A quarterback sitting in the pocket looks out on a sea of 3-dimensional chaos. He might have a rush coming after him in three directions, four receivers covered by defensive backs at four different depths, all while linebackers and safeties sit patiently, trying to read his eyes. Everybody is also moving at full speed, each in a different direction.

Relearning How To Hit Pays Off For Shane Victorino

via Axon Sports

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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Adjusting To The Speed Of Football At The Next Level

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

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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 …

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How Sleep Helps Johnny Manziel

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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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Motor Memory Helps On The Football Field

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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 …

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Imagine What You Can Do With This Pitch

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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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Seeing The World Through Tony Parker’s Eyes

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After the San Antonio Spurs clinched their trip to the NBA Finals on Monday night, Tim Duncan was asked to describe the contributions of his point guard, Tony Parker.  “Every year he just gets better and better and better,” he commented to the press. “I told him I’m just riding his coattails.”  High praise indeed from a four-time NBA champion and 14-time All-Star. Duncan’s remarks add to the growing opinion that Parker is the best postseason point guard in NBA history.  Whether its his scoring touch, 37 points in Game 4 against Memphis, or his vision on the court, a career best 18 assists in Game 2, Parker has the ability …

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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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Decoding The Two Sides Of The Baseball Swing

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When describing his former teammate Joe Mauer’s hitting discipline, five-time MLB All-Star Jim Thome told ESPN, “Joe’s the only teammate I’ve ever had who never gets fooled. And when I say ‘never,’ that’s what I mean. Absolutely never.”  The fact that Mauer had more walks than strikeouts in 2012, while leading the league in on-base percentage, is not surprising to his Minnesota Twins’ manager Ron Gardenhire. “He takes (pitches) because he can,” Gardenhire says. “Other guys aren’t good enough.” Combine this knack of knowing when to swing with one of the sweetest strokes in baseball and the result is a three-time batting champion, a first for a catcher.  Being able to …

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Learning To Be The Next Eric Clapton Or Tiger Woods

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Despite being a well-respected cognitive psychology professor at New York University, Gary Marcus had a secret ambition; to shred amazing riffs that would make Eric Clapton envious. The fact that he had been gently told as a child he had no sense of rhythm or tone did not discourage his dream. With a one year sabbatical from NYU available, he turned himself into a lab experiment of how to teach a middle-aged dog new “licks”. At about the same time, Dan McLaughlin was growing restless with his career as a commercial photographer in Portland. To him, life as a professional golfer seemed to be the dream destination if only he could …

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