Inhale… and exhale

How Pleasant Valley girls’ sports improve their mental game


Karin Fowler

Runners Khushi and Muskan Mehta come together after finishing the Spartan Challenge on September 4th.

Karin Fowler, Sports Editor

As more and more sports teams at Pleasant Valley qualify for their respective state tournaments, fans are left wondering just what it is that Spartan athletes have that the rest of the state is missing. The truth is, high school athletics are no longer just a battle of physical skill. 

It’s a battle of mental skill, too. 

Two of  PV Girls’ varsity teams have implemented aspects of mindfulness as a standard practice in order to give them an edge over the competition. The effects of yoga and team bonding has led to great success.

Since 2019, the PV volleyball team has qualified for the state tournament and this past fall clenched the school’s first state championship. For the past four years, one thing has improved their game and set them apart from the competition: biweekly yoga sessions.

What started off as a way to recover and improve flexibility soon developed into much more. 

Head Coach Amber Hall has found that the practice has helped transform the way her team manages high pressure situations. “It really elevates us as a whole program,” Hall said. “Especially in those pressure situations. Just knowing and trusting that we got this, and being able to learn and grow.” 

Similar to the volleyball team, the girls’ varsity cross country team has adopted similar changes. Eager to do better after an impressive second-place finish at the state meet last fall, the team has altered their practice schedule with ‘We Wednesdays.’

Senior Riley Asselin describes We Wednesdays as a practice where runners branch out and run with new people in order to build a more positive environment and create a connected collective group. “Our team this year is stronger than we have been in the past couple years,” Asselin said. She credits her coach for the recent improvements in team chemistry. The pack mentality, and the idea of using one another as motivation, has been their focus. 

Although We Wednesdays are a new addition to practice, Asselin is already seeing and feeling the results. “In races there are points where you want to give up so it’s nice having a teammate next to you that will motivate you to keep trying,” she continued. 

Why are these two strategies successful? Psychology teacher and certified yoga instructor, Ann Berger says one thing. Repetition. 

As PV’s athletic department has demonstrated, the idea of incorporating mindfulness into a team’s routine is a practice that has recently become popular. However, Berger advocates that mindfulness is not supposed to be ‘trendy’; it’s supposed to be helpful. “If the focus is on the ‘W’, then it’s not genuine,” Berger said. “People will be their best if we look at that practice for the right reasons.” Berger encourages all teams at PV to consider adding in consistent mindfulness to practice.

As the 2022 fall season kicks off, both the volleyball and girls’ cross country teams should be kept on everyone’s radar as they gradually work towards a state title.