Questions for ‘New training builds ‘mental’ muscles in athletes’

figure skater Nathan Chen, practicing on the ice

U.S. figure skater Nathan Chen, seen preparing for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. After learning in 2021 that some elite athletes had withdrawn from some competitions to work on their mental health, he offered his support. People must realize, he said, “We are important as people, not just athletes.”


To accompany “New training builds ‘mental’ muscles in athletes


Before Reading:

  1.  What do you see as the primary traits that make for successful athletes?
  2.  The long and constant practices and tough competitions can take a toll on the bodies of elite athletes. Why might it also take a toll on their mental health?

During Reading:

  1.  During the 2021 Summer Olympics, why did Simone Biles withdraw from most of the events for which she qualified? Why did this surprise most people, according to the story? What evidence did the story offer of a “stigma” against mental-health problems in sports?
  2.  What is mindfulness training? What therapy is it being paired with to help athletes deal with self-doubt and other concerns about their abilities to perform?
  3.  How did mindfulness training help lacrosse players at Marymount University? What evidence does the story offer about whether it made a difference in the team’s overall performance? What changed in the players’ attentiveness after being stressed by grueling workouts in preseason football practices? What evidence does the story give that mindfulness training still had some benefits for the players?
  4.  Psychologist Tommy Minkler likens meditative training to push-ups for the mind. Based on what you read, what did he mean by that?
  5.  How might mindfulness training backfire or have a downside in some athletes?
  6.  What is ACT therapy? How does it work?
  7.  In Eugene Koh Boon Yau’s work with three triathletes, what difference did a combination of mindfulness training and ACT therapy make?
  8.  At least among elite athletes, Minkler argues that performance problems are rarely due to issues with their technical skills? What did he mean by this?

After Reading:

  1.  The story focuses on the potential benefits of mindfulness training and ACT therapy in athletes. Come up with two areas beyond sports where they might also be helpful. Explain why you think they might help in these areas.
  2.  Adolescence is a period when many people experience increasing episodes of emotional turmoil, doubt and loneliness. Working in groups of two or three, discuss whether you think the principles of mindfulness and ACT therapy might be helpful for weathering these dark feelings. What other approaches for dealing with these troubling feelings might you and your friends use? Make a list of them all, describing the pros and cons of each, as you see them. Now compare your assessments with those by other groups in the class.