When Dr. Gregory Cartin was in high school, he wasn’t aware of the benefits of meditation and mindfulness in training for sports, and his athletic performance suffered as a result, according to Cartin. Now, as a professional sports psychologist, he hopes to help adolescents learn from his mistakes.
In an interview with The Phillipian, Cartin said, “I was an athlete all my life and realized in high school that there was more than just physical skill that allowed athletes to succeed, and at competitions sometimes I didn’t perform as well as I thought I could or didn’t practice.”
This past Tuesday, teachers, coaches, students, and athletes gathered in the Underwood Room to watch Cartin’s presentation on sports psychology and mindfulness. Cartin has worked in the field of sports psychology for over 13 years, and he has been a private practitioner at GC3 Performance Consulting for five years.
Cartin spoke about the effect mindfulness can have on athletic and academic performance and aimed to spread his knowledge to coaches, student athletes, and teachers. He believes that even the highest level athletes can suffer from nerves or emotional distress that can hamper athletic performance.
“Nobody is immune from anxiety, fear, anger. We all share that in common. This is something most student athletes should know, everyone is going through the mental challenges as well,” said Cartin in his presentation.
Lani Silversides, Head Coach of Andover Girls Basketball, brought Cartin to campus as part of the Tang Institute class she leads on sports psychology.
“Part of my work with the Tang Institute is running a sports psychology class for student athletes, and it is in its pilot year. It is Tuesdays nights, one hour a week where I am meeting with Senior student athletes that opted into it. Each week we talk about the mental skills that can help student athletes in their performance,” said Silversides.
“One of our topics was mindfulness and sports, and I met Dr. Cartin at Boston University last year through sports psychology course. I was taking in graduate school there and he does a lot of his practice with mindfulness training with his athletes, so we wanted to bring him to campus as another voice to share some of his experiences with elite athletes and performance,” Silversides continued.
Cartin suggested that dissatisfaction with the quality of athletic performance can actually help athletes to improve their skill, as long as they learn to move past emotional blockades by using meditation to learn and grow as players.
“It is okay to be uncomfortable. Human beings seek comfort, so we are working against ourselves, our evolution, when we are performing we are always seeking to control the environment. In reality, we cannot do that,” said Cartin.
“The best most simple practice, is an insight meditation practice, where what you’re doing is sitting quietly and paying close attention to when your mind wanders and you use your breath as an anchor,” he continued.
Students walked away with knowledge of how to apply mindfulness to athletic performances.
“When we were talking about nerves and recognizing your nerves and realizing they are okay, and using them to your advantage. I guess I did find it surprising. I have always tried to get rid of my jitters and my pre-game nerves, but to hear that it is okay to have nerves, it helps you be the best you can be,” said Cassie Chin ’17, co-captain of Andover Girls Soccer.
Laura Bilal ’17, a member of Andover Girls Basketball and Girls Lacrosse said, “He was very insightful, and I think that his coming here and talking to athletes at high school level is incredible and I think that if we can widespread this around campus it can be super beneficial to students so I think it is incredible.”
Holden Ringer ’17 a member of Boys Cross Country as well as Boys Track & Field, believes he already prepares mentally for his races subconsciously, in lieu of a traditional meditation method.
“I already feel like I have a pretty positive outlook going; I don’t feel like I’m doubting myself. Some of the stuff he brought up, I feel like I already do a pretty good job of doing. Just something little I do, I do it subconsciously. I prepare for my race and it’s just natural. There’s not a mindfulness or meditation thing that can help with that. I just pray before my race, say thankful things, and make sure I’m prepared,” said Ringer.
Cartin, who completed his Masters in Counseling Psychology from Boston University, said the best way to practice mindfulness is through meditation. Although students at Andover may say that it is difficult to find time to meditate with such busy schedules, Cartin believes meditation is an important and convenient part of daily life.
“Meditation is not for relaxation, it is to sharpen your focus and awareness. The best time to meditate is when you wake up,” said Cartin in his presentation.
“Setting aside 10-15 minutes a day I think is a doable amount of time and that students should try to commit to,” said Cartin in an interview with The Phillipian.
Editor’s Note: Laura Bilal and Cassie Chin are Sports Editors for The Phillipian.