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The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Attentional Control During Off-Season Among Football Players:

The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Attentional Control During Off-Season Among Football... Mindfulness can be defined as the process of maintaining attention in the present, without judgment or expectations. Recent advances in sports sciences suggest that mindfulness meditation may have a positive effect on performance. The present article hypothesized that those improvements are associated with increasing levels of attentional control. Altogether, participants of the study are 40 elite football players who were followed longitudinally for 4 months during off-season control, and experimental groups were paired based on field position. Mindfulness skills and attentional control were measured. Results showed that participants from the experimental group kept the same levels of mindfulness skills and attentional control throughout the whole period of intervention, whereas the control group presented decrease after the third month in both psychological variables. The results lead to the conclusion that mindfulness meditation does not improve attentional control or mindfulness skills; however, it prevents those variables to show decrease among elite football players. Keywords mindfulness, attention, athletes, football, performance aspects, it also brings out some advantages that do not exist Introduction in individual therapy. Mindfulness can be defined as the cognitive procedure of In the same extent of Western psychotherapy, mindfulness intentionally maintaining attention in the present moment, meditation was developed with focus to reduce psychologi- with no judgment to the experience and expectations to what cal suffering (Germer, Siegel, & Fulton, 2016; Harrington & happens next (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, 2003). Bishop et al. (2004) Dunne, 2015; Nunes, Jaques, Almeida, & Heineck, 2010). suggested a two-component model of mindfulness: (a) Self- Group mindfulness-based interventions are also a good regulation of attention entails maintaining attention in the option to reach a larger number of individuals (King et al., immediate experience, whereas (b) orienting of attention that 2013). There are many ways of practicing mindfulness for involves experience with the orientation of curiosity, open- different goals, and different programs within psychother- ness, and acceptance. Accordingly, Thera (1962) claimed the apy, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR; “Way of Mindfulness” should be called “the heart of Buddhist Eberth & Sedlmeier, 2012; Kabat-Zinn, 1990), mindfulness- meditation,” as the author pointed out that the most simple based cognitive therapy for depression (MBCT; Klainin- and effective way of practicing mindfulness is still the way Yobas, Cho, & Creedy, 2012; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, that Buddha taught: “mind’s own unshakable deliverance 2002; van Aalderen et al., 2012), and dialectical behavior from Greed, Hatred and Delusion.” therapy (DBT), focused on treatment for “complex, difficult- Regardless, mindfulness research has expanded rapidly in to-treat mental disorders” (Dimeff & Linehan, 2001) and the last 30 years, increasing from less than 80 in the decade acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT; Hayes, Pistorello, of 1990 to over than 600 in 2006 (Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007). Evidence-based practices of mindfulness procedures Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil raised the interest of a number of clinicians to adopting those Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil techniques into their therapeutic interventions (M. Allen Corresponding Author: et al., 2012; N. B. Allen et al., 2006; de Frias & Whyne, Alberto Filgueiras, Rio de Janeiro State University, Rua São Francisco 2014; Desrosiers, Vine, Klemanski, & Nolen-Hoeksema, Xavier, 524, sala 10030, Bloco E, Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 20550-900, 2013). Indeed, N. B. Allen et al. (2006) claimed that, although Brazil. Email: albertofilgueiras@gmail.com teaching mindfulness to a group may be complex in some Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open & Levin, 2012; Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999; Twohig, object (Derryberry & Reed, 2002). Filgueiras et al. (2015) 2012). Those practices are so broad that evidence suggests suggests that attentional control is the main key for executive efficiency of mindfulness-based practices either with or functioning. In fact, levels of attentional control strongly without meditation (Germer et al., 2016; Semple, 2010). predicted performance in working memory, inhibitory con- Garland, Gaylord, and Fredrickson (2011) presented evi- trol, and decision-making tasks which supports those claims. dence pointing out that increasing dispositional (trait; repeat- There is also some evidence suggesting that executive edly engaged practice) mindfulness may increase positive functions are linked to athletic performance. Vestberger, cognitive reappraisal and benefit stress reduction. Likewise, Gustafson, Maurex, Ingvar, and Petrovic (2012) presented Ma and Teasdale (2004) have showed MBCT is much effec- findings that indicated executive functions as good predic- tive in preventing depression relapses. Furthermore, in a tors of number of goals and level of performance among 47 research of Hölzel et al. (2007), brain activation in the rostral elite football players. Also, Jacobson and Matthaeus (2014) anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)—an area accounted for its supported the notion of association between executive func- pivotal role in the neural network involved in processing of tions and performance by testing inhibitory control and prob- emotional information (Bush, Luu, & Posner, 2000)—pro- lem solving among swimmers and footballers. Results poses that practice of meditation may cause greater emo- indicated that swimmers scored significantly higher in inhib- tional regulation during mindfulness rather than other itory control because they practiced their whole lives to dialectic therapies. inhibit outside distractors, whereas football players scored Attention is supposed to be sustained intentionally by significantly higher in problem solving due to demands of every moment on determined object in mindfulness medita- fast decision making in football, according to authors. tion, the most usual object is breathing (Smith & Novak, 2004) and its related sensations (Lutz, Slagter, Dunne, & Mindfulness-Based Practices in Sports Davidson, 2008). Lutz et al. (2008) suggested that during practice, if one notices that attentional focus shifted to Regarding sports, mindfulness-based interventions focused another object, one must let the distraction go and then return in athletes’ performance still in its infancy. Gardner and the focus to the initial object. According to the literature Moore’s (2004) study pointed out the importance of the (Barinaga, 2003; Creswell, 2016; Mrazek, Franklin, Phillips, effects mindfulness-based interventions in acceptance and Baird, & Schooler, 2013; Semple, 2010; Valentine & Sweet, commitment of athletes’ own physiology, clarification of 1999; Zeidan, Johnson, Diamond, David, & Goolkasian, goals, and higher attentional control toward external stimuli. 