general movement towards stress reduction over the course of the intervention, these results did not reach statistical significance (Figure 1).
At the end of a six-session intervention participants were asked to anonymously provide a reflection about the mindfulness meditation intervention and the benefits they may have derived across various aspects of life (e.g., soccer, school, and personal life). The qualitative analysis revealed the following themes: (a) enhanced focus, (b) increased calmness, (c) improved awareness, and (d) being more present across various aspects of student-athletes lives.
Enhanced focus. In terms of enhanced focus, one athlete pointed out:
I had learned to comprehend my thoughts and stay focused in the here and now. I use it also before studying and it clears my mind to focus and dedicate my thoughts to studying. In comparison to when we began, I feel that I am better able to focus during meditation. I find myself on the field choosing to block out past and future events and focus only on what is in front of me.
Another athlete commented on the benefits of staying focused for soccer: “I feel as if my general focus was improved especially on the soccer field. Mindfulness has helped me not think about trivial matters while playing…”, while another added: “I find myself on the field choosing to block out past and future events and focus only on what is in front of me. I think this has helped me perform better…” Another athlete also added:
So far I have been doing mindfulness everyday whether it be during my health psychology class, before practice, or on my own. I have become pretty good at concentrating on my breath and that is something that I struggled with before…
One athlete also stated the benefits of increased focus in school: “…In games I’ve never really had a problem focusing, so not much has changed there. What’s most noticeable is how much easier it is to focus when reading boring material.” Another athlete added:
This has been an interesting experience. In the beginning, I didn’t really know what to expect, but after trying the exercises in my daily life, it really helped. Not only staying focused but also to get things done in a more efficient manner.
Increased calmness. Several athletes commented on the calming effect of mindfulness practice. One athlete stated: “…I think this has helped me perform better. I also notice myself feeling more relaxed in classes and other pressure situations. Even when I am not doing anything in particular, I am more relaxed and focused.” Another added: “So far I have been frustrated a lot with soccer and school and mindfulness has allowed me to calm myself down enough to not outburst and instead just accept it.” One athlete also commented: “…I also noticed myself feeling more relaxed in classes and other pressure situations. Even when I am not doing anything in particular, I am more relaxed and focused.” In addition, another player stated: “Over the last month I have felt more stressed as a freshman in school, but being able to use this training has helped me overcome and be less stressed at that moment.” Another stated: “I have been using mindfulness before I work to great effect. Sometimes I get stressed before I do homework and calming myself by thinking about the moment has been very effective.”
Improved awareness. Several athletes also commented on the effects of mindfulness on increased awareness. As stated by one of the athletes:
I feel with this training I recognize when I drift off. I don’t follow those thoughts as far and allow them to keep me unfocused. When I have less energy, I notice and I tell myself to stay locked in on what I have to do. This has helped me ignore disturbances, on the field. I have noticed I hear more of my thoughts and less of the crowds etc. I can stay locked in on what I need to do and nothing else matters at that second.
Another athlete commented:
… I’ve gotten better at knowing which stress I should pay attention to.” Another added: “Mindfulness has definitely helped me to become more aware from how I was a month ago with the simple exercise of focusing on my breath…”
One athlete stated,
Over the course of this mindfulness training. I have noticed many changes. Starting out, I often found myself worrying a lot about the past and future. I learned to be aware of these thoughts, and I realized that I didn’t have to worry about these thoughts…
Finally, another player commented:
I have been trying to practice mindfulness regularly to some success. I believe I am getting better at being mindful of my surroundings and getting better at meditating. I am going through a lot of stress at the moment so I hope my mindfulness practice will benefit me now.
Being more present. Athletes also wrote how mindfulness practice helped them stay more present. As stated by one of the athletes: “…I have learned to not judge my emotions that may be present when I am in a mindful state. I live in the here and now.” Another athlete pointed out: “…I have gotten vastly better at blocking out the worrying and focusing on the present…”, while another athlete stated:
I have gained a lot from this experience. The biggest thing that I have taken away is the ability to come back to the present moment whenever I start to get nervous, angry, or stressed out. This has helped me on the soccer field, in the classroom, and in social situations. When I come back to the present moment, I am able to go back to a calmer state.
No benefits. Three athletes reported no benefit from mindfulness meditation practice. As stated by one of the athletes:
I don’t really feel that the mindfulness training has affected me. I still have trouble learning how/what to do with the awareness I have. I find myself more aware of my mind wandering though. Over the past couple weeks, I have been very busy and have not found time to do the meditation often. I haven’t seen a difference, positive or negative. Overall, I am still skeptical of the whole process and don’t feel I have decreased my stress levels or experienced much impact at all.
Another athlete stated:
To be honest I haven’t noticed that much of a changed from when we started doing mindfulness to now.
