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Testing the 10,000 hour rule in golf

By Axon Sports

Dan McLaughlin is a Portland, OR, man who quit his job just before his 30th birthday last year to become a professional golfer.  This wouldn’t be a particularly noteworthy story if Dan McLaughlin had ever really played golf before; but he hadn’t.  The career change was sparked by McLaughlin reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which discussed Dr. Anders Ericsson’s 10,000 hour rule of expertise, a subject we posted about here on Friday.  McLaughlin’s goal is to see if he, after 10,000 hours of practice over the next six years, can become good enough to compete on the PGA tour. He is going about his training, with Dr. Ericsson as a consultant, in …

Scoop Jackson at ESPN thinks studying the athletic brain is worthless

By Axon Sports

Yesterday we posted a link to Carl Zimmer’s article in Discover Magazine on the athletic brain and sporting intelligence. Worth posting for the sake of contrast is Scoop Jackson’s response to that article on ESPN’s Page 2. Any new idea will meet with resistance, especially when that new idea a) is based on science that may be unfamiliar and b) threatens to change an institution/culture that can be stubbornly averse to change (i.e. sports). Jackon’s objections to the idea of identifying, studying and assessing athletic intelligence run along the lines of: 1. The brains of athletes are not worth studying. See, the problem is not in the solutions found, but in …

Discover Magazine article on the athletic brain

By Axon Sports

The latest issue of Discover Magazine has a lengthy article from Carl Zimmer that references a lot of the research that we have and will discuss on this site.  It’s one of the first mainstream magazine articles to talk about the athletic brain and sport-specific intelligence in a scientific way, and is evidence that this whole idea is beginning to pick up some steam.  The article concludes by discussing recent research suggesting that there may be ways to help the brain learn new skills faster, via brain stimulation from an external source, and the ethical implications of such training aids. In February 2009 Krakauer and Pablo Celnik of Johns Hopkins offered …

The Athletic Brain (Part II)

By Axon Sports

As stated yesterday, the purpose of this blog is to talk about the athletic brain. This leads to one obvious question: are athletes’ brains–in any kind of measurable way–different? A lot of research has been done in this area and the answer turns out to be: yes, but that we don’t have the whole picture just yet. One raw, rough look at how the cognitive skills of athletes might differ comes from a meta-analytic study–research that summarizes and analyzes a broad survey of other studies–performed by Michelle Voss, Arthur Kramer and colleagues at the University of Illinois. In the study, the researchers looked at whether elite athletes performed any differently from …

Introduction: The Athletic Brain

By Axon Sports

Great athletes have a little something special that most of us don’t. Mostly, people tend to think about the physical gifts that set athletes apart–they are bigger, faster, more powerful, and exhibit grace and body control that is awe-insipring. While it isn’t surprising that the focus tends to be on what’s easily seen, this leaves out a great deal, because a lot of what makes great athletes special actually goes on inside their heads. Whatever the sport, the most exhilerating moments–the ones that drop jaws and bring joy–involve creativity and intelligence that goes far beyond the merely physical. Rajon Rondo threading a ball through a crowded paint to a man who …

How we learn from competition

By Axon Sports

We learn from our competition and it makes us better, we all know this. So much of what makes an athlete a genius on the field is in the little mind-reading abilities that they have. It’s the cornerback who seems to just sense the perfect moment to break on the ball for a pick, or the hitter who can pick up a changeup right out of the pitchers hand and isn’t fooled for a second. These split-second decisions are built on thousands of reps and years of learning from what worked and what didn’t in the past. What we don’t quite have nailed down yet is how exactly this process works. …

Brain Stimulation Can Change the Hand You Favor

By Axon Sports

There are few skills that are more dangerous in sports, or tougher to develop, than a great opposite hand or foot. See Mickey Mantle’s 372 left-handed and 164 right-handed homers, or watch John Wall effortlessly stride down court, react, and then throw down with his left hand, here: There are also few skills in sports that are so tied to the brain and nervous system. Think for a second about when you dribble a basketball, pick up a bat, or jump as high as you can.  You probably don’t consciously decide what hand or foot to use, you just do it. The brain structure related to this automatic preference is the …

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