2010), practicing mindfulness meditation may develop one’s Indeed, Birrer, Röthlin, and Morgan (2012) drew theoretical sustained attention, and distractions have lower effect during outlines regarding the possible outcomes of psychological this procedure in daily routine than they tend to have among skills training (PST) considering both dispositional and prac- nonpractitioners (Hölzel et al., 2011). In addition, mindful- tice of mindfulness among athletes. According to these ness meditation seems to be connected to cognitive and emo- authors, dispositional mindfulness among athletes can col- tional regulation (M. Allen et al., 2012; de Frias & Whyne, laborate with three major aspects of PST: intention, atten- 2014; Desrosiers et al., 2013; Gu, Strauss, Bond, & tion, and attitude. Then, mindfulness is able to influence Cavanagh, 2015; Khoury, Sharma, Rush, & Fournier, 2015; quite a wide range of psychological skills and athletes’ abil- Mrazek et al., 2013; Prakash, Hussain, & Schirda, 2015). ity to train them. Beyond PST, Gardner and Moore (2012) There is also results in several studies suggesting that partici- provide evidence that suggests that mindfulness interven- pants show improvement in perceived ability to shift one’s tions among sportsmen and sportswomen, suggesting mood, cognitive flexibility (Hayes & Feldman, 2004; Khoury increase levels of global flow, self-awareness, ability to take et al., 2013; Strauss, Cavanagh, Oliver, & Pettman, 2014; action, and improvement in acceptance during self-talk. Tang, Hölzel, & Posner, 2015; Troy, Shallcross, Davis, & Although, this review supports mindfulness-based practices Mauss, 2013), working memory (Chiesa, Calati, & Serretti, for athletes, it still lacks scientific evidence based on con- 2011; Zeidan et al., 2010), visuospatial processing, and exec- trolled experimental designs. utive functioning (Ainsworth, Eddershaw, Meron, Baldwin, Accordingly, Scott-Hamilton, Schutte, and Brown (2016) & Garner, 2013; Zeidan et al., 2010). and Kee and Wang (2008) also found benefits of mindful- Attentional control is defined as a group of mental skills ness-based practices among athletes. Scott-Hamilton et al. needed to manage attentional resources (Derryberry & Reed, (2016) investigated a 27-cyclists group aiming to study the 2002; Filgueiras et al., 2015). Basically, it is divided in two influence of an 8-week mindfulness-based intervention over domains: sustained and divided attention. Sustained atten- athletes’ mindfulness daily experiences, flow experience, tion is the ability to keep in mind one task or one stimulus, and sport-specific anxiety. Results indicated statistical differ- only ignoring all other distractors. Divided attention entails ences between pre- and postintervention, which suggests that both separating attentional resources to two or more stimuli mindfulness-based practices contribute to enhance daily at the same time and/or shift attention to another aspect of mindfulness experiences to increase the frequency of flow one stimulus in a way that it changes one’s perspective of the experiences and to reduce sport-specific anxiety among Baltar and Filgueiras 3 sportspersons. Kee and Wang’s (2008) hypothesized that position, odd ordinal number went to Group 1, whereas even mindfulness practices correlates to attentional control among ordinal number went to Group 2, in the second position the athletes: Participants who presented high dispositional mind- process were reversed, and so on. Group 1 (N = 20; age aver- fulness (i.e., athletes who already implemented mindfulness age: M1 = 23.8; SD1 = 2.8) had athletes playing in the fol- practices in their sports’ routines regardless of previous inter- lowing positions (number of participants): center (1), ventions) showed statistically higher scores in the test of per- cornerback (1), defensive end (2), defensive tackle (1), full- formance strategies than participants with low dispositional back (1), linebacker (2), quarterback (2), running back (2), mindfulness. offensive guard (2), offensive tackle (2), safety (1), tight end In fact, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that mindful- (1), wide receiver (2), whereas Group 2 (N = 20; age average: ness-based interventions are linked to athletic performance. In M2 = 23.3; SD2 = 4.9) had those field positions (number of a recent review of 19 papers (Sappington & Longshore, 2015), players): center (1), cornerback (1), defensive end (2), defen- it was found that mindfulness meditation practice increases sive tackle (2), fullback (1), linebacker (1), quarterback (2), levels of flow state, attachment and commitment to goal- offensive guard (2), offensive tackle (1), running back (2), directed behaviors, and levels of attention and motivation dur- safety (2), tight end (1), and wide receiver (2). ing practices and competitions. However, only 4 among those 19 studies were randomized controlled trials, which impair the Measures level of confidence of those findings and mindfulness practice to enhance athletic performance overall. Two instruments were used to assess athletes’ attentional Afonso, Garganta, and Mesquita (2012) suggested that control and mindfulness skills: the Brazilian-adapted version attention is one of the pivotal components in decision making of Attentional Control Scale (ACS; Derryberry & Reed, among athletes. Moreover, Memmert (2007, 2011) proposes 2002; Filgueiras et al., 2015) and the short version of that improvement of attention-broadening team sports train- Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMSs-Short). ing may cause teammates’ creative performance, a psycho- logical construct linked to executive functioning. It seems ACS (Derryberry & Reed, 2002). The ACS is an instrument that attentional control benefits to mindfulness-based prac- developed with 20 items to be completed on a Likert-type tices; however, whether mindfulness meditation only can lead scale with four categories of answer: 1 = “almost never”; 2 = to improvement of athletes’ attentional control is still a ques- “sometimes”; 3 = “often”; and 4 = “always.” It aims to mea- tion to be answered in sport psychology. Accordingly, Gardner sure one’s attentional focus control and divided attention. and Moore (2012) and Sappington and Longshore (2015) Examples of items are “My concentration is good even if highlight the lack of controlled experimental designs in mind- there is music in the room around me” or “I can quickly fulness-based intervention studies. The present study aims to switch from one task to another.” Filgueiras et al. (2015) pre- address this question by identifying whether there are signifi- sented a translated and semantically adapted version of ACS cant differences between mindfulness intervention and con- to Brazil used in the present study. trol condition toward attentional control through time in a randomized sample of elite football players. KIMSs-Short (Höfling, Ströhle, Michalak, & Heidenreich, 2011). The KIMSs are a measure developed by Baer, Smith, and Allen (2004) that assess basic mindfulness skills. Its Method short version (Höfling et al., 2011) has 20 items and five cat- egories of answer in a Likert-type scale: 1 = “never or very Participants rarely true”; 2 = “rarely true”; 3 = “sometimes true”; 4 = Altogether, 40 elite football players of the same professional “often true”; and 5 = “very often or always true.” This inven- team (i.e., American football or gridiron) aged between 18 tory goal is to quantify four mindfulness skills: observing, and 39 years (M = 23.6; SD = 1.4) participated in the present describing, acting with awareness, and accepting without experiment. Participants were randomly separated in two judgment. Examples of items are “I pay attention to whether groups: an experimental group (Group 1) and a control group my muscles are tense or relaxed” or “I get completely (Group 2), according to field position. There is evidence sug- absorbed in what I’m doing, so that all my attention is gesting that field positions infer different cognitive demands focused on it.” To conduct the present research, translation (Lovell & Collins, 1998), for example, it is expected that a and semantic adaption of KIMSs-Short for the Brazilian con- quarterback shows higher problem-solving skills, whereas a text were developed following the International Test Com- defensive tackle presents higher inhibitory control. The pres- mission (ITC) guidelines for translating tests (ITC, 2010). ent study tried to divide athletes in groups randomly based on representation of their positions in the field (e.g., if 1 Procedure quarterback goes to Group 1, then another quarterback goes to Group 2, and so forth). To execute that, players were listed Participants were recruited