Patrick Ianni founded Ianni Training after a playing career that spanned nine years in Major League Soccer, participating in the 2008 Olympics, and being an All-American at UCLA. These experiences taught him that what is needed in the world of sports is a commitment to training the whole athlete: mind, body, and spirit. He now brings this wisdom to his work, which aims to revolutionize the sports landscape by showing athletes, parents, and coaches how to take greater responsibility for the development of healthy individual and cultural identities.
The democratic value of freedom is a key component of the work. Ianni sees sports as a unique circumstance in which to practice "being free with self and others." Having had experience performing at the highest level, he has come to realize that for sports to be fulfilling, maximizing an athlete's potential, it must be grounded in the awareness of unconditional love. He's convinced that when athletes can extend unconditional love to themselves, then they can truly be free to enjoy their sport. They can then also promote the freedom and well-being of others.
Ianni helps athletes by not just telling them about this but by leading them into spiritual practices that can open them to this experience. He has seen time and time again that when athletes commit to these practices, the results are increased creativity, joy, and capacities to interact with others compassionately. As athletes become more aware of their internal world, they can connect more deeply with people locally and nationally, becoming better citizens.
Ianni has been using spiritual practices recommended by the Practicing Democracy Project to support his work with athletes. One example is the practice of "Sacred Holding," which allows people to connect to difficult feelings in their bodies. Rather than try to fix them, they simply hold them, acknowledging, nurturing, and integrating them through self-compassion.
His next step is to find ways to use soccer as a platform to discuss issues of diversity. He wants to encourage athletes' connection to their cultural identities and to help them understand diversity as a collective asset to human community rather than a negative challenge we need to avoid. This work advances the democratic values of unity, equality, the common good, and justice.
His trainings benefit both the athlete and the wider community. This is a spiritual posture not tied to any one tradition; rather, it's grounded in the experiential awareness for the athlete that is free from self-defeating judgments, shame, and egoic agendas. Ultimately, Ianni sees his work promoting democracy as athletes expand their sense of compassion and peace to include themselves and everyone they meet.