The Golden State Warriors have started this year’s basketball season with a record-setting 16 straight wins. I watch all of the post-game interviews and I’ve noticed that the word “mindfulness” pops up more often than you might expect. It’s certainly not a new concept within sports (sports psychology dates back to the 1920s) but the use of meditation -- and, specifically, mindfulness -- is a growing practice.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has shaped much of the current culture within the organization using the Mindfulness-Acceptance-Commitment approach to performance enhancement, along with experiences from his own playing career that shaped him. These include learnings from his own coaches -- the levity of Cotton Fitzsimmons, the Zen of Phil Jackson, and the tough love of Gregg Popovich.
After a loss to the arch-rival San Antonio Spurs early last season, Kerr said of his team, "They had the confidence. They had the swagger. The challenge is how to add the mindfulness. How do we add…the purpose?"
Apparently, he’s figured it out. In recent interviews, interim coach Luke Walton has described the core values that Kerr has instilled in the team: joy, mindfulness, compassion, and competition. “The first one and the most important one is probably joy -- he wants us having fun. It’s a long season, this game’s meant to be fun. There’s mindfulness. There’s compassion -- for each other and for the game of basketball. And then there’s competition. When we hit those four things, we’re not only very tough to beat, but we’re very fun to watch, we’re very fun to coach, we’re very fun to be around.”
A lot of athletes have the physical ability for competition but lack the mental training to support it. We’re beginning to see corporate America start to think about workforce performance and productivity similarly. For example:
Maybe, as you think about standard training programs for your employees around compliance and on-the-job functions, it’s time to think about mindfulness training as well.
When will the Golden State Warriors lose? Who knows, but I’ll be enjoying the entire season, mindful and appreciative of every fun moment that comes along the way.