With advances in technology and a deeper understanding of kinesiology, athletes are utilizing unique ways to train for their sports. Gone are the days when athletes training occurs solely in the weight room. One of the most beneficial and creative ways to train for athletic performance is visualization or preparing their mental game.
Neurocore is a brain performance center that can train elite athletes cognitively in response to mental stimulation and regression. Brain training has many benefits like lowering stress around game time, adding consistency of performance, improving adaptation, aiding in foreshadowing and managing athlete stress.
The Portland Trail Blazers have recently partnered with Neurocore and has added a “brain room” to their training facilities. Technology in their brain room is capable of training and improving overall function of the brain, endocrine, cardiovascular and respiratory systems by indicating stress level, recovery and relaxation. Electrical impulses reflect response from the brain and will trigger a DVD that the athlete is watching. By automatically pausing the DVD when the athlete is over thinking when they are meant to be relaxing, the training helps the trailblazers slow down and get in their mental zone. Neurocore finds this technique to be beneficial with helping athletes sleep while traveling on the road. This therapy also trains the athlete to identify within themselves when they are over thinking and not recovering from mental, physical and physiological stressors caused by play.
Mental preparation can be achieved in a multitude of ways and is often referred to as ‘working on the mental game’ where an athlete will envision every play along with every obstacle. After competing in 5 Olympics, winning twenty-eight metals, Michael Phelps still states that his most valuable training comes from training his mental game. He envisioned his races from the perspective of the viewer in the stands as well as from his lane in the pool. Included in Phelps’ memory bank is any obstacle that he may have faced during a race like when his goggles broke or when his swimsuit malfunctioned. In one race his goggles filled up with water within the first lap and he was able to call upon his muscle memory of how many strokes he needed to count to swim his best fly. In the end, he not only won another gold medal, but he also broke another world record. He succeeded at another victory all by picturing what it would look like to swim the perfect race. Phelps played his perfect race over and over in his mind every morning and every night, like a mental film, and he trusted in his process.
Michael Phelps is not the only elite athlete that uses mental imagery and visualizations to map out his best performance. Before Michael Jordan had reached professional status, he envisioned himself there and he would also envision himself as the greatest player to have ever played the game. He saw that vision come to fruition and continued to meditate on sinking game winning balls. Jordan has stated that if he hadn’t lost and missed a chunk of his games and shots taken, he wouldn’t have succeeded as greatly as he did. Prior to each game, Michael Jordan would remember to have fun and would mentally remove himself from the pressures of the game. He mentally prepared himself before go time by relaxing and listening to music or by horsing around with teammates. Jordan also took negative feedback and turned it into a positive driving force toward his success.
Kirk Cousin is the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins and has committed a crucial part of his athletic training to brain training designed by Neurocore Brain Performance Center. Cousins has drafted a few simple reasons why any athlete could benefit in their overall game by developing cognitive strength. Primarily, brain training literally helps an athlete think on their feet. When an athlete trains to think through the most stressful of events, their cardiovascular system remains in sync with their neurological system. This simply means that a player will be prepared for those high stress moments. Their heart rate and breaths won’t increase in the same way but they will remain at the same rate. The athlete can then maintain the same level of focus at the end of the game as they do in the beginning. Cognitive exercise makes for an outcome of less mistakes at those high stress type of moments and can create more calculated and positive plays toward a win.
After an athlete works on training their brain they are ready for the next step and it will be carefully calculated because they have already prepared for every scenario, including how to recover from a juke, turnover or interception. In high intensity situations they tend to make less mistakes and the player simply reacts and adapts.
Brain training has been referred to as muscle memory for the neuromuscular system, particularly the brain. Muscle memory also turns players into more consistent teammates which turns them into more reliable players in team sports. The repetition of brain training is essentially like lifting weights for your mind. Many elite athletes like Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps will attest to the fact that they became better than their opponents because they were putting in extra work. The extra work is frequently some type of brain training that can put athletes two plays ahead of their opponents, keeping them not just mentally in the game but also ahead of the game. If an athlete isn’t staying ahead of the competition they can easily be falling behind.
This training carries over to real life situations and prepares athletes to deal with stressors that are not always sports related. Stress management is important not only for staying calm in a game or competition setting but also in everyday scenarios. For these reasons, Kirk Cousin’s believes that over the course of the next 15 years, every athlete will participate in brain training with companies like Neurocore’ and maybe more people in general will turn to Neurocore for brain management and overall better quality of life.
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