Athletes on the field don’t have time to think deliberately. They have to react and make precise, high-speed decisions based on pattern recognition and a keen instinct honed by practice.

Adjusting To The Speed Of Football At The Next Level

via Axon Sports

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 …

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How Batters Guess At The Plate

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It’s not getting any easier being a big league hitter.  Consider that in 2003, only three pitchers lit up the radar gun at 95 mph or more on at least 700 of their pitches, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Futterman.  Last season, 17 pitchers were able to bring that speed consistently.  In 2003, only Billy Wagner threw at least 25 pitches at or above 100 mph compared to seven pitchers last year. Has the added heat affected the hitters? You bet.  Strikeouts in the MLB totalled 36,426 last season, an 18.3% increase over 2003.  “It’s pretty simple,” said Rick Peterson, director of pitching development for the Baltimore Orioles, in …

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Why A Football Helmet Has Ear Holes

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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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Getting Inside A Baseball Hitter’s Brain

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When asked to describe Greg Maddux, the retired 4-time Cy Young award-winning pitcher, Wade Boggs, a Hall of Fame hitter with a .328 lifetime batting average, once said, “It seems like he’s inside your mind with you. When he knows you’re not going to swing, he throws a straight one. He sees into the future. It’s like he has a crystal ball hidden inside his glove.” So, what did Maddux know that other pitchers don’t?  Neuro-engineers from Columbia University decided to actually look inside some hitters’ brains to try to find out. Maddux, who seems to be a lock for the 2014 Hall of Fame class, earned a reputation for knowing …

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Rubber-Necked Soccer Players Have The Best Field Vision

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Last weekend, there was no better place for a few hundred high school soccer players to learn the concept of field vision than to take them to a college match between two top Division 1 teams.  Having just finished playing the second day of the Blue Chip Showcase tournament in Ohio, their assignment (and chance to unwind) was to observe first-hand the skill level that they would need to reach the next level.  If they thought their games against fellow 16 and 17 year old players were fast-paced, then they were in for a surprise when they watched the split second decision making of college players during a spring game between …

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Multitasking Brains Are Clutch Under Pressure

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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

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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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Peyton Manning Relies On Top-Down Attention

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This article by Axon Sports originally appeared at our partner National Football Post, the leader in football news and analysis. Whenever Peyton Manning takes the field, the superlatives come fast and furious from football commentators. As well they should, the future Hall of Fame QB has proven his superior cognitive and physical skills repeatedly over his 15 seasons. However, back in week 2 of the NFL season when the Broncos met the Falcons for a Monday Night Football game, the importance of a well designed and disguised defense was on display. The Atlanta defense highlighted the importance of cognitive skills in football, as the ability to force bad decisions was shown …

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The Mysteries Of The Teenage Sports Brain

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It seems so easy sitting in the stands.  Watching their high school athlete, parents are perplexed when bad decisions are made on the field, not to mention at home and school.  What seems so logical to coaches and fans, especially over the age of 30, is often lost on the adolescent brains of prep players.  Do they just not care?  Will it take even more practice and drills to get it right?  Could it be teenagers are just wired differently?  According to a social cognition expert, that’s exactly what’s happening. Traditional child development theory takes us from birth to the beginning of the awkward years that are triggered by the physical …

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Learning An NFL Playbook Is All About Chunking

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Last year, in a highly anticipated episode of Jon Gruden’s Quarterback Camp, the former NFL coach warned highly touted rookie prospect Cam Newton about one of the major adjustments facing him when he gets to the NFL. “You know, some of this verbiage in the NFL, I don’t know how it was at Auburn, but it’s — it’s long.  You’ve got the shifts, the plays, the protections, the snap count, the alert, the check-with-me’s,” Gruden said. “I mean, flip right, double-X, Jet, 36 counter, naked waggle, X-7, X-quarter.” He went on to ask the Auburn quarterback if he’d ever heard a play call like that in college, to which Newton responded, …

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