The best athletes don’t necessarily have better eyes than their competition. Athletes who seem a step ahead are actually experts at picking up visual cues that help them anticipate and react to the game. They don’t see any more, or any better, they simply do more with the information that they receive.

Learning To Anticipate Your Opponent

via Dan Peterson

Across just about every team sport, young defenders are coached how to read an opponent’s body cues to avoid being caught out of position.  Whether in hockey, basketball, soccer or football, if a player can learn to focus on a consistent center point, like the chest, he can take away the offensive attacker’s element of surprise.  As with most skills, this takes time to master, but new research shows that experience does matter. Watching players develop in practice and games offers a subjective view of their learning curve, but what would put any doubt to rest would be to actually peer inside their brains to monitor their progress.  That’s exactly what …

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How Batters Guess At The Plate

via Dan Peterson

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

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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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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Elite Soccer Players’ Brains Excel At Planning And Problem Solving

via Axon Sports

Coaches and commentators often refer to an athlete’s ability to “see the field” or be a play-maker.  Rookies at the next level can’t wait for the game to “slow down” so their brains can process all of the moving pieces.  What exactly is this so-called game intelligence and court vision?  Can it be recognized and developed in younger players?  For the first time, neuroscientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet have found a link between our brain’s “executive functions” and sports success. When in the middle of a heated game on the field or court, our brains are accomplishing the ultimate in multitasking.  Moving, anticipating, strategizing, reacting and performing requires an enormous amount …

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Hitting Is Timing, Pitching Is Upsetting Timing

via Axon Sports

Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn never studied biomechanics or captured 3D motion capture of the batters he faced, but he knew a lot about the science of strikeouts.  “Hitting is timing.  Pitching is upsetting timing,” Spahn stated decades ago. “”A pitcher needs two pitches, one they’re looking for and one to cross them up.” After all of these years, ASMI biomechanist Dave Fortenbaugh has put this theory to the test in his lab. With less than a second to see the pitch, identify its speed and location then execute an intercepting swing of the bat, a baseball player’s margin of error can be milliseconds or millimeters.  Since most of the …

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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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MIT Sloan Sports Conference Mixes Jocks And Brains

via Axon Sports

For most of us growing up, there were two distinct groups of students in our high schools, the Jocks and the Brains.  While they pretended not to like each other, there was an unspoken mutual respect.  Just as the Jocks wished they could learn concepts and do homework as quickly as the Brains, the Brains dreamed of athletic glory.   This weekend in Boston, they are reunited at the equitably named MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference.  In its sixth year, the SSAC has grown from 175 people, mostly students, to this year’s sold out event where over 2,200 attendees will gather at the Hynes Convention Center.  Combining new research, data and …

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An Athlete’s Perception Skill Transfers To The Real World

via Axon Sports

Boy Scouts just got some competition.  Now, when little, old ladies need to cross a busy street, they should find a well-trained athlete to do the job, according to University of Illinois researchers. In a test of skill transfer, Laura Chaddock, a researcher at Illinois’ Human Perception and Performance lab, and her team pushed a bunch of college students out into busy traffic to see how well they could navigate the oncoming cars… well, sort of. With the help of a virtual 3D environment called the CAVE, volunteer pedestrians can step into a simulated city street scene, seeing traffic whiz by on three surrounding screens, while walking on a synchronized treadmill. …

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Controlling Movement Is Your Brain’s Only Purpose

via Axon Sports

Daniel Wolpert is absolutely certain about one thing.  “We have a brain for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to produce adaptable and complex movements,” stated Wolpert, Director of the Computational and Biological Learning Lab at the University of Cambridge.  “Movement is the only way you have of affecting the world around you.”  After that assertive opening to his 2011 TED Talk, he reported that, despite this important purpose, we have a long way to go in understanding of how exactly the brain controls our movements. The evidence for this is in how well we’ve learned to mimic our movements using computers and robots.  For example, take the game …

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