in their practice environment by by position, alphabetic order, and ordinal number; in the first one of the main authors (Y.C.B.). The research objective was 4 SAGE Open explained, and volunteers were informed that experimental 2005). A repeated measures ANOVA was also conducted to and control groups should complete the two questionnaires compare variance of ACS and KIMSs according to moment above-mentioned once in every month and in a period of 5 of assessment (five levels: pre-intervention, 30 days of inter- months, respectively. One baseline assessment (both instru- vention, 60 days of intervention, 90 days of intervention, and ments) occurred at the end of the championship season, and follow-up of 30 days, within-participants) and groups (two monthly, the questionnaires were sent by e-mail to be filled levels: intervention and control, between-participants). until 30 days after interruption of the procedure. It went Results are presented for those two independent variables through the whole off-season and was interrupted when they (moment and group) and their possible interaction. A went back to practice. Bonferroni post hoc test was performed to pairwise compari- According to the orientations of Lutz et al. (2008) and son. Power of the test was calculated using post hoc proce- Smith and Novak (2004), the following steps of mindful- dure provided in G-Power software (Faul, Erdfelder, ness meditation were instructed to the experimental group: Buchner, & Lang, 2009). Effect size of repeated measure ANOVA was performed using generalized eta squared ( ) Sit down in a comfortable place and rest your hands over your and reference values above 0.10 were considered weak effect knees. Close your eyes. Breath in deeply and slowly using your size, between 0.10 and 0.30 were interpreted as moderate diaphragm. Hold your breath for 3 seconds and then breath out effect size, and above 0.30 were depicted as strong effect size slowly, focusing your entire attention in your own body; do it for (Bakeman, 2005). 10 minutes. If somehow you lose your focus during the meditation, let the distraction come, understand it, gently let it go and refocus your attention to your breathing. Results Mean and standard deviation are depicted in Table 1. This text was recorded in a computer by one of the authors Inferential statistics to compare ACS and KIMSs pairwise (A.F.) and a website was designed with data of participants between groups are also present. No statistical difference (p for this experiment. Participants were asked to login the < .05) was found between groups until the follow-up assess- website and hear the recorded audio file at least three times a ment in both scales: ACS and KIMSs. However, effect size week. The experimental group had to proceed with their as measured by Cohen’s d raised from low (baseline and first meditation, whereas the control group only had to login the month) to moderated (second and third months) and reached same three times a week without any task or agenda related high effect size in the last assessment for both total scores. In to psychological interventions, that is, they logged in and the last assessment, follow-up experimental group showed then went to do anything on the Internet or even turn off the higher total scores in attentional control and mindfulness computer if they wanted. After the period of 3 months, skills when compared with the control group. Statistical experimental group was asked to stop their meditation prac- power ranged between 0.09 and 0.96, with only 2 t tests pre- tices. A final assessment took place 30 days after participants senting power below 0.60. were asked to stop their mindfulness meditation Repeated measures ANOVA results are presented in An informed consent form was sign by all volunteers. Table 2. The first independent variable: time, or moment Participants were free to quit the experiment whenever they when the assessment took place, showed significant differ- decided. The research was approved by the Ethics Committee ences (p < .05) in both assessment measures, whereas effect of the Rio de Janeiro State University, Brazil, protocol size was moderate (0.10 < η < 0.30). Regarding the sec- 016.780/2016. ond independent variable, groups, no statistical difference was found in both scales. Nonetheless, attentional control showed moderate effect size ( η = 0.13). Statistical Analyses Finally, interaction between independent variables Descriptive statistics of ACS’s and KIMSs’s total scores showed statistical significance in both ACS and KIMSs, with were calculated. Mean and standard deviation for baseline high effect size (η > 0.30), which leads to the conclusion assessment, 30 days after baseline (first month), 60 days that differences between groups found in pairwise compari- after baseline (second month), 90 days after baseline (third sons are due to time rather than groups themselves. month), and 30 days after the interruption of mindfulness Bonferroni results yielded significant differences (p < .05) meditation practice follow-up are presented. only between control and experimental groups in follow-up, Mean total scores for ACS and KIMSs of experimental which corroborates with t test findings. and control groups were compared using student’s t test for each moment when assessment took place. Effect size of the Discussion five results of t test was measured by Cohen’s d and thumb rule was used to interpret those values: between 0.2 and 0.5, The present experiment aimed to understand whether mind- the effect size is small; between 0.5 and 0.8, the effect size is fulness meditation practices during off-season would affect medium; and effect size above 0.8 is large (Rice & Harris, in attentional control of football players. Results did not fully Baltar and Filgueiras 5 Table 1. Mean, Standard Deviation, Student’s t Test Results, Statistical Power (Power) and Cohen’s d for Effect Size of Both Scales Divided by Moment (Time) and Group (Control and Experimental). ACS KIMSs Descriptive Descriptive data t test data t test Month Group M SD Power T P value Effect (d) M SD Power T p value Effect (d) Baseline Control 49.2 5.9 0.09 0.09 .93 0.04 50.7 4.3 0.68 0.63 .55 0.28 Experimental 49.4 4.2 52.3 6.8 First month Control 47.9 6.9 0.25 0.60 .23 0.09 53.8 4.1 0.96 0.07 .94 0.24 Experimental 48.4 3.5 52.1 5.2 Second month Control 47.5 5.6 0.78 0.54 .59 0.37 50.4 5.7 0.66 0.84 .42 0.36 Experimental 49.5 5.2 51.8 5.9 Third month Control 46.2 6.2 0.67 0.83 .42 0.38 48.5 4.6 0.69 1.08 .29 0.49 Experimental 48.2 4.2 51.7 8.1 Follow-up Control 46.4 4.7 0.60 2.13 <.05 0.72 46.8 4.4 0.92 2.44 <.05 1.09 Experimental 49.5 3.9 52.6 6.1 Note. ACS = Attentional Control Scale; KIMSs = Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills. Table 2. Repeated Measures ANOVA Results Giving F Value, whenever convenient. Bishop et al. (2004) argue that self- Degree of Freedom (df), p Value, Statistical Power, and Effect regulation is a daily practice and mindfulness helps the indi- Size as Measured by Generalized Eta Squared ( η ) for Moment vidual to keep the focus of attention in the present moment, (Time), Group (Control and Experimental), and Interaction but it also demands years of training. Hölzel et al. (2011) and Between Those Variables. Hölzel et al. (2007) suggest that mindfulness meditation Repeated measures ANOVA leads to development of consciousness and attention to the present, however, this enterprise takes long time due to struc- Analysis F df p value Effect (η ) Power G² tural modifications in neural networks of the brain. KIMSs The present research seems to have found a minimum Moment 3.950 1.18 <.05 0.23 0.43 time to mindfulness-based meditation to be efficient: 60 Group 0.972 1.18 .34 0.09 0.65 days, based on effect size of the t test, and this results Interaction 5.105 1.18 <.05 0.37 0.99 remained for the rest of evaluations. Nevertheless, the effect ACS of this practice seems to keep up even after its interruption, Moment 2.783 1.18 <.05 0.21 0.75 which means that there is a tendency of intensification as Group 1.045 1.18 .22 0.13 0.47 days go by. Interestingly, attentional