Whether you’re shooting hoops in the backyard or playing for a collegiate national title, the key to success for athletes is focus. There are many ways to maintain focus, but it is becoming a theme for basketball players at the University of Kentucky to incorporate meditation into their preparation for success on a big stage.
In the 2015-2016 season, Jamal Murray said that through practiced meditation, he could lower his active heart rate to as low as 34 beats per minute while playing basketball. To put that in perspective, the average resting heart rate for adults is 40-60 beats per minute.
This season, guard Immanuel Quickley has also used meditation to get in the correct mindset to shoot free throws. Going by the numbers, this strategy seems to be very effective.
“When he closes his eye before free throws, he just takes deep breaths to kind of help his body get relaxed – to slow down the environment, to slow down his mind, which helps him shoot the free throws at a high percentage,” Quickley’s aunt, Demetria Caldwell, told WBON. “I think he might be at 92% right now.”
He is currently shooting just under that mark, and he is on track to compete for the single season record for free throw percentage. Last season, he shot only 83% from the charity stripe. How can such a small change in practice make such a big difference?
“In general, meditation is a way to train your brain,” said Andri Kukas, owner of Thrive Studios in Berea. “Meditation has been found to have actually kind of an astounding number of benefits. One of those is a decreased heart rate. Think of this as something that, until you practice, you have really no access or knowledge of how that works.”
Quickley’s retraining of his brain has not only shown benefits at the free throw line, but he has also become Kentucky’s leading scorer and a candidate for SEC Player of the Year. His growth has really been a sight to behold, and meditation has played a huge role in the change we have seen in Quickley’s game.
“He is constantly reading his Bible, motivational books so that he can be grounded – so that he can excel.” Caldwell said. “A lot of times we don’t know what’s inside of us until we focus.”