About

We are experts in the field of mindful performance.

... of the first water is an allusion to the old system of grading diamonds by their water. A diamond of the first water had the highest quality and greatest purity which ought to be that of the clearest drop of water. The expression is still pertinent today. A performance of the first water is a performance of the finest quality, clarity and strength and to be like water is to yield and flow with courage, resilience and grace.

Our mission is to help athletes, coaches, leaders and teams enhance their capacity in attention, awareness, and compassion critical to optimizing performance, mental health and well-being.

When pushing our limits, the accomplishment of an intended goal or purpose is never guaranteed. A whole cast of characters come along for the journey, including but not limited to fear, overwhelm, anxiety, doubt, uncertainty, complexity, setback and failure.

Through mindful choices, we help individuals and  teams optimize themselves to help navigate these inevitable challenges.

Whether you are lining up for an Olympic final, getting on stage for a big performance, navigating strategic change, improving team performance, launching a bold initiative, or simply showing up every day with more presence, compassion, and equanimity, First Water clients have one thing in common: a willingness to be the change in the world.

Mindfulness clears the way that gets us to “what’s possible”

We know, all too often, that when up against a big goal requiring individual and team change, rather than being motivated by the high bar, we can end up by giving up, or avoiding the risk out of fear of failure.

By making intentional shifts in our focus, narratives, experience, and perspectives, we cultivate the ability to live with greater possibility and once we can do that, anything can happen and the outcomes will take care of themselves.

Our Approach

Three elements are at the heart of First Water’s approach to designing innovative solutions.

Building our attentional muscles to regulate thoughts, regardless of their speed, volume or content allows the mentally fit performer to lead, rather than follow unaware paths of reactions.

Being connected to our bodies roots us in the present moment and builds our interoceptive awareness and resilience, laying the foundation for "process training” over "outcome training”.

Compassion helps focus our performance, grow healthier relationships with self, sport and teammates, and shifts our motivation from a place of fear of self-criticism towards love of self-improvement.

Our Manifesto

More than a tool, technique or as a means to an end, mindfulness in its fullest expression is way of being and mindset. If everything else fell away, this manifesto would remain as our deepest expression as an organization.

Our Logo

We have an inner game and an outer game. We often manage our outer game, while letting our inner game manage us. Being while performing means leading from the inside expanding our “still point” to push the boundaries of who we are outward. It’s the performer at their authentic best: in flow, at choice, and playing their outer game with grace and grit. Our logo is an expression of this infinite potential.

Founder & Principal

Derek Covington, as Founder, and Principal has prepared elite performers and teams across the globe spanning nine Olympic Games as the former Director of Olympic Performance for the Canadian Olympic Team. Based in Montreal, Canada, Derek is a certified mindful performance enhancement (mPEAK) instructor through the School of Medicine, Centre for Mindfulness at the University California, San Diego.

Through First Water, he works with individuals, groups, and teams to help them live and play present, en route to realizing their best selves. As a former two-time national hurdles champion and Olympic Trials finalist, he learned first-hand the importance of mindfulness in achieving success – more than a series of techniques, but a personal journey.

Mindfulness Trainer/Coach

Renae Stevenson, is a former professional hockey (NWHL) player, as well as Hockey Canada Certified Coach. She is a retired police officer with over two decades of service who trains elite athletes and first responders in mindfulness skills throughout North America. Based on the West Coast, Renae Stevenson splits her time between Vancouver Island and Greater Vancouver. Renae is an IMTA Certified Professional Mindfulness Teacher. After completing an interdisciplinary graduate degree in Leadership, Education and Mindfulness, she obtained her teaching designations in both MBSR and mPEAK from the UC San Diego’s School of Medicine.

Renae has a strong understanding of the needs of elite athletes and first responders. Renae’s greatest passion is her service work for First Water, leading philanthropic programming to eliminate financial barriers to mindfulness skills training – for non-profit organizations, schools, First Nations, and youth.

Why Mindfulness and Elite Performance?

Train your mind like you train your body.

“The benefits of mindfulness practice as applied to sports are almost blindingly obvious. Focus, awareness, clarity of thought, and the ability to stay in the present moment are basic skills for any great athlete – and meditator.” – Soren Gordhamer

Organizations and teams that bring mindfulness into their environments show team members that their health and well-being are valued, while leaving team members empowered with tools and techniques to mindfully navigate their day – happier, focused and more productive.

Thanks to functional MRI studies we now understand that the brain can change in structure and function and can be trained like a muscle to:

  • Develop greater focus and attentional control skills to “play present”
  • Rewire habits of thinking to cultivate a greater capacity to access flow states
  • Apply an understanding of the neurobiology of focus, stress, and recovery towards optimal performance states
  • Develop growth mindsets for when things don’t go their way or as expected by shifting attitudes toward process goals versus outcome goals
  • Develop strategies to better manage fatigue and associated physical sensations
  • Build awareness of unhelpful narratives and limiting inner dialogue
  • Train a skillful inner coach to understand, and work with self-criticism
  • Develop resilience to work with difficulty instead of reacting against it.
  • Stretch personal edges while reducing the potential of injury or burnout.
  • Increase emotional intelligence, communication and teamwork
  • Lower anxiety, stress, and feeling of overwhelm
  • Improve immune systems, lower blood pressure, and better sleep