control presented the Interaction 4.912 1.18 <.05 0.35 0.95 same results as mindfulness skills. Those results suggest a relationship between those variables. It corroborates with Note. KIMSs = Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills; ACS = findings of Ainsworth et al. (2013), Chiesa et al. (2011), Attentional Control Scale. Hayes and Feldman (2004), and Zeidan et al. (2010) that corroborate with the hypothesis initially raised by the present links attentional control to executive functions and mindful- study for two reasons: first, medium effect size only appeared ness practices. In fact, findings of the present article provide 60 days after baseline and second, means of total scores did for the first time evidence of this relationship among elite not increase in the experimental group, they actually athletes. Kee and Wang (2008) already had highlighted the decreased in the control group. That evidence suggests dis- impact of mindfulness-based interventions in overall atten- tinct things that are going to be addressed here. Regardless, tion. In fact, the results of this article corroborate with those this research showed that time of mindfulness practices authors’ evidence, suggesting that mindfulness does affect indeed influences in attentional control and mindfulness positively in the ability of a participant to control his or her skills among athletes, however, the effect only strengthened attention. Nonetheless, this ability takes time to be devel- after 60 days of intervention—leading to a statistical differ- oped, and, only after 60 days of intervention, the experimen- ence 120 days after baseline—suggesting that mindfulness- tal group was able to show medium effect size when based interventions are not brief strategies to be used once or compared with the control group. twice, rather than that, it requires a long-term strategy of Regarding total scores means, a very interesting phenom- practice. Indeed, Thera’s (1962) proposition is based on enon had occurred: participants of the experimental group mindfulness as a way of life, not just a technique to be used started showing the same levels in both mindfulness skills 6 SAGE Open and attention control than the control group; however, as the whatever they wanted even if they were asked to respond as experiment went on, means of the control group decreased, honest as possible. whereas means of the experimental group remained the Regarding statistical analyses, two problems were faced same. The time to significantly improve KIMSs scores is during this study: small sample size and null hypothesis test- probably greater than 90 days, so the present results suggest ing. A small sample size, regardless of normal distribution that mindfulness-based interventions take more than 3 tests, always tends to limit findings due to its large variance. months to expect any significant change. To explain those A larger variance means smaller chance of significant differ- results, Garland et al. (2011) suggests that there is a disposi- ences based on null hypothesis tests p values. Because of tional factor of mindfulness, thus, some individuals present that, the present article adopted Cohen’s d effect size as its basic levels of mindfulness skills higher than others. It seems main statistical index. However, Rice and Harris (2005) that sportspersons of a game such as football are predisposal raised concerns about the thumb rule of 0.2, 0.5, and 0.8 to show attentional control already high when compared because they do not correspond to correlation of 0.1, 0.3, and with other studies with samples of nonathletes (Derryberry 0.5 as argued by Cohen in any empirical article. So, even this & Reed, 2002). Indeed, elite athletes tend to show higher criterion is questionable. mean scores in attentional and visuospatial tasks when com- The other method adopted to understand whether results pared with controls (Afonso et al., 2012; Scott-Hamilton of present study were reliable was statistical power. Power et al., 2016). A combination of dispositional mindfulness above 0.80 is desired because it would represent the assump- (Garland et al., 2011) and the cognitive training indirectly tion of 80% of the time it will not make a Type 2 error or a involved in sports practice (Afonso et al., 2012) may explain false negative decision. A large number of statistical results that both experimental and control groups showed high lev- showed power below 0.80; however, the main results: differ- els of attentional control and mindfulness skills. It is impera- ences between groups in KIMSs and ACS through time tive to highlight that the present experiment began in the end showed high power, so generally, the study suffers because of a season, thus, athletes were near their peak performance, of its small sample size although some findings are reliable, it could be the explanation why controls showed a decrease mainly when it shows significant statistical differences. in their mean scores through off-season However, psychology and human sciences lack more reliable Altogether, the results presented in this research points to statistical procedures, and the present article trusts in the two separate things: first, elite athletes can benefit from power of longitudinal randomized experimental design mindfulness meditation practices corroborating with previ- rather than statistics itself. ous findings (Kee & Wang, 2008; Scott-Hamilton et al., 2016); however, it takes at least 3 to 4 months to show any Acknowledgment effect. Perhaps, interventions combining meditation and The authors thank the valuable contributions of Taís Brasil and other mindfulness techniques (Memmert, 2011; Tang et al., Bruno Barreto for their insights to the present research. 2015; Troy et al., 2013) may show themselves more efficient than only mindfulness meditation as used in the present Declaration of Conflicting Interests experiment. Second, elite athletes are likely to show high The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect levels of attentional control and mindfulness skills due to to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. their already cognitive-demanding sports practices (Afonso et al., 2012); although, during off-season they tend to present Funding a decrease in those psychological constructs. In this aspect, The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support the present study provides evidence that a mindfulness-based for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The practice during off-season can help athletes to keep their present research was possible because of the Grant INST minds in a better level of cognitive performance, then becom- 211.250/2016 from FAPERJ, Brazil. ing ready faster to the beginning of championship seasons. ORCID iD Alberto Filgueiras https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6668-0606 Limitations of the Study The present study aimed to understand how a mindfulness References meditation intervention would influence mindfulness skills Afonso, J., Garganta, J., & Mesquita, I. (2012). Decision-making in and attentional control among elite football athletes. The first sports: The role of attention, anticipation and memory. Revista issue was to follow athletes in their practices every day. 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Executive functions predict the success of top-soccer Yago Carioca Baltar has a psychology degree at Universidade players. PLoS ONE, 7(4), e34731. doi:10.1371/journal. Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro and is currently doing his pone.0034731 master’s on Sport Psychology at Universidade do Estado do Rio Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & de Janeiro Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cog- Alberto Filgueiras is professor at Universidade do Rio de Janeiro nition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and where he teachs Sport Psychology and Neurosciences. Cognition, 19, 597-605. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.03.014 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png SAGE Open SAGE

