SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW: A New State Of Mind
Meditation And Visualization Steady Lacrosse For 2013
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 03:02
Acacia Walker met Jerry Lynch when she was 18. A freshman on the University of Maryland lacrosse team, Walker was joining a dynasty. The Terrapins had won the last seven national championships, and Lynch had been there through nearly all of them. Lynch wasn’t exactly a coach, but more a consultant and self-titled “spiritual advisor,” specializing in sports psychology.
He taught Walker about meditation, visualization, and confidence. Twelve years later, as Walker enters her first season as Boston College’s head coach, those lessons from Lynch are still paying off.
Before getting to work, for five to 10 minutes, they clear their minds. The 26 members of the BC women’s lacrosse team and their coaches, including Walker, enter the locker room early before practice.
They sit together, and they meditate.
“It’s a nice way to start practice,” sophomore midfielder Mikaela Rix said. “You’ve had a busy day and there’s a thousand things on your mind, but you’re just able to focus and get right to lacrosse.”
They block out any outside noise clouding their thoughts. They quiet their minds. They get ready to only focus on one thing. The one thing that brings them all together.
“I think it’s something that we have to do every day for a couple of minutes,” Walker said of the meditation. “I think it’s just a part of sports. Quieting your mind so you can get to a place where you’re focused and poised. You’re just thinking about what you have to do in terms of your individual job.”
And then, after the meditation, they visualize.
“After you eliminate all of your distractions you can run your mind through a highlight reel of yourself,” Walker said, “because the reps in your mind are just as good as the physical reps on the field.”
Walker took a few of the BC players through the same exercise last season as an assistant coach, and there was, naturally, some hesitancy at first.
Sophomore Covie Stanwick, who was named to the Tewaaraton Award watch list last week, which honors the best players in the country, couldn’t help but find Walker’s method strange initially.
“It didn’t really make sense to all of us,” Stanwick said.
And it wasn’t just Stanwick.
“What are we doing?” senior captain Brooke Blue thought the first couple times Walker told her to picture herself being successful on the field.
Now, though, they’ve embraced it. It gives the team confidence, and it’s brought the group even closer.
“Whether it’s on the draw circle or attack or defense, [Walker] tells us to visualize a scenario and then it trains our bodies and our minds for when we’re put in those scenarios, whether it’s in games or practices, to be ready for it,” Blue said. She’s taking a class this semester with BC professor Joseph Tecce, Psychobiology and Mental Disorders, and he’s repeated the same message to Blue, preaching the importance of meditation and seeing things before they happen.
Walker tells her players to imagine outdigging the other girl. She tells them to imagine being quicker. Picture the ball falling into your stick. See yourself throwing and catching.
You’re on the attack and there are 30 seconds left. Who’s going to score the winning goal? Will it be you?
Imagine it, Walker tells them.
“You see it and you go out there and you can actually do it,” Blue said, having fully bought into the system by now along with the rest of her teammates.
Stanwick uses the visualization and meditation to calm herself in the middle of games as well. If a game is getting out of hand, she can harken back to the focus she found before the game and relax.
“It’s huge, especially for centers,” Stanwick said. “If something’s going wrong in a game and you just need to center yourself and get back to square one it’s so helpful. I love it. It brings the team together too.
“Before a draw, even if you’re not taking the draw, you can take two deep breaths and get back in it,” Stanwick said.
After the meditations and the visualization, they do something completely different. They rush outside on to the practice field, and they get ready to go thrift shopping.
“I’m gonna pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in my pocket, I’m, I’m hunting, looking for a come up...”
There’s a new sound at practices this season, and it’s loud, playful music. Last year, under former head coach Bowen Holden, the lacrosse team stuck to a rigid and intense practice structure. Now, during warmups and stickwork, the likes of Macklemore, Justin Bieber, Whitney Houston, and Avicii get the group fired up.
“There’s a way to be loose and intense at the same time, and I think it’s an important part to add to the program so that they’re not taking everything too seriously,” Walker said.
She wants her players to word hard, but she also says that they have to enjoy being on the field to be successful.
“They have a smile on their face and they’re working hard and enjoying what they’re doing,” Walker said. “[It’s] definitely not always fun, but it adds an element of looseness to their game.”
Although Walker had been with the program for a few years, the combination of meditation and music has helped the players embrace the coach quickly.
“It’s awesome,” Blue said. “Having music or just a lighter aspect to practice, basically just when warming up sticks and stuff, it brings a pretty intense but relaxed environment. It just gets us all focused on what we need to get accomplished before practice or before games or anything like that.”
Rather than dreading practices, some of which involved waking up at 5 a.m. to take a bus to Cohasset when the bubble collapsed, the players are having more fun while working toward the NCAA Tournament berth they missed out on last season.