Another pointed out:
… I believe that my general level of stress has increased, this is most likely due to the senior project that I am working on.
Findings of this mixed-method study with male Division III collegiate soccer players provide some relevant insights into the effects of a mindfulness meditation intervention with collegiate-athletes.
The first hypothesis suggested that college-athletes were to display a progressive decrease in the overall stress levels over the course of the mindfulness meditation intervention. While the overall PSS score indicated a general movement towards stress reduction over the course of the intervention, these results did not reach statistical significance. These quantitative findings add to the paucity of research that examined the relationship between mindfulness and stress reduction with athletes (e.g. 13, 18, 24, 37) and call for further investigation in this area. In addition, findings of this study add to the small amount of research that examined the effects of a mindfulness meditation intervention with collegiate soccer players (7, 19, 31). Further, this study also added additional insights into the optimal session length with collegiate athletes. While research (6, 28) has called for briefer mindfulness interventions when working with collegiate athletes, these quantitative results indicate that more research may be needed to determine the optimal dosage and session length. In this study, perhaps a relatively brief intervention of six non-consecutive sessions over the course of a soccer season may not have allowed sufficient time to produce significant changes on the qualitative PSS scores. In addition, researchers (i.e., 6, 28) have also called for flexibility when implementing mindfulness interventions with college athletes. This study confirmed the need for flexibility and adaptability when working with college athletes due to the dynamic nature of the athletic environment where sudden changes in schedule occur, resulting in non-consecutive scheduling in sessions. The researchers understood that this is simply the nature of the situation when working in the athletic environment. It is however worth to mention that the non-consecutive order of sessions in this study may have contributed to the lack of robustness of quantitative results. While this non-consecutiveness in sessions was attempted to be compensated by encouraging athletes to practice mindfulness outside of scheduled intervention sessions, this was not officially monitored. When asked informally whether they practiced mindfulness outside of the session, athletes stated that they did integrate mindfulness in their daily lives, however researchers could not be assured on the exact amount and frequency of practice. Thus, a relatively brief intervention of six non-consecutive sessions and a potential lack of application of mindfulness practice outside of a regularly scheduled session may have had an effect on the quantitative results. Another consideration for these quantitative results may need to be given to the timing of data collection. Specifically, the pre-test was administered in the pre-season before the start of the first trimester of the academic year, and thus there is an assumption that the pre-test data occurred during a less stressful period. The post-test was administered at the end of the competitive season and the end of the first trimester of the school, and thus there is an assumption that the post-test data occurred during a more stressful period for college-athletes. Perhaps the findings may have been stronger if the intervention was conducted during the time when competitive and academic stressors were not expected to progressively reach their peak. However, despite the above-mentioned timing of data collection, the overall stress levels were in decline, and thus providing somewhat encouraging results regarding the implementation of mindfulness interventions during the competitive season. Nonetheless, future research may give consideration to the timing of the intervention during less demanding time period for collegiate athletes. For example, future researchers may follow Weinberg and Gould’s (38) recommendation that interventions with athletes should be conducted in the pre-season before competition begins so that athletes have enough time to learn new skills before the competitive season starts. However, the researchers acknowledge that the timeframe may be out of their control due to coaches controlling the timeframe for working with their team.
The second hypothesis related to qualitative results and postulated that college-athletes were expected to report that the mindfulness meditation intervention provided them with the positive benefits across various aspects of their lives. Along the above mentioned call for brevity and flexibility, researchers (i.e., 6, 28) have also called for the need of practicality in mindfulness intervention sessions when working with college athletes. Likewise, this study focused on practical applications of mindfulness on all aspects of college athletes lives. As expected, college-athletes’ qualitative reflections provided supporting evidence regarding the potential benefits of mindfulness meditation intervention across various aspects of their lives in the form of enhanced focus, improved calmness, increased awareness, and being more present-oriented. This is especially relevant due to the interconnectedness of different aspects of student-athletes’ lives and the importance of viewing each aspect of life as a unified whole where change in one area can have profound effects on the change in the other area of life. It is however important to note that the significance of the impact of these qualitative results is not known. Nonetheless, these results add to the small amount of research (e.g., 37) that points to the positive effects of mindfulness intervention on various aspects of college-athletes’ lives and call for further investigation of these types of interventions with collegiate-athletes. This is relevant because by conducting interventions that encompass multiple aspects of college-athletes’ lives has the potential to not only affect athletes’ health and well-being but also their athletic and academic performances. This approach provides support for the NCAA’s (29) initiatives that are geared towards enhancement of the overall college-athletes’ well-being. It is important to note that while the majority of athletes reported positive outcomes from mindfulness training, three athletes reported no perceived benefits and general skepticism regarding the mindfulness practice. Thus, an important point to mention is the natural skepticism and resistance that collegiate-athletes may experience regarding the practice of mindfulness. Although conceptually simple, the practice of mindfulness meditation can be a rather difficult practice to embody, especially with regards to focusing on the present moment awareness and minimizing past and future thinking. As a result, an important point of emphasis needs to be on the continuous practice of the skill of mindfulness as a necessary way to make a shift from past/future oriented way of thinking to a more present-oriented way of thinking. Moreover, the strength of mindfulness practice lies in the numerous opportunities to apply what has been emphasized in the session to daily life. Nonetheless, most of the athletes reported generally positive perceptions of the intervention, which provided encouraging evidence on the potential of applicability of mindfulness interventions on different aspects of college-athlete’s lives. Finally, these qualitative findings add to the research on the dosage effect of mindfulness interventions with athletes (e.g., 28) and suggest that a six-session mindfulness meditation intervention can result in beneficial effects across various aspects of their lives.
