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Sports and the Mind

Last quarter I wrote about recovery from athletic tasks as it pertains to the physical and all its physiological realms dealing with the energy system and components of muscle cells. I emphasized how not only actual rest time, short and long, could have a positive impact on performance, but also how nutrition played a role in injury prevention. As we wind down to our last quarter of the school year and prepare for the next, I would like to emphasize in this small segment the “mental aspect of recovery” and its relation to sport, and also to life itself.

The relationship between the “brain and the mind” cannot be understood solely in the scientific (concrete) realm, for even the latest advances in neuro-science are beginning to observe this phenomenon. Neuro-scientists have begun to look at the “mind” as an item not confined to the brain and body, but as something that also sustains the brain and body. This concept has been addressed by the great Medieval Catholic theologian/philosopher Thomas Aquinas when he speaks of the soul. Aquinas states, “The soul is not in the body, but it contains the body, for the reason the soul and the body longs for each other”.

Understanding this concept or metaphor will help us understand the relationship between the mind and the brain. Sports play a unique role in understanding this phenomenon. Sports when directed well, with the practice of virtues, can achieve this harmony. As we live in a very distracted and noisy society, the usage of the latest technological gadgets along with our busy schedules, relative to personal, school issues and travel/club sports brings disconnection to those two faculties (mind and brain). As a result we experience a loss of focus in sports as it relates to the quality of practices and games. This makes the human relationship among teammates and coaches very difficult. This atmosphere leads not only to physical injuries, but more importantly, anxiety and loss of human connection among parties mentioned.

More and more parents, educators, and student/athletes need to engage in dialogue on this great mystery between the brain and the mind to grasp the importance of “mental recovery” and fully understand and engage in “leisure” time.

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