This article originally appeared on UWBadgers.com and features Chad McGehee, former Learning and Program Development Manager from Healthy Minds Innovations and Center for Healthy Minds collaborator. McGehee is Director of Meditation Training with UW Athletics.
It wasn't her intention, but Dana Rettke caused quite a stir during a recent Zoom call.
Members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at Wisconsin were comparing notes with their Big Ten Conference counterparts from Purdue when Rettke, a senior SAAC representative and one of the best collegiate volleyball players in the world, introduced a topic that triggered a flurry of curiosity.
The participants had broken up into smaller discussion groups, ostensibly to compare notes on COVID-19 protocols and other shared issues among student-athletes these days, when Rettke brought up mindfulness training. There was an immediate buzz.
"They were super curious about it," she said.
Rettke, the reigning Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year and three-time first-team All-America middle blocker for the Badgers, had a lot to share.
Wisconsin is the first — and so far, only — school in the country with a full-time meditation specialist dedicated to its athletic department, a move that was made nearly a year ago, before the pandemic began to take hold in the United States.
Chad McGehee is an engaging, soft-spoken 40-year-old — a former college soccer player, traveler of the world and K-12 school teacher — whose mindfulness specialty is working with those in high-stress environments like first responders, soldiers and, yes, student-athletes.
A growing list of UW Athletic Department administrators, like deputy director Chris McIntosh; coaches, like head football strength and conditioning coach Ross Kolodziej; and student-athletes, like Rettke; believe the world of meditation — the ancient practice of gently training the mind to be your greatest ally — may be the next big frontier in college athletics.
Rettke thinks her peers in the other 22 sports programs at UW have been presented with a unique opportunity that will not only enhance their experience in competition, but in their academic and everyday lives as well.
"This is such an up-and-coming field," she said. "Not a lot of people know about it. Not a lot of people know the benefits of it. Not a lot of people know what it means.
"If people knew more about it, it would be a huge hit. It's going to spread like wildfire once people really understand the benefits it could have for athletes."