Monthly Archives: April 2011

Malcolm Gladwell-moderated panel on building the modern athlete at MIT Sports Analytics Conference

via Axon Sports

Embedded below is the keynote panel discussion from the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT, which just recently wrapped up in Boston and brings together a lot of the people doing the most forward-thinking research in sports. The conference began in 2007, small and basically a total geekfest, but has doubled in size every year since and now gets a fair amount of attention in more mainstream media outlets. (Note: The first 16:30 of the video is full of introductory talking about the conference and is boring, and for some reason the video doesn’t let you jump forward.  But if you start the video and then pause it, it loads up …

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Testing the 10,000 hour rule in golf

via Axon Sports

Dan McLaughlin is a Portland, OR, man who quit his job just before his 30th birthday last year to become a professional golfer.  This wouldn’t be a particularly noteworthy story if Dan McLaughlin had ever really played golf before; but he hadn’t.  The career change was sparked by McLaughlin reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which discussed Dr. Anders Ericsson’s 10,000 hour rule of expertise, a subject we posted about here on Friday.  McLaughlin’s goal is to see if he, after 10,000 hours of practice over the next six years, can become good enough to compete on the PGA tour. He is going about his training, with Dr. Ericsson as a consultant, in …

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Scoop Jackson at ESPN thinks studying the athletic brain is worthless

via Axon Sports

Yesterday we posted a link to Carl Zimmer’s article in Discover Magazine on the athletic brain and sporting intelligence. Worth posting for the sake of contrast is Scoop Jackson’s response to that article on ESPN’s Page 2. Any new idea will meet with resistance, especially when that new idea a) is based on science that may be unfamiliar and b) threatens to change an institution/culture that can be stubbornly averse to change (i.e. sports). Jackon’s objections to the idea of identifying, studying and assessing athletic intelligence run along the lines of: 1. The brains of athletes are not worth studying. See, the problem is not in the solutions found, but in …

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Discover Magazine article on the athletic brain

via Axon Sports

The latest issue of Discover Magazine has a lengthy article from Carl Zimmer that references a lot of the research that we have and will discuss on this site.  It’s one of the first mainstream magazine articles to talk about the athletic brain and sport-specific intelligence in a scientific way, and is evidence that this whole idea is beginning to pick up some steam.  The article concludes by discussing recent research suggesting that there may be ways to help the brain learn new skills faster, via brain stimulation from an external source, and the ethical implications of such training aids. In February 2009 Krakauer and Pablo Celnik of Johns Hopkins offered …

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The Athletic Brain (Part II)

via Axon Sports

As stated yesterday, the purpose of this blog is to talk about the athletic brain. This leads to one obvious question: are athletes’ brains–in any kind of measurable way–different? A lot of research has been done in this area and the answer turns out to be: yes, but that we don’t have the whole picture just yet. One raw, rough look at how the cognitive skills of athletes might differ comes from a meta-analytic study–research that summarizes and analyzes a broad survey of other studies–performed by Michelle Voss, Arthur Kramer and colleagues at the University of Illinois. In the study, the researchers looked at whether elite athletes performed any differently from …

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Introduction: The Athletic Brain

via Axon Sports

Great athletes have a little something special that most of us don’t. Mostly, people tend to think about the physical gifts that set athletes apart–they are bigger, faster, more powerful, and exhibit grace and body control that is awe-insipring. While it isn’t surprising that the focus tends to be on what’s easily seen, this leaves out a great deal, because a lot of what makes great athletes special actually goes on inside their heads. Whatever the sport, the most exhilerating moments–the ones that drop jaws and bring joy–involve creativity and intelligence that goes far beyond the merely physical. Rajon Rondo threading a ball through a crowded paint to a man who …

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