Tag Archives: Athletic Intelligence

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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Making Better Football Decisions

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During the kickoff game of the 2011 NFL season, the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers edged out the New Orleans Saints in a classic shootout.  Both quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees displayed that extra dimension that is required of today’s signal callers – a synergy of in-game pattern recognition and deep football tactical knowledge.  Recent research in another high-stress line of work highlights this skill which quickly separates the athletic but ineffective passers from the complete quarterbacks. In a recent Grantland article, Chris Brown, expert analyst at Smart Football, described one particular play of that September game that stood out, “Rodgers lined up in the shotgun and saw …

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Searching For The Secret To Success In Sports

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An athlete’s level of greatness is often measured by the opinions of his or her peers while they’re playing.  Being recognized as one of the best by those who understand what it takes is rare.  The mystery lies in the secret ingredient that separates the great players from the masses. After 17 seasons, Paul Scholes of Manchester United thought he had played in his final tribute game last summer and would become a coach at the club he’s been part of since his teens.  Yet, in a surprise to everyone, he suited up for an FA Cup match earlier this month and is planning to stay on the active roster through …

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Teaching Your Brain How To Play Soccer

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When describing what’s wrong with today’s youth soccer coaching, Michel Bruyninckx points to his head. “We need to stop thinking football is only a matter of the body,” the 59-year old Belgian Uefa A license coach and Standard Liège academy director recently told the BBC. “Skillfulness will only grow if we better understand the mental part of developing a player. Cognitive readiness, improved perception, better mastering of time and space in combination with perfect motor functioning.” We’re not talking about dribbling around orange cones here.  Bruyninckx’s approach, which he dubs “brain centered learning” borrows heavily from the constructivist theory of education that involves a total immersion of the student in the …

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The Synapse – Video Games, Building Blocks and Your Brain’s Dark Energy

via Axon Sports

To get your budding superstar ready for his sports future, should they play with high tech video games or good old building blocks?  Well, according to two new studies, that depends on if you’re training their creativity or their spatial awareness.  Also, in our weekly round-up of brain science news, we find out about our brain’s “default-mode network” which manages our brain’s neurons when trying to focus on an object. For most sports, athletes require the ability to quickly make sense of their surroundings, then to be creative in their reaction to this ever changing environment.  Developing these dual skills often starts in the early years with non-sport activities. Nora Newcombe, …

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The Synapse – Better Decision Making In Sports

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In this week’s Synapse, we made a game-time decision, (pun intended), to focus on the high-speed decision making skills of athletes that are critical in so many sports. There are several new research studies out that all take a different angle. However, it was an interesting post by Ross Tucker at the always excellent blog, The Science of Sport that sparked our curiosity.  As a consultant to the South African rugby team, he commented on the recent World Cup final that saw New Zealand triumph over France. However, it wasn’t the decision making of the players that Tucker wrote about, but rather of the referee. For those unfamiliar with rugby, like …

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Artificial Intelligence Research Tackles Football Knowledge

via Axon Sports

As football fans, it’s easy to watch our favorite teams play and be couch coaches and recliner refs. We’re able to watch the action on the field and make sense of the chaotic movements of the players and figure out the design and intention of the plays. Even for the casual fan, their brain is able to make sense of the basic strategy and rules of the game. But, how did we get to this point? How did we initially learn what is actually a very complex sport? For those that actually play the game, that learning and reaction process is critical to on-field success.

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Working memory and the brain’s limits

via Axon Sports

The impact of working memory on sport performance doesn’t get talked about too often, but its importance can’t be underestimated.  Working memory is different from both long and short term memory, it is the ability to hold and juggle things in your head, and the ability shift attention between them as you solve a problem or deal with a situation. Working memory is what allows us to drive a car while we simultaneously monitor our speed, pay attention to the road ahead, talk to the person in the passenger seat, check our rearview mirror every few seconds, etc.  Similarly, it’s also what allows a basketball player to dribble the ball, pay …

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Soccer and Spatial Reasoning

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We’re going to go back to David Winner’s book about Dutch Total Football, Brilliant Orange one more time; it’s just too good. There are so many valuable insights about the nature of expertise and athletic intelligence, specifically with respect to Spatial Reasoning, the ability to visualize and manipulate patterns in space over time. One of the book’s main arguments is that soccer is fundamentally about manipulating space on the pitch to create or exploit openings, and that the Total Football style of the 1970′s Dutch teams revolutionized the way this was done. Former Manchester United manager Dave Sexton explains: With their pressing and rotation, the Dutch created space where there wasn’t …

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The Athletic Brain (Part II)

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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 …

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