APPLICATIONS TO SPORT
The results of this mixed-method six-session mindfulness intervention revealed some important practical applications. Firstly, this study provided additional insights on the effects of mindfulness meditation interventions across various aspects of college-athletes’ lives. This is relevant due to the interconnected nature of various aspects of college athletes’ lives where each part of life has an effect on the other part of life. Thus, it is important to consider that the enhancement of athletic performance does not occur in isolation and that it may be dependent on functionality and balance of all other aspects of life. To that end, conducting interventions that emphasize increasing functionality of different areas of an athletes’ life can lead to the beneficial ‘ripple effect’ to other aspects of life, including enhanced athletic performance. The results of this study demonstrated that mindfulness can be an effective tool in helping bridge the gap between various aspects of college athletes’ lives. Due to the scarcity of research in this area, further investigations could implement the types of interventions that focus on all aspects of college athletes’ lives.
Another practical application relates to the factors that need to be considered when implementing mindfulness interventions with college athletes. Given the heavy demands of collegiate athletics, researchers (i.e., 6, 28) are suggesting briefer, flexible, and practical mindfulness interventions. When considering optimal session dosage, researchers and practitioners need to be aware of the demanding nature of college athletics and may need to remain flexible and mindful of the time usage in an environment where the pressures of winning are high, where athletes’ schedules are tight, and where sudden changes in scheduling can occur. As a result, this may lead to non-consecutive order of sessions or sudden changes in the length and duration of the sessions. In most cases, the head coach determines that these changes need to be implemented in order to best meet the needs of the team. Researchers and practitioners may need to understand that this is simply the reality of the situation. Alternatively, another potential venue for increasing dosage relates to encouraging athletes to practice mindfulness outside of regularly scheduled sessions. However, given the heavy time demands that collegiate athletes face, adding what is perceived to be an additional demand may result in a lack of adherence to practice. In addition, researchers face the challenge of not knowing with certainty that athletes adhered to the practice regimen on their own. Thus, further investigations may be needed to focus on the most optimal way to implement mindfulness sessions with college athletes, including factors such as the optimal dosage of sessions (i.e., the ideal length and number of sessions), as well as different combinations of sessions (e.g., shorter and more frequent sessions, longer and less frequent sessions) that would produce the most desired results.
Finally, another practical application relates to collecting both qualitative and quantitative data in order to determine the effectiveness of these types of interventions. As seen from this study, while quantitative results resulted in non-significant findings, qualitative results provided a positive support for the intervention. Thus, from a practical standpoint, practitioners and researchers may consider collecting data from both quantitative and qualitative sources in order to get a better insight in the efficacy of the intervention.
The following limitations may need to be accounted for and addressed in future research. Firstly, a lack of a mindfulness measure to increase the confidence that the results were due to the intervention and no other confounding factors (i.e., social desirability bias) is one potential limitation of this study. Another limitation relates to the lack of a control group to offer an additional degree of assurance that these effects were due to the mindfulness intervention versus some other extraneous factors. In addition, a relatively small sample size may also have contributed to less robust quantitative findings of this study. For example, collegiate soccer teams may carry between twenty and thirty players, which can lead to a relatively small sample size, especially if the loss of participants occurs. It is important to note that many sport teams carry a relatively low number of athletes on their roster, and a researcher can only work with the number of athletes that are a part of that team. Future researchers may look into conducting interventions with either multiple or larger teams to increase the sample size. Finally, another potential limitation is the implementation of mindfulness interventions during the competitive soccer season. Future studies may look into starting the intervention in the pre-season so that athletes are allowed adequate time to learn and implement the concepts. However, researchers also may need to consider the nature of the athletic environment where the researchers may only get the opportunity to work with the team at the time designated by the coach.
The authors of the study would like to thank all the participants that graciously agreed to participate in this study.
There is no funding to declare in this research study.
There is no financial and non-financial conflicts of interest in this research study.
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