Performance coach Laura Wilde helps professional athletes understand the mind-body connection
By Andy Vasoyan
For most people, if you can’t focus on your job, that might cost you some extra time writing emails or sorting through reports. For professional athletes, focus can mean the difference between a big payday or a debilitating injury. That’s why teams and coaches are emphasizing the mental aspect of training, to set up that instinct that separates the average players from the Kobes and LeBrons. Helping a player turn that on at will – to move intentionally into “the zone ” – is where performance coach Laura Wilde comes in.
“In some ways, [the zone] feels like you’re not there, and that’s kind of the goal…you kind of disappear, and something else takes over,” Wilde says. “Time feels like it stands still. You literally learn to be unbotherable.”
Wilde is a former basketball player herself, who has worked with athletes in the NBA, WNBA, MLB and the NFL. The three-year resident of Playa Vista coached players on big-name LA teams to help them get into the zone more readily. Because of the (very) big money riding on players’ and teams’ images, Wilde can’t drop names.
“In this business, we’re about the privacy,” she mentions, which carries just a hint of irony in light of the fact that Wilde got her big break by landing a business card after pitching a former NBA star at the local Whole Foods.
“He set me up to work with an athlete he knew, and to work with himself, and he just saw a huge difference,” Wilde says. “He understood the mind-body connection, he started feeling better, all those old aches and pains from his playing started to fade, he got in better shape, and he started to get into the zone at work… He became zen, and also fierce… People around him noticed.”
Words like “zen” and “mind-body connection” underscore the spiritual aspects of Wilde’s work. Prior to her certification in zone training (which involved taking an intuition class), Wilde was doing work in holistic healing.
“In 2007, I stumbled into mind-body medicine. I was a basketball coach taking a healing class; it was really bizarre! I had no idea where a liver or kidney was. I didn’t know anatomy,” she says. “Within a year, here I was, doing this advanced healing work.”
Wilde says that healing and getting in the zone go hand in hand, because accessing the pathway to the zone is dependent on a player’s frame of mind.
“The goal is for them to be
comfortable being themselves, to get rid of their triggers, so they can always be playing their best game, to get in the zone and stay in the zone,” Wilde says. “At this point in the world, human beings’ bodies and minds are ready for another level. That’s why I call what I do supra-mental performance: because I do healing work combined with mental performance. The mind-body connection is really only one of the ways to unlock that ancestral trauma.”
Ancestral trauma has been noted by the scientific community, in the burgeoning field of epigenetics. Epigenetics explores heritable markers placed onto our genes that change how cells read DNA without actually changing the underlying code. If an athlete had an ancestor that experienced an intense stress event, he or she might have an epigenetic marker that could, in theory, manifest as an adverse health condition – ancestral trauma. It’s complex stuff, but for Wilde, it’s the future.
“This new study of epigenetics is where health is going, and it’s also – as far as I’m concerned and if I can lead the way – going to be where mental performance is going,” she says.
Another trend in medicine? The rise of online health appointments, thanks in large part to the coronavirus lockdowns. For Wilde, operating out of her apartment in Runway has gone off without a hitch, and actually made things a bit easier.
“If anything, I can see more clients, because no one has to drive to me,” she says. “Meanwhile, I can walk to Whole Foods, I can walk to Starbucks, I can walk to Pilates when it reopens… I feel like I have a safe little jewel isolated from everything.”
Wilde may be comfortable with her boundaries at home, but in terms of professional reach, she’s still expanding.
“Most people who do, like, this woo-woo healing work aren’t hanging out in the NBA,” Wilde says. “But I’m trying to bring people from the NBA into this other world… The people who’ve never played don’t understand what it’s like to be on the courts, to be under pressure, to have to cater to family, fans, an ego, and also self-sabotaging habits. That’s really what we’re trying to overcome: ourselves…I help them break the wall.”