The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Attentional Control During Off-Season Among Football Players:

SAGE Open , Volume 8 (2): 1 – Jun 17, 2018

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Abstract

Mindfulness can be defined as the process of maintaining attention in the present, without judgment or expectations. Recent advances in sports sciences suggest that mindfulness meditation may have a positive effect on performance. The present article hypothesized that those improvements are associated with increasing levels of attentional control. Altogether, participants of the study are 40 elite football players who were followed longitudinally for 4 months during off-season control, and experimental groups were paired based on field position. Mindfulness skills and attentional control were measured. Results showed that participants from the experimental group kept the same levels of mindfulness skills and attentional control throughout the whole period of intervention, whereas the control group presented decrease after the third month in both psychological variables. The results lead to the conclusion that mindfulness meditation does not improve attentional control or mindfulness skills; however, it prevents those variables to show decrease among elite football players. Keywords mindfulness, attention, athletes, football, performance aspects, it also brings out some advantages that do not exist Introduction in individual therapy. Mindfulness can be defined as the cognitive procedure of In the same extent of Western psychotherapy, mindfulness intentionally maintaining attention in the present moment, meditation was developed with focus to reduce psychologi- with no judgment to the experience and expectations to what cal suffering (Germer, Siegel, & Fulton, 2016; Harrington & happens next (Kabat-Zinn, 1990, 2003). Bishop et al. (2004) Dunne, 2015; Nunes, Jaques, Almeida, & Heineck, 2010). suggested a two-component model of mindfulness: (a) Self- Group mindfulness-based interventions are also a good regulation of attention entails maintaining attention in the option to reach a larger number of individuals (King et al., immediate experience, whereas (b) orienting of attention that 2013). There are many ways of practicing mindfulness for involves experience with the orientation of curiosity, open- different goals, and different programs within psychother- ness, and acceptance. Accordingly, Thera (1962) claimed the apy, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR; “Way of Mindfulness” should be called “the heart of Buddhist Eberth & Sedlmeier, 2012; Kabat-Zinn, 1990), mindfulness- meditation,” as the author pointed out that the most simple based cognitive therapy for depression (MBCT; Klainin- and effective way of practicing mindfulness is still the way Yobas, Cho, & Creedy, 2012; Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, that Buddha taught: “mind’s own unshakable deliverance 2002; van Aalderen et al., 2012), and dialectical behavior from Greed, Hatred and Delusion.” therapy (DBT), focused on treatment for “complex, difficult- Regardless, mindfulness research has expanded rapidly in to-treat mental disorders” (Dimeff & Linehan, 2001) and the last 30 years, increasing from less than 80 in the decade acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT; Hayes, Pistorello, of 1990 to over than 600 in 2006 (Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007). Evidence-based practices of mindfulness procedures Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil raised the interest of a number of clinicians to adopting those Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil techniques into their therapeutic interventions (M. Allen Corresponding Author: et al., 2012; N. B. Allen et al., 2006; de Frias & Whyne, Alberto Filgueiras, Rio de Janeiro State University, Rua São Francisco 2014; Desrosiers, Vine, Klemanski, & Nolen-Hoeksema, Xavier, 524, sala 10030, Bloco E, Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 20550-900, 2013). Indeed, N. B. Allen et al. (2006) claimed that, although Brazil. Email: albertofilgueiras@gmail.com teaching mindfulness to a group may be complex in some Creative Commons CC BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open & Levin, 2012; Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson, 1999; Twohig, object (Derryberry & Reed, 2002). Filgueiras et al. (2015) 2012). Those practices are so broad that evidence suggests suggests that attentional control is the main key for executive efficiency of mindfulness-based practices either with or functioning. In fact, levels of attentional control strongly without meditation (Germer et al., 2016; Semple, 2010). predicted performance in working memory, inhibitory con- Garland, Gaylord, and Fredrickson (2011) presented evi- trol, and decision-making tasks which supports those claims. dence pointing out that increasing dispositional (trait; repeat- There is also some evidence suggesting that executive edly engaged practice) mindfulness may increase positive functions are linked to athletic performance. Vestberger, cognitive reappraisal and benefit stress reduction. Likewise, Gustafson, Maurex, Ingvar, and Petrovic (2012) presented Ma and Teasdale (2004) have showed MBCT is much effec- findings that indicated executive functions as good predic- tive in preventing depression relapses. Furthermore, in a tors of number of goals and level of performance among 47 research of Hölzel et al. (2007), brain activation in the rostral elite football players. Also, Jacobson and Matthaeus (2014) anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)—an area accounted for its supported the notion of association between executive func- pivotal role in the neural network involved in processing of tions and performance by testing inhibitory control and prob- emotional information (Bush, Luu, & Posner, 2000)—pro- lem solving among swimmers and footballers. Results poses that practice of meditation may cause greater emo- indicated that swimmers scored significantly higher in inhib- tional regulation during mindfulness rather than other itory control because they practiced their whole lives to dialectic therapies. inhibit outside distractors, whereas football players scored Attention is supposed to be sustained intentionally by significantly higher in problem solving due to demands of every moment on determined object in mindfulness medita- fast decision making in football, according to authors. tion, the most usual object is breathing (Smith & Novak, 2004) and its related sensations (Lutz, Slagter, Dunne, & Mindfulness-Based Practices in Sports Davidson, 2008). Lutz et al. (2008) suggested that during practice, if one notices that attentional focus shifted to Regarding sports, mindfulness-based interventions focused another object, one must let the distraction go and then return in athletes’ performance still in its infancy. Gardner and the focus to the initial object. According to the literature Moore’s (2004) study pointed out the importance of the (Barinaga, 2003; Creswell, 2016; Mrazek, Franklin, Phillips, effects mindfulness-based interventions in acceptance and Baird, & Schooler, 2013; Semple, 2010; Valentine & Sweet, commitment of athletes’ own physiology, clarification of 1999; Zeidan, Johnson, Diamond, David, & Goolkasian, goals, and higher attentional control toward external stimuli. 