There is a wave rising, about to crest, and the best in the world are already riding it. This wave is mindfulness – a simple, but by no means easy, mental practice. The practice of mindfulness is not new; in fact, it has been around for centuries and is most commonly associated with Buddhism. What is new, however, is the attention it is garnering from science, business, education and sport.

AC Milan were football’s trailblazers in this area, creating a mysterious ‘Mind Room’ in the mid-2000s. They considered this glassed-in facility their team’s secret weapon, helping players to relax, reduce stress and rejuvenate. The club believes the Mind Room helps to enhance performance and reduce the risk of injuries; in fact, many believe it was their ‘x-factor’ during their domination of the mid-2000s.

Carlo Ancelotti, a pioneer of mindfulness in football, known for creating ‘Mind Rooms’ at his clubs. Photo: Mohan

Carlo Ancelotti, a pioneer of mindfulness in football, known for creating ‘Mind Rooms’ at his clubs. Photo: Mohan

On leaving the Azzurri, AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti, with help from Sports Psychologist Bruno Demichelis, evolved the concept, creating new Mind Rooms at Chelsea and Real Madrid. Success followed Ancelotti and his record breaking CV now speaks for itself: he is the only manager to have won the UEFA Champions League three times and also received a runners’-up medal. At the end of the 2013-14 season, Ancelotti joined Bob Paisley as the only other manager to have won three European Cups, and he is one of the five managers to have won a European Cup with two different clubs.

However, while Carlo is football’s mindfulness master, one of the greatest NBA coaches, Phil Jackson – also know as ‘Mr Zen’ – was probably the original pioneer in coaching. Jackson incorporated mindfulness strategies – from meditation to yoga, to playing basketball in the dark – throughout his coaching career with LA Lakers and Chicago Bulls. This influence rubbed off on players such as Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.

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Dr Jo Mitchell & James Vaughan
Dr Jo Mitchell & James Vaughan
Jo is a clinical psychologist who works with individuals and groups seeking to achieve valued life goals, find meaning and live well. She works with professionals experiencing mental illness, burnout, or struggling to manage stress in their lives. She also has a specialist interest in working with athletes, particularly managing athletic and life transitions, mental illness and wellbeing, and has 20+ years experience in the sport industry.
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