How Ohio State's Chase Young uses meditation to become an elite player

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – To get himself ready to play at a higher volume on Saturdays, Chase Young tries to shut down all the noise the night before.

This is an important part of his preparation every week as Ohio State’s star defensive end.

He meditates.

“It’s definitely something that helps me,” Young said Thursday ahead of the Buckeyes' College Football Playoff matchup against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.. “It clears my mind. I feel like it helps your focus throughout the day. Yeah, I do meditate.”

He says he does this about twice a week — Mondays and Fridays before Saturday games. That’s his plan again Friday before Young and Buckeyes faces Clemson in a national semifinal game Saturday at the Fiesta Bowl.

“He does it in his room, to just kind of shut himself down,” said Larry Johnson, Young’s position coach on the defensive line.

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young grabs the jersey of Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan during the 2019 Big Ten championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

This has become a secret weapon of sorts for Young, who is expected to be one of the top players selected in the NFL draft in April. Johnson and Young said they didn’t know anybody else on the team who does this. One of Young’s teammates, starting safety Jordan Fuller, said he didn’t know about Young’s dedication to meditation. “That’s my first time hearing that,” he said.

But even if it’s not a well-known practice at Ohio State, meditation has shown benefits for college football players, according to a study published in 2017 by the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. Researchers at the University of Miami studied football players there who were trained in short mindfulness meditation, which focuses on awareness of the present moment and being mindful of breathing.

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“In sum, we have demonstrated that sustained attention and emotional well-being are at risk during periods of high demand, such as a period of intensive athletic training,” the study said. “Greater engagement in (mindfulness training) was associated with protection from decline in sustained attention during this training period.”

Young made similar observations about the effects of his own meditation.

“I just, you know, I sit there and try to clear my mind of any thoughts,” Young told USA TODAY Sports. “Let my mind free and let it go and not worry about anything, let all the stress off of you, just let everything go.”

Asked where he learned this, Young said, “I just did research, man.”

“They say the game is all mental,” he said. “I just looked up how to become more focused, how to be sharper mentally. They say meditation is one.”

At 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, the 20-year-old Young has gained national attention for his size and athletic ability. Both helped him become a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and the nation’s leader in sacks (16.5), although there’s a lot more to him than that, Fuller said.

“He’s really smart,” Fuller said. “He’s always on top of his stuff. He’s always very locked in, on top of all his physical ability.”

Meditation helps him with that – a practice that’s been on the rise in the U.S. A survey published last year found that the use of meditation increased more than threefold among American adults – from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2017, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Johnson sees it as a release valve for Young because “he has so much on his plate.”

“It’s a chance to reconnect with himself,” Johnson said. “The biggest thing is blocking out the noise. Sometimes when you block the noise and stay within yourself, it keeps you focused and keeps you moving. And I think Chase realizes it.”

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