2010), practicing mindfulness meditation may develop one’s Indeed, Birrer, Röthlin, and Morgan (2012) drew theoretical sustained attention, and distractions have lower effect during outlines regarding the possible outcomes of psychological this procedure in daily routine than they tend to have among skills training (PST) considering both dispositional and prac- nonpractitioners (Hölzel et al., 2011). In addition, mindful- tice of mindfulness among athletes. According to these ness meditation seems to be connected to cognitive and emo- authors, dispositional mindfulness among athletes can col- tional regulation (M. Allen et al., 2012; de Frias & Whyne, laborate with three major aspects of PST: intention, atten- 2014; Desrosiers et al., 2013; Gu, Strauss, Bond, & tion, and attitude. Then, mindfulness is able to influence Cavanagh, 2015; Khoury, Sharma, Rush, & Fournier, 2015; quite a wide range of psychological skills and athletes’ abil- Mrazek et al., 2013; Prakash, Hussain, & Schirda, 2015). ity to train them. Beyond PST, Gardner and Moore (2012) There is also results in several studies suggesting that partici- provide evidence that suggests that mindfulness interven- pants show improvement in perceived ability to shift one’s tions among sportsmen and sportswomen, suggesting mood, cognitive flexibility (Hayes & Feldman, 2004; Khoury increase levels of global flow, self-awareness, ability to take et al., 2013; Strauss, Cavanagh, Oliver, & Pettman, 2014; action, and improvement in acceptance during self-talk. Tang, Hölzel, & Posner, 2015; Troy, Shallcross, Davis, & Although, this review supports mindfulness-based practices Mauss, 2013), working memory (Chiesa, Calati, & Serretti, for athletes, it still lacks scientific evidence based on con- 2011; Zeidan et al., 2010), visuospatial processing, and exec- trolled experimental designs. utive functioning (Ainsworth, Eddershaw, Meron, Baldwin, Accordingly, Scott-Hamilton, Schutte, and Brown (2016) & Garner, 2013; Zeidan et al., 2010). and Kee and Wang (2008) also found benefits of mindful- Attentional control is defined as a group of mental skills ness-based practices among athletes. Scott-Hamilton et al. needed to manage attentional resources (Derryberry & Reed, (2016) investigated a 27-cyclists group aiming to study the 2002; Filgueiras et al., 2015). Basically, it is divided in two influence of an 8-week mindfulness-based intervention over domains: sustained and divided attention. Sustained atten- athletes’ mindfulness daily experiences, flow experience, tion is the ability to keep in mind one task or one stimulus, and sport-specific anxiety. Results indicated statistical differ- only ignoring all other distractors. Divided attention entails ences between pre- and postintervention, which suggests that both separating attentional resources to two or more stimuli mindfulness-based practices contribute to enhance daily at the same time and/or shift attention to another aspect of mindfulness experiences to increase the frequency of flow one stimulus in a way that it changes one’s perspective of the experiences and to reduce sport-specific anxiety among Baltar and Filgueiras 3 sportspersons. Kee and Wang’s (2008) hypothesized that position, odd ordinal number went to Group 1, whereas even mindfulness practices correlates to attentional control among ordinal number went to Group 2, in the second position the athletes: Participants who presented high dispositional mind- process were reversed, and so on. Group 1 (N = 20; age aver- fulness (i.e., athletes who already implemented mindfulness age: M1 = 23.8; SD1 = 2.8) had athletes playing in the fol- practices in their sports’ routines regardless of previous inter- lowing positions (number of participants): center (1), ventions) showed statistically higher scores in the test of per- cornerback (1), defensive end (2), defensive tackle (1), full- formance strategies than participants with low dispositional back (1), linebacker (2), quarterback (2), running back (2), mindfulness. offensive guard (2), offensive tackle (2), safety (1), tight end In fact, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that mindful- (1), wide receiver (2), whereas Group 2 (N = 20; age average: ness-based interventions are linked to athletic performance. In M2 = 23.3; SD2 = 4.9) had those field positions (number of a recent review of 19 papers (Sappington & Longshore, 2015), players): center (1), cornerback (1), defensive end (2), defen- it was found that mindfulness meditation practice increases sive tackle (2), fullback (1), linebacker (1), quarterback (2), levels of flow state, attachment and commitment to goal- offensive guard (2), offensive tackle (1), running back (2), directed behaviors, and levels of attention and motivation dur- safety (2), tight end (1), and wide receiver (2). ing practices and competitions. However, only 4 among those 19 studies were randomized controlled trials, which impair the Measures level of confidence of those findings and mindfulness practice to enhance athletic performance overall. Two instruments were used to assess athletes’ attentional Afonso, Garganta, and Mesquita (2012) suggested that control and mindfulness skills: the Brazilian-adapted version attention is one of the pivotal components in decision making of Attentional Control Scale (ACS; Derryberry & Reed, among athletes. Moreover, Memmert (2007, 2011) proposes 2002; Filgueiras et al., 2015) and the short version of that improvement of attention-broadening team sports train- Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMSs-Short). ing may cause teammates’ creative performance, a psycho- logical construct linked to executive functioning. It seems ACS (Derryberry & Reed, 2002). The ACS is an instrument that attentional control benefits to mindfulness-based prac- developed with 20 items to be completed on a Likert-type tices; however, whether mindfulness meditation only can lead scale with four categories of answer: 1 = “almost never”; 2 = to improvement of athletes’ attentional control is still a ques- “sometimes”; 3 = “often”; and 4 = “always.” It aims to mea- tion to be answered in sport psychology. Accordingly, Gardner sure one’s attentional focus control and divided attention. and Moore (2012) and Sappington and Longshore (2015) Examples of items are “My concentration is good even if highlight the lack of controlled experimental designs in mind- there is music in the room around me” or “I can quickly fulness-based intervention studies. The present study aims to switch from one task to another.” Filgueiras et al. (2015) pre- address this question by identifying whether there are signifi- sented a translated and semantically adapted version of ACS cant differences between mindfulness intervention and con- to Brazil used in the present study. trol condition toward attentional control through time in a randomized sample of elite football players. KIMSs-Short (Höfling, Ströhle, Michalak, & Heidenreich, 2011). The KIMSs are a measure developed by Baer, Smith, and Allen (2004) that assess basic mindfulness skills. Its Method short version (Höfling et al., 2011) has 20 items and five cat- egories of answer in a Likert-type scale: 1 = “never or very Participants rarely true”; 2 = “rarely true”; 3 = “sometimes true”; 4 = Altogether, 40 elite football players of the same professional “often true”; and 5 = “very often or always true.” This inven- team (i.e., American football or gridiron) aged between 18 tory goal is to quantify four mindfulness skills: observing, and 39 years (M = 23.6; SD = 1.4) participated in the present describing, acting with awareness, and accepting without experiment. Participants were randomly separated in two judgment. Examples of items are “I pay attention to whether groups: an experimental group (Group 1) and a control group my muscles are tense or relaxed” or “I get completely (Group 2), according to field position. There is evidence sug- absorbed in what I’m doing, so that all my attention is gesting that field positions infer different cognitive demands focused on it.” To conduct the present research, translation (Lovell & Collins, 1998), for example, it is expected that a and semantic adaption of KIMSs-Short for the Brazilian con- quarterback shows higher problem-solving skills, whereas a text were developed following the International Test Com- defensive tackle presents higher inhibitory control. The pres- mission (ITC) guidelines for translating tests (ITC, 2010). ent study tried to divide athletes in groups randomly based on representation of their positions in the field (e.g., if 1 Procedure quarterback goes to Group 1, then another quarterback goes to Group 2, and so forth). To execute that, players were listed Participants were recruited in their practice environment by by position, alphabetic