Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer announced on Thursday a three-year partnership with Headspace, one of the world's leading meditation and mindfulness apps.
Headspace will annually provide thousands of app subscriptions to ensure all U.S. Soccer and MLS athletes, coaches, and league and club staff have access to strengthen their mindfulness and meditation skills. This partnership illustrates the commitment of both U.S. Soccer and MLS to be at the forefront of total wellness by providing athletes with the best mental skills training resources.
As part of the deal, Headspace will conduct in-person introductory training sessions with U.S. Soccer and MLS athletes and coaches, led by Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe and the company’s Head of Sports and Fitness, Lindsay Shaffer. Training sessions will take place during US men’s and women’s National Team training camps and at various MLS events.
“MLS is committed to leveraging cutting-edge technology to enhance the overall total wellness of our athletes, coaches and staff members,” said Dr. Margot Putukian, MLS Chief Medical Officer. “The Headspace app provides top-line meditation training and is a wonderful supplement to the preexisting health and wellness resources the league and our clubs already provide. We look forward to members of the soccer community utilizing the Headspace app to advance their mindfulness skills to help them achieve their goals both on and off the field.”
MLS, U.S. Soccer and Headspace will also explore scientific research opportunities around the benefits of meditation and mindfulness related to key aspects of performance. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to co-create mental training content specific to soccer with leading physical and mental performance experts. Athletes and coaching staff will have access to Headspace’s comprehensive library of meditation content, including “Headspace for Sport,” which is designed to strengthen their mindfulness and meditation skills through a variety of 10-session “packs,” including Motivation, Concentration, Training, Competition, Communication, Analysis and Recovery.
Meditation and mindfulness are scientifically proven to support key aspects of preparation, performance, and recovery. When it comes to performance, mindfulness helps athletes stay focused, free from distraction, and ensure they are in the optimal flow state. In recovery, mindfulness can be used to induce the relaxation response, lowering the heart rate, relaxing the muscles, and counteracting the harmful effects of stress on the body. This ensures athletes have the ability to recover that much quicker, and often has the added benefit of improving sleep quality. Meditation also increases the grey matter in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for focus, and decreases grey matter in the amygdala, the area of the brain responsible for stress and fear.
Mental health awareness has been at the forefront for MLS and its players with former MLS and USMNT star Landon Donovan being among the first professional athletes to shine a light on its importance, giving rise to a national conversation on the topic. He shared his story with MLSsoccer.com back in 2015.