The implications and application of these findings, though, remain unclear. Should programs and institutions promote 'spiritual well-being' to improve athletic performance? Is there an appropriate way to do so while respecting one's rights to freedom of belief and practice? Some have suggested that programs can implement certain aspects of spirituality, such as team-building exercises to emphasize connectedness to others and foster well-being. Going further, many programs have an optional prayer before and after games as a way of providing 'fellowship' and contextualizing the moment in a broader sense. This and other practices are certainly open to debate, however what remains clear is that as the stakes and stress of competition grow, athletes often turn to spiritual practices for additional comfort and solace.
For further reading and research on sports and religion, Dr. Yoonas recommends Joe Drape's "Increasingly, Football Playbooks Call for Prayer," published in The New York Times [October 30, 2005]; Marilyn Baetz and John Toews' "Clinical Implications of Research on Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health," published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry [2009, 54(5): 292-301]; and Heather Ridnour and Jon Hammermeister's "Spiritual Well-Being and Its Influence on Athletic Coping Profiles," published in the Journal of Sport Behavior [2008, 31(1): 81-92].
Zaakir Yoonas, M.D. is passionate about athletics and the mental aspects of peak performance in competition.He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a Psychiatry Resident at Stanford University Hospital and Clinics. He received an M.D. from the University of Maryland and prior to this graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Economics.
You can see more of Dr. Yoonas' articles on his blog, The Sports Psychiatrist. You can also follow him on Twitter (DrYoonas) and/or join his Facebook group 'The Sports Psychiatrist'.