order, and ordinal number; in the first one of the main authors (Y.C.B.). The research objective was 4 SAGE Open explained, and volunteers were informed that experimental 2005). A repeated measures ANOVA was also conducted to and control groups should complete the two questionnaires compare variance of ACS and KIMSs according to moment above-mentioned once in every month and in a period of 5 of assessment (five levels: pre-intervention, 30 days of inter- months, respectively. One baseline assessment (both instru- vention, 60 days of intervention, 90 days of intervention, and ments) occurred at the end of the championship season, and follow-up of 30 days, within-participants) and groups (two monthly, the questionnaires were sent by e-mail to be filled levels: intervention and control, between-participants). until 30 days after interruption of the procedure. It went Results are presented for those two independent variables through the whole off-season and was interrupted when they (moment and group) and their possible interaction. A went back to practice. Bonferroni post hoc test was performed to pairwise compari- According to the orientations of Lutz et al. (2008) and son. Power of the test was calculated using post hoc proce- Smith and Novak (2004), the following steps of mindful- dure provided in G-Power software (Faul, Erdfelder, ness meditation were instructed to the experimental group: Buchner, & Lang, 2009). Effect size of repeated measure ANOVA was performed using generalized eta squared ( ) Sit down in a comfortable place and rest your hands over your and reference values above 0.10 were considered weak effect knees. Close your eyes. Breath in deeply and slowly using your size, between 0.10 and 0.30 were interpreted as moderate diaphragm. Hold your breath for 3 seconds and then breath out effect size, and above 0.30 were depicted as strong effect size slowly, focusing your entire attention in your own body; do it for (Bakeman, 2005). 10 minutes. If somehow you lose your focus during the meditation, let the distraction come, understand it, gently let it go and refocus your attention to your breathing. Results Mean and standard deviation are depicted in Table 1. This text was recorded in a computer by one of the authors Inferential statistics to compare ACS and KIMSs pairwise (A.F.) and a website was designed with data of participants between groups are also present. No statistical difference (p for this experiment. Participants were asked to login the < .05) was found between groups until the follow-up assess- website and hear the recorded audio file at least three times a ment in both scales: ACS and KIMSs. However, effect size week. The experimental group had to proceed with their as measured by Cohen’s d raised from low (baseline and first meditation, whereas the control group only had to login the month) to moderated (second and third months) and reached same three times a week without any task or agenda related high effect size in the last assessment for both total scores. In to psychological interventions, that is, they logged in and the last assessment, follow-up experimental group showed then went to do anything on the Internet or even turn off the higher total scores in attentional control and mindfulness computer if they wanted. After the period of 3 months, skills when compared with the control group. Statistical experimental group was asked to stop their meditation prac- power ranged between 0.09 and 0.96, with only 2 t tests pre- tices. A final assessment took place 30 days after participants senting power below 0.60. were asked to stop their mindfulness meditation Repeated measures ANOVA results are presented in An informed consent form was sign by all volunteers. Table 2. The first independent variable: time, or moment Participants were free to quit the experiment whenever they when the assessment took place, showed significant differ- decided. The research was approved by the Ethics Committee ences (p < .05) in both assessment measures, whereas effect of the Rio de Janeiro State University, Brazil, protocol size was moderate (0.10 < η < 0.30). Regarding the sec- 016.780/2016. ond independent variable, groups, no statistical difference was found in both scales. Nonetheless, attentional control showed moderate effect size ( η = 0.13). Statistical Analyses Finally, interaction between independent variables Descriptive statistics of ACS’s and KIMSs’s total scores showed statistical significance in both ACS and KIMSs, with were calculated. Mean and standard deviation for baseline high effect size (η > 0.30), which leads to the conclusion assessment, 30 days after baseline (first month), 60 days that differences between groups found in pairwise compari- after baseline (second month), 90 days after baseline (third sons are due to time rather than groups themselves. month), and 30 days after the interruption of mindfulness Bonferroni results yielded significant differences (p < .05) meditation practice follow-up are presented. only between control and experimental groups in follow-up, Mean total scores for ACS and KIMSs of experimental which corroborates with t test findings. and control groups were compared using student’s t test for each moment when assessment took place. Effect size of the Discussion five results of t test was measured by Cohen’s d and thumb rule was used to interpret those values: between 0.2 and 0.5, The present experiment aimed to understand whether mind- the effect size is small; between 0.5 and 0.8, the effect size is fulness meditation practices during off-season would affect medium; and effect size above 0.8 is large (Rice & Harris, in attentional control of football players. Results did not fully Baltar and Filgueiras 5 Table 1. Mean, Standard Deviation, Student’s t Test Results, Statistical Power (Power) and Cohen’s d for Effect Size of Both Scales Divided by Moment (Time) and Group (Control and Experimental). ACS KIMSs Descriptive Descriptive data t test data t test Month Group M SD Power T P value Effect (d) M SD Power T p value Effect (d) Baseline Control 49.2 5.9 0.09 0.09 .93 0.04 50.7 4.3 0.68 0.63 .55 0.28 Experimental 49.4 4.2 52.3 6.8 First month Control 47.9 6.9 0.25 0.60 .23 0.09 53.8 4.1 0.96 0.07 .94 0.24 Experimental 48.4 3.5 52.1 5.2 Second month Control 47.5 5.6 0.78 0.54 .59 0.37 50.4 5.7 0.66 0.84 .42 0.36 Experimental 49.5 5.2 51.8 5.9 Third month Control 46.2 6.2 0.67 0.83 .42 0.38 48.5 4.6 0.69 1.08 .29 0.49 Experimental 48.2 4.2 51.7 8.1 Follow-up Control 46.4 4.7 0.60 2.13 <.05 0.72 46.8 4.4 0.92 2.44 <.05 1.09 Experimental 49.5 3.9 52.6 6.1 Note. ACS = Attentional Control Scale; KIMSs = Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills. Table 2. Repeated Measures ANOVA Results Giving F Value, whenever convenient. Bishop et al. (2004) argue that self- Degree of Freedom (df), p Value, Statistical Power, and Effect regulation is a daily practice and mindfulness helps the indi- Size as Measured by Generalized Eta Squared ( η ) for Moment vidual to keep the focus of attention in the present moment, (Time), Group (Control and Experimental), and Interaction but it also demands years of training. Hölzel et al. (2011) and Between Those Variables. Hölzel et al. (2007) suggest that mindfulness meditation Repeated measures ANOVA leads to development of consciousness and attention to the present, however, this enterprise takes long time due to struc- Analysis F df p value Effect (η ) Power G² tural modifications in neural networks of the brain. KIMSs The present research seems to have found a minimum Moment 3.950 1.18 <.05 0.23 0.43 time to mindfulness-based meditation to be efficient: 60 Group 0.972 1.18 .34 0.09 0.65 days, based on effect size of the t test, and this results Interaction 5.105 1.18 <.05 0.37 0.99 remained for the rest of evaluations. Nevertheless, the effect ACS of this practice seems to keep up even after its interruption, Moment 2.783 1.18 <.05 0.21 0.75 which means that there is a tendency of intensification as Group 1.045 1.18 .22 0.13 0.47 days go by. Interestingly, attentional control presented the Interaction 4.912 1.18 <.05 