The importance of focus and emotional regulation in athletic performance can’t be underestimated. Performing in the clutch is all about tuning out the pressure, nerves, noise and distractions of the moment. But the ability to perform under pressure isn’t something an athlete is either born with or not. It’s a skill, one that can be learned.

Convince Your Brain That You Are Not Done

via 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 …

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For Superstar Young Athletes, Only Their Mindset Can Stop Them

via Axon Sports

Amazing young athletes have been going viral lately.  Did you see the video of the 11-year-old star of the Downey Christian high school varsity basketball team, who recently performed at halftime of an Orlando Magic game?  How about the 9-year-old girl running around and over the boys in her youth football league, who was invited to sit next to Roger Goodell at last month’s Super Bowl?  Then there’s the 10th grader who is currently starting for the Erie Otters, a major junior hockey team with an average age of 19, whose agent is Hall of Famer Bobby Orr and who NHL star Sidney Crosby compares to himself. These young YouTube sensations, …

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For Youth Athletes, It’s All About The Struggle

via Axon Sports

As parents and coaches of youth athletes, we walk a fine line in our communications with our emerging superstars about their abilities.  What may sound like a great pat on the back, (“that was amazing how you just knew to make that pass – you’ve really got a knack for this sport”), may actually limit their future development and motivation, according to two development psychologists. It all goes back to the fundamental debate in talent development of any kind.  Are we born with certain skills and expertise or do we develop it with years of structured practice?  Researchers have argued along the entire spectrum of this question while practitioners have settled …

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New Research Could Help Alex Rodriguez’s Batting Slump

via Axon Sports

At this point in the MLB postseason, Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees’ third baseman, is willing to try any remedy for his postseason hitting slump.  So far in October, his batting average is a paltry .130, well below his season average of .272.  Baseball writers and fans have tagged him with the dreaded “choker” label and his manager, Joe Girardi, has already benched him once.  A-Rod’s confidence seems to be in a downward spiral with all of the added pressure and attention on him.  However, a German sport psychologist could be coming to his rescue with new research on how to distract the brain away from focusing too much on specific athletic …

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The Need For Evidence-Based Coaching In Sports

via Axon Sports

It’s something that every coach and every athlete of every sport is searching for… the Edge. That one training tip, equipment improvement, mental preparation or tactical insight that will tip the game towards them. The body of knowledge that exists today in each sport is assumed, with each competitor expected to at least be aware of the history, beliefs and traditions of their individual sport. But, if each team is starting with the same set of information then the team that takes the next step by applying new research and ideas will capture the edge. That is what sports science is all about. The goal is to improve sports performance by …

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March Madness Fans Have Selective Memories

via Axon Sports

Depending on who you talk to, there are different definitions of something called, “The Shot” in the history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  To North Carolina fans, its Michael Jordan’s game winning jumper in the 1982 final, while to Hoosier fans, its Keith Smart’s 16-foot swish with under 10 seconds to go in 1988. But Christian Laettner’s last second turnaround game winner in the 1991 regional final over Kentucky is forever etched into the memories of Duke fans. Do those same rabid supporters remember the crucial missed shots from their heroes over the years?  Neuroscience researchers at Duke University wanted to find out so they tested the memories of some …

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Can Home Court Advantage Turn Into Home Court Choke?

via Axon Sports

Ask any NBA player or coach where they would prefer to play a high stakes game, home or away, and the vast majority will choose being in the friendly confines of their home arena.  Overall, the win-loss records of most teams would support that, but they would do even better if they taught their home fans a lesson in performance psychology.   When it comes to sports skills, research has shown that we’re better off to just do it rather than consciously thinking about the mechanics of each sub-component of the move.  Waiting for a pitch, standing over a putt or stepping up to the free throw line gives our brains …

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How Your Brain Manages Muscle Fatigue

via Axon Sports

Endurance athletes, both competitive and weekend warriors, know the feeling. Out on a long run or bike ride, their muscles start to feel a lot heavier the closer they get to their training distance goal.  While it makes sense that your muscles would get more tired the longer you go, sometimes it feels as if your brain is convincing you not to have any illusions of going past the agreed upon training distance.  Now, researchers at the University of Zurich have discovered that there is a control valve mechanism in the brain that actually decreases muscle performance and sends increased fatigue signals to your conscious mind to provide overload protection for …

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Top Tennis Players Simply See Better

via Axon Sports

For most of us mere mortals, if an object was coming at us at 120-150 mph, we would be lucky to just get out of the way. Top tennis players, like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, not only see the ball coming at them with such speed, but plan where they want to place their return shot and swing their racquet in time to make contact.

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Head Coaches Face Moral Dilemmas

via Axon Sports

This year has seen a surprisingly high number of high profile scandals at well known college sports programs.  From player troubles at Ohio State and Miami to assistant coaches being charged with serious crimes, notable head coaches like Jim Tressel, Jim Boeheim, and Joe Paterno have had to deal with major non-sports issues. As these head coaches often claim at their post-scandal press conferences, the buck stops with them as they have overall responsibility for the program, the coaches and the players.  Being in the hot seat requires a coach that can provide the balance between ultra-competitive, “win now” demands of fans and boosters and long-term development of players’ skills and …

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