By Adam MacDougall, News.com.au
So you want to raise the next Tiger Woods or Lleyton Hewitt? You might think the best approach is to lock your child into one sport so they can practice a specific set of skills again and again. Surprisingly, though, that might actually be the worst thing you can do.
Take it from Isaac Heeney; the 22-year-old Sydney Swans star spent his younger years playing every sport he could sign up for and very nearly pursued a promising career in rugby league. And he says that’s exactly what made him the AFL star he is today.
“I grew up playing every sport going around. In fact, I loved rugby league,” he says.
“When I was 14 or 15, I was playing union, rugby league, cricket, AFL and soccer, but eventually I had to pick a sport. So I chose AFL, and I’m so glad I did.
“But I think you pick up different skills from different sports. So for me, my tackling is a real strength of mine and that’s something I definitely got from playing rugby league when I was younger.
“It’s not enough to just be fit or strong or good with the ball. You need to be a combination of everything, and the best way to get there is by playing as many sports as you possibly can. All those skills you learn give you the edge on other players.”
But while leaving it all out on the field is one thing, Issac has recently turned his attention to his off-field conditioning, too. In particular, he’s begun introducing moments of meditation into his much-valued downtime schedule.
But he says if you’re picturing him with his legs crossed and his eyes closed, then you should think again. Instead, he takes a distinctly Australian approach to the ancient art of mindfulness.
“I have been spending a bit more time with meditation lately,” he says.
“And I’ve found it really helps with my sleeping, and with my recovery.
“But for me, meditation is not just sitting there with my eyes closed. It’s jumping on my surfboard, paddling out past the waves and just sitting out there enjoying that moment in nature. You clear your mind, and I find I have a much deeper sleep.
“You know how you always have 1000 things running through your mind the second you lay down to got to bed? I really find meditation helps clear all that, and I sleep better and feel better as a result.”
… FOR MATCH-LEVEL FITNESS
Mind over matter
Isaac says the will to succeed can be just as important as natural ability.
Having the drive to work hard, practice your skills and push to the finish line can carry you past more naturally talented players.
“Determination has always been massive for me. Even growing up I took no shortcuts at all,” he says.
“I was really just trying to push to the next level all the time.”
You only get one body and running it into the ground will make you weaker, not stronger. Instead, Isaac says, you need to listen to your body and allow it to rest when it needs to.
“It’s all about knowing your body.
Pushing yourself to the next level, yes, but if you’re pulling up sore then you just take an easy day,” Isaac says.
“And when you’re feeling 100 per cent you really dig in again.”
Embrace your downtime
Putting you body on the line on the field is one thing but you need to pair that with making the time allow your body, and your mind, to recover. And that means ensuring your downtime is just that; time away from thinking about training or sport.
“It’s sometimes hard to stop thinking about it all, to not feel like you should be doing that little bit more, practising that one extra thing,” Isaac says.
“But the very best thing you can do is give yourself a chance to recover.”
Question: Hi Adam, I want to get a better night’s sleep but I find it difficult to switch off at the end of the day. What can I do?
Answer: Study after study shows that the most important thing you can do to get a good night’s sleep is give your mind a chance to unwind before bed. And that means minimising technology as much as possible at night.
So, don’t look at blue-light screens in the hours before bed and buy an old-school alarm clock so you can leave your phone and tablets charging in another room.
You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes!
* Send your health questions to [email protected]
Adam MacDougall is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.