0.35 0.95 same results as mindfulness skills. Those results suggest a relationship between those variables. It corroborates with Note. KIMSs = Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills; ACS = findings of Ainsworth et al. (2013), Chiesa et al. (2011), Attentional Control Scale. Hayes and Feldman (2004), and Zeidan et al. (2010) that corroborate with the hypothesis initially raised by the present links attentional control to executive functions and mindful- study for two reasons: first, medium effect size only appeared ness practices. In fact, findings of the present article provide 60 days after baseline and second, means of total scores did for the first time evidence of this relationship among elite not increase in the experimental group, they actually athletes. Kee and Wang (2008) already had highlighted the decreased in the control group. That evidence suggests dis- impact of mindfulness-based interventions in overall atten- tinct things that are going to be addressed here. Regardless, tion. In fact, the results of this article corroborate with those this research showed that time of mindfulness practices authors’ evidence, suggesting that mindfulness does affect indeed influences in attentional control and mindfulness positively in the ability of a participant to control his or her skills among athletes, however, the effect only strengthened attention. Nonetheless, this ability takes time to be devel- after 60 days of intervention—leading to a statistical differ- oped, and, only after 60 days of intervention, the experimen- ence 120 days after baseline—suggesting that mindfulness- tal group was able to show medium effect size when based interventions are not brief strategies to be used once or compared with the control group. twice, rather than that, it requires a long-term strategy of Regarding total scores means, a very interesting phenom- practice. Indeed, Thera’s (1962) proposition is based on enon had occurred: participants of the experimental group mindfulness as a way of life, not just a technique to be used started showing the same levels in both mindfulness skills 6 SAGE Open and attention control than the control group; however, as the whatever they wanted even if they were asked to respond as experiment went on, means of the control group decreased, honest as possible. whereas means of the experimental group remained the Regarding statistical analyses, two problems were faced same. The time to significantly improve KIMSs scores is during this study: small sample size and null hypothesis test- probably greater than 90 days, so the present results suggest ing. A small sample size, regardless of normal distribution that mindfulness-based interventions take more than 3 tests, always tends to limit findings due to its large variance. months to expect any significant change. To explain those A larger variance means smaller chance of significant differ- results, Garland et al. (2011) suggests that there is a disposi- ences based on null hypothesis tests p values. Because of tional factor of mindfulness, thus, some individuals present that, the present article adopted Cohen’s d effect size as its basic levels of mindfulness skills higher than others. It seems main statistical index. However, Rice and Harris (2005) that sportspersons of a game such as football are predisposal raised concerns about the thumb rule of 0.2, 0.5, and 0.8 to show attentional control already high when compared because they do not correspond to correlation of 0.1, 0.3, and with other studies with samples of nonathletes (Derryberry 0.5 as argued by Cohen in any empirical article. So, even this & Reed, 2002). Indeed, elite athletes tend to show higher criterion is questionable. mean scores in attentional and visuospatial tasks when com- The other method adopted to understand whether results pared with controls (Afonso et al., 2012; Scott-Hamilton of present study were reliable was statistical power. Power et al., 2016). A combination of dispositional mindfulness above 0.80 is desired because it would represent the assump- (Garland et al., 2011) and the cognitive training indirectly tion of 80% of the time it will not make a Type 2 error or a involved in sports practice (Afonso et al., 2012) may explain false negative decision. A large number of statistical results that both experimental and control groups showed high lev- showed power below 0.80; however, the main results: differ- els of attentional control and mindfulness skills. It is impera- ences between groups in KIMSs and ACS through time tive to highlight that the present experiment began in the end showed high power, so generally, the study suffers because of a season, thus, athletes were near their peak performance, of its small sample size although some findings are reliable, it could be the explanation why controls showed a decrease mainly when it shows significant statistical differences. in their mean scores through off-season However, psychology and human sciences lack more reliable Altogether, the results presented in this research points to statistical procedures, and the present article trusts in the two separate things: first, elite athletes can benefit from power of longitudinal randomized experimental design mindfulness meditation practices corroborating with previ- rather than statistics itself. ous findings (Kee & Wang, 2008; Scott-Hamilton et al., 2016); however, it takes at least 3 to 4 months to show any Acknowledgment effect. Perhaps, interventions combining meditation and The authors thank the valuable contributions of Taís Brasil and other mindfulness techniques (Memmert, 2011; Tang et al., Bruno Barreto for their insights to the present research. 2015; Troy et al., 2013) may show themselves more efficient than only mindfulness meditation as used in the present Declaration of Conflicting Interests experiment. Second, elite athletes are likely to show high The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect levels of attentional control and mindfulness skills due to to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. their already cognitive-demanding sports practices (Afonso et al., 2012); although, during off-season they tend to present Funding a decrease in those psychological constructs. In this aspect, The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support the present study provides evidence that a mindfulness-based for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The practice during off-season can help athletes to keep their present research was possible because of the Grant INST minds in a better level of cognitive performance, then becom- 211.250/2016 from FAPERJ, Brazil. ing ready faster to the beginning of championship seasons. ORCID iD Alberto Filgueiras https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6668-0606 Limitations of the Study The present study aimed to understand how a mindfulness References meditation intervention would influence mindfulness skills Afonso, J., Garganta, J., & Mesquita, I. (2012). Decision-making in and attentional control among elite football athletes. The first sports: The role of attention, anticipation and memory. Revista issue was to follow athletes in their practices every day. 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Executive functions predict the success of top-soccer Yago Carioca Baltar has a psychology degree at Universidade players. PLoS ONE, 7(4), e34731. doi:10.1371/journal. Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro and is currently doing his pone.0034731 master’s on Sport Psychology at Universidade do Estado do Rio Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & de Janeiro Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cog- Alberto Filgueiras is professor at Universidade do Rio de Janeiro nition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and where he teachs Sport Psychology and Neurosciences. Cognition, 19, 597-605. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.03.014

Journal

SAGE OpenSAGE

Published: Jun 17, 2018

Keywords: mindfulness; attention; athletes; football; performance

References