November 16, 2013

Convince Your Brain That You Are Not Done

By Dan Peterson

It has become a tradition in football for players to hold up four fingers at the start of the 4th quarter, signifying that they need to dig deep and finish strong.  Even if their legs are dead and they’re ready to quit, they convince themselves to compete for one more quarter.  This type of self-talk motivation is used by many athletes but now its effectiveness has been supported by new research from the University of Kent. During a tough workout or a physical game, we get plenty of signals from our body that muscles are sore and the endurance wall is fast approaching.  However, as we’ve discussed in an earlier post …

November 10, 2013

Learning To Anticipate Your Opponent

By Dan Peterson

Across just about every team sport, young defenders are coached how to read an opponent’s body cues to avoid being caught out of position.  Whether in hockey, basketball, soccer or football, if a player can learn to focus on a consistent center point, like the chest, he can take away the offensive attacker’s element of surprise.  As with most skills, this takes time to master, but new research shows that experience does matter. Watching players develop in practice and games offers a subjective view of their learning curve, but what would put any doubt to rest would be to actually peer inside their brains to monitor their progress.  That’s exactly what …

October 20, 2013

Relearning How To Hit Pays Off For Shane Victorino

By Dan Peterson

Its the stuff every young baseball player dreams of – down by a run in the bottom of the 7th inning with the bases loaded in game 6 of the American League Championship Series.  Last night, with a chance to become a legend, Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino tried to focus at the plate.  “I was just trying to tie the game,” Victorino told ESPN. “I wasn’t thinking grand slam, hit it out of the park, any of that. I was just trying to put the ball in play, to give us another chance.” Instead, he launched an 0-2 pitch from right-handed pitcher Jose Veras over the Green Monster in left …

October 12, 2013

Keeping The Football Brain Balanced

By Dan Peterson

One of Associate Head Coach Burton Burns’ favorite drills for his Alabama running backs has them hopping over pads with both feet, teaching his players balance and more importantly how to recover from a stumble.  One of his many star students was Trent Richardson, who liked the drill.  “Even my freshman year when we were against North Texas and I had a long run and I could feel it near the end, someone just hit my feet,” Richardson told “We get our feet up, it’s better for us to keep our balance.” As you watch the video of the drill below, notice the stumbles after the second or third hurdle. …

September 29, 2013

Adjusting To The Speed Of Football At The Next Level

By Dan Peterson

As football players move up from youth leagues to high school to college and, ultimately, the NFL, there is often a sharp learning curve to adapt to the next level.  They struggle with the speed of the game and the need to “slow the game down” to make better on-field decisions.  Even for elite players, with all of their physical talent, training the brain to react instinctively to game situations takes hours of preparation and repetition.  Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winning behavioral psychologist, describes this education as moving from System Two to System One thinking, which applies to more in life than just football. When Robert Griffin III was slowed …

September 26, 2013

Finding The Meaning Of The Sports Gene – An Interview With David Epstein

By Dan Peterson

If you watch this video of a young Lionel Messi, who was probably still working towards his 10,000 hours of structured practice total at the time, you can’t help but wonder what secret ingredient he has in his genes.  He clearly has something else, something that was already there at age 5 and something that the other kids didn’t have. David Epstein, former senior writer at Sports Illustrated, has been on a search for that extra something.  In his new book, The Sports Gene, Epstein launched himself directly into the nature vs. nurture, genes vs. practice and natural vs. self-made debates about athletic greatness. I recently had a chance to chat with David …

August 29, 2013

How Sleep Helps Johnny Manziel

By Dan Peterson

Last month, Johnny Manziel, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Texas A&M, made news when he was asked to leave the Manning Passing Academy after he missed a morning meeting and practice.  In his role as a coach/counselor to the future QBs at the camp, he was helping teach the fundamental movements and technique of the position.  His reason for his absence? “I just overslept”.  While some in the media have suggested other reasons for his “tiredness”, new research reveals that all that sleep may have actually helped him improve his own motor skills for the new season. Researchers have known for awhile that we all need sleep, not only for rejuvenation, …

August 11, 2013

Motor Memory Helps On The Football Field

By Dan Peterson

You’ll hear the same thing over and over on high school and college football fields this month. “We just have to get our reps in.” “Time to knock the rust off and find our rhythm.” “Its all about timing and getting everyone in sync.”  The common theme for players is trying to increase the efficiency of their thinking and their movements, better known as muscle memory.  By repeating the same motions and plays, practice may not become perfect but it certainly will improve.  Now, neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have found that brains actually do become more energy efficient after numerous repetitions by decreasing the electrical activity …

July 23, 2013

For Baseball Pitchers, Height Does Matter

By Dan Peterson

“You can’t coach height.”  While that scouting advice is usually heard around high school and college basketball courts, it applies equally well to pitching prospects in baseball.  The trend towards taller, dominating pitchers has been rising for years.  A quick check of this season’s MLB stats shows the average height of the top 10 pitchers with the most strikeouts this season is 6’ 5” compared to the average height of all MLB players of 6’ 1”. In fact, the height of pro pitchers has been on the rise for the last 110 years and they’re throwing harder.  In the 2009 MLB season, all but two of the fastest 20 pitches thrown …

June 30, 2013

Imagine What You Can Do With This Pitch

By Dan Peterson

Baseball hitting strategy is usually taught as a logical, almost statistical thought process.  Depending on the score of the game, runners on base, the number of outs and the current count, the batter can make an educated guess as to what pitch will be thrown next.  This cues the visual system to expect a certain release point, speed and location of the ball.  But what about the emotions of the game?  Do the possible positive and negative outcomes affect a hitter’s ability to see the right pitch?  According to new research, the reward that you associate with a visual stimuli can help improve your ability to quickly identify that object. Imagine …

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