The Modern Age of Sports
Sport is like everything else in life, it is always changing and evolving. In order to ensure progress we must continually search for ways to get better. Overall athletic performance over the years without a doubt has improved and progressed. The athlete’s body today is a fine tuned machine that has benefited from modern fitness training, expert nutrition and state of the art rehabilitation services. The modern athlete is faster, stronger and can go longer than ever before. Technology allows trainers and coaches to monitor the athletes exact workload, distance covered, number of sprints, heart rate, recovery time, average speed and much more during training or a game. Heart rate monitors with built in GPS technology can literally track a persons every move, speed and effort level. Professional and some college coaches have access to software that is so sophisticated it can break game film down into almost any statistic or pattern you could imagine. Professional teams have a staff of people who solely analyze film, break it down and submit presentations to the Head Coach. My question is how much room for improvement is left? Will running a 4.42 second 40-yard sprint compared to a 4.41 second sprint make a huge difference in performance? Look at the physical performance of World Class sprinters who are over 70 years apart, Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics vs Usain Bolt now. Usain Bolt would have beaten Jesse Owens by 14 steps, which is a significant difference in the 100m. However, if Jesse Owens had a starting block and ran on a rubber track the difference would have been just a single step or less. Overall the modern athlete has progressed physically but progress in some cases is smaller than you might think. This all depends on the sport of course. The 300+ pound lineman in the NFL today who runs a 4.7 second 40-yard sprint and bench presses 400 plus pounds is certainly far more advanced than a lineman from 1936. I really don’t know how much faster or bigger a 300+ pound athlete can get at this point! After considering the physical component of the game, lets look at the strategies and tactics in modern sport. With all the video analysis, sophisticated game software programs and dedicated coaching staff, are we getting closer to our maximum potential in the area of sports strategy and tactics? I personally can’t see the ultimate game plan or unbeatable tactic being created! There will always be great tactical coaches but in the end talent and tactics together are needed to win. If you are lucky enough to have the talent and tactics there is yet another step, the players must absorb and execute the tactical game plan to be effective. The advancement in tactics (strategy) and the physical components in sports have been immense but is there still an area we have not developed even close to its potential? What is the one area then that might hold huge potential for increased performance in individual and team sports performance? I would argue that the area of “cognitive sports development” or “game intelligence” is the answer. Training the brain in a cognitive development sports specific environment might just be the biggest breakthrough in improving sports performance ever.
What’s Lacking In Players & Missing From Coaching?
I work with high-level players on a daily basis. Most players who come to me have their weaknesses, but the majority of them are good physically and technically. The major stumbling block ends up being the player’s speed of thought, decision-making and problem solving ability. I want my players thinking two passes ahead, assessing the field, processing information quickly and constantly being active and engaged in the game. The players and I often discuss at length what is needed in order to increase their overall “Game Intelligence” and effectiveness on the field. Cognitive training without a doubt improves a player’s ability to collect information on the field, process the information, formulate a strategy or solution, execute an appropriate action based upon the information and then evaluate the outcome of the action (was it successful or not). There is no question that technical ability is important in this process if performance is going to increase. Players must be able to perform with there bodies just as quickly as their brains in order to be effective. Developing the player’s brain, body and technique together makes the most sense to me. Because cognitive development is such a new area in sports training, the question coaches want to know is does it work? For me the question isn’t if it works but why are you not implementing cognitive sports training with your teams right now! That’s how strongly I believe in the sports cognitive development. I am not talking about ten ways to psychologically get your players to perform better or some sort of performance enhancing mind advice. I am talking about totally restructuring your entire training regimen or practice curriculum around developing the brain. For most of coaches this idea may seem shocking. I would say to you, if you don’t open your mind up to change you will be left behind. In order to be a leader in your sport you must always be evolving.