Athletes must be able to focus during a game and block out the many distractions. By using concentration on their motor skills, game tactics and field vision, athletes can train their brain to get in the right mental zone.

Relearning How To Hit Pays Off For Shane Victorino

via 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 …

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Keeping The Football Brain Balanced

via 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 AL.com. “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. …

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How Sleep Helps Johnny Manziel

via 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, …

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Imagine What You Can Do With This Pitch

via 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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10,000 Hours Of Practice May Not Be Enough

via Dan Peterson

The 10,000 hour theory has become the American dream for developing athletes. Just work hard enough and your gold medal, Hall of Fame, championship ambitions can come true. It is achievable, measurable and finite.  Many athletes never quite cross the 10,000 hour finish line, and have used the scapegoat reason, “I just didn’t have enough time to commit to the sport.” However, recent research suggests that while 10,000 hours of deliberate practice may be necessary to achieve world-class status, it may not be the only ingredient to success. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, a research paper by Florida State professor K. Anders Ericsson, The Role of Deliberate Practice in the …

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Why A Football Helmet Has Ear Holes

via Dan Peterson

For as much as we hear about the importance of vision on the football field, there are quite a few phrases emphasizing the sounds of the game.  Examples include “he heard footsteps coming”, “listen for the audible at the line”, “East Right Flop, Y Left, Fake 396 Bag, V Hinge, on 2.”, “play until you hear the whistle” and even the backhanded compliment to the ears, “he has eyes in the back of his head.”  Listening is a skill to be exploited for better anticipation, reactions and decision-making.  Now, neuroscience researchers have filled in some missing details of how we actually use the sounds around us to instantly direct our muscles to take action. …

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Steve Nash And The Imaginary Free Throw

via Dan Peterson

Every time Steve Nash goes to the foul line, he shoots five or six free throws. Sure, there’s the two that really count, but the NBA’s all-time free throw percentage leader always takes several imaginary shots before getting the ball.  He says it helps him not only visualize the ball going through the net but also gets his brain and body prepped for the upcoming motor skill.  After almost 3,400 regular season attempts, his 90.4% success rate seems to work, even if Dwight Howard isn’t interested. Actually, this “dry run” motor imagery is a well-used technique across several sports.  Golfers always take the imaginary swing or putt before stepping up to …

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Multitasking Brains Are Clutch Under Pressure

via Dan Peterson

Just ask the primary decision makers across different sports.  Quarterbacks, point guards, midfielders and catchers would agree that making the right choices during a game would be a whole lot easier if it weren’t for the constant distractions.  Whether it be a blitzing linebacker, a 1v1 defender or runners on base, staying focused on the next decision seems like an on or off process; something that can’t be dealt with until the current distraction is neutralized.  However, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University have learned that our multitasking brains continue to mull impending decisions in the background while our conscious brain handles the noise in front of us. Picture a quarterback walking …

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Basketball And The BAM Project

via Axon Sports

Imagine an NCAA basketball coach trying to create a game plan for their first March Madness game with absolutely no video footage of their upcoming opponent.  Sure, he has their roster with player names, height/weight and positions.  He also has a set of specific stats that show the performance of each player and the team during the season.  Yet, there is no opportunity to see the team play as a unit, how they move the ball, or their communication.  The resulting game strategy would be full of educated guesses and assumptions based on just the macro picture of the roster and the micro world of data and statistics. Welcome to the …

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NFL Combine Drill Is A Tough Test Of Hand-Eye Coordination

via Axon Sports

One of the most challenging and entertaining workout drills at this weekend’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis is the Gauntlet Drill for wide receivers and tight ends.  Whether or not it relates to real NFL success is debated but it does provide a true test of hand-eye coordination and the ability to change focus while on the move. Obviously, being able to instantly pick up the flight of a thrown football is key for receivers but also is important for defensive backs who need to turn their heads at the last moment to find a pass.  Now, vision researchers at Tübingen University in Germany have shown that humans actually use extremely …

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