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CJ McCollum Teaches Kids the Benefits of Meditation

McCollum meditates to get in a good headspace for basketball, and now passes the practice on to Portland youth.

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Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum is well-known for the incredible focus he displays on the basketball court as one of the NBA’s most efficient and deadly scorers. On Wednesday afternoon, he visited local youth at the Boys & Girls Club in Northeast Portland to share one of his techniques for locking in: meditation. McCollum and Headspace’s Andy Puddicombe led a guided meditation session for the kids and gave them a unique tool to clear their heads.

“I first got into meditation probably two years ago,” McCollum told Blazer’s Edge. “That’s when I really started doing it consistently every day, just kind of focusing in on my breathing and understanding that it’s important not just for my well-being but for my heartrate and concentration and focus.”

McCollum explained to the kids how his daily routine now includes meditating with the Headspace app in his free time and listening to classical music on the way to basketball practice. Something without words, like Beethoven. Something that he can listen to and be present for, focusing on controlled breathing and the drive instead of the lyrics. It helps him clear his mind and prepare for the day’s tasks.

There is something special about really being in a moment. The heightened awareness has a calming effect. It’s a state of mind that can benefit anyone from 10-year-old kids to basketball superstars, and McCollum asserts that it’s a big part of how he stays cool under pressure.

“You can only control certain circumstances, which is how you react to adversity, how you react to certain plays, then just your energy and effort. So when things aren’t going well in the game, I can still stay calm, I can still stay focused in a hectic environment. Maybe it’s crucial free throws down the stretch or it’s a crucial possession where we need a basket, I’m able to lock in and really not worry about the chaos that’s surrounding me. It helps me keep a calming demeanor.”

For the kids, that chaos is represented in everyday demands, like homework, problem solving, and social engagement. With McCollum and Puddicombe, they had the opportunity to learn about relaxation and how it can help them improve their lives.

“Deep breaths,” Puddicombe would say to a roomful of children, sitting peacefully with their eyes closed, “10 more seconds.” Not all the kids got it right away, fidgeting as kids do, but some were clearly absorbed in the exercise.

After watching the kids adjourn to their tablets to learn more about meditation, McCollum was pleased with their interest. Five months earlier, he had opened the CJ McCollum Dream Center at the Boys & Girls Club in hopes of encouraging children to find their passions and explore them.

“Growing up where I came from in Canton, Ohio, I wasn’t exposed to this type of stuff, so with the Dream Center, we want to expose them to as much as possible; educate them on different things that are out there and available to them,” McCollum smiled. “Especially something like mindfulness and meditation, which can actually help them—not just their day-to-day lifestyle, but their actual health.”