You want to be the best athlete you can be, don’t you? Well, you will need to train, train, and train some more. It is only when your body is in peak condition that you can finally compete at a high-level. In peak physical condition, you are the best you can be. But, things do not quite go as planned. You know what you need to do, but your body is just not doing it. You trained your body, but you did not train your mind.
When it comes to competing, you should put as much focus on brain training as you do on training your body. Once your mind and body are working in perfect harmony, your performance will be where it should be. With that in mind, let’s look at what we need to look at when we are training our brains.
Our cognitive skills fall into four or five main areas. Each is equally as important if you want to master the skill or sport that you are competing in. If you train your brain along with your body, you are going to be able to put your physical ability to use during sports. What cognitive skills do you need to train?
- Sustained: You need long-term attention and focus. If you lose that, then you are less likely to do well
- Selective: You need to block out the stimuli which are not helping you
- Flexible: You need to be able to shift your focus from one area to another
- Long-term: You need to be able to retain knowledge
- Working: You need to be able to hold information in your mind and manipulate it
- Visualization: You need to be able to create mental maps in your mind
- Visual span: You should be able to take in peripheral information at a glance
- Discrimination: You need to be able to distinguish between small differences in the play
Sensory integration and thinking
- Timing/rhythm: Split-second timing and moving to a rhythm
- Planning: Short-term and long-term planning
- Decision speed: You should be able to make decisions quickly
What are the Benefits of Brain Training?
If your body can perform well, it most likely will but, without correct brain training, you are not going to be in as much control of your body as you could be. Think about taking a snap as a quarterback. All you have to do is throw the ball to a running back. It is as easy as that. In an ideal world, you would have all the time in the world to look across the entire field and choose the teammate that you want to throw the ball to. Of course, it is not as easy as that.
As soon as the ball is in your hands, you have a split second to survey the field. You have to dodge defenders as they try to take you down. While doing this, you have to map out where everyone is and is going to be, all without being able to look over the entire field. You have to deal with shouts from players on the field along with the crowd off the field.
Some people love you, and some hate you. You have to deal with the pressure of failing. You have to look for potential problems, pitfalls, and dead-ends. You have to do all of this in the blink of an eye.
With adequate brain training, you can deal with all of the internal and external stimuli to bear through and let your body do its thing.
How Can You Train Your Brain?
It is hard to match the exact stimuli of a game on the practice field. While we often use sports training to mimic the in-game scenarios which can arise, it is often impossible to replicate the in-game mental states that you are going to find yourself in. For this reason, a lot of brain training takes place off of the field. When we are training the brain, we do not need to rely on in-game scenarios. If we train our brains, they can react to many scenarios.
There are many ways to train your brain as an athlete, and your coach will help you to find the best training for your specific sport, but there are some simple steps which many pro athletes take to ensure that they are in the best mental condition.
- Look for the win: Tell yourself that you are here to win. Visualize the win, and you will find that the win comes easier
- Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness in your daily life, and you will find that, when you are in a competitive situation, you will be better able to see the meaningful stimuli
- Visualize success: Visualize how you are going to win. Before your big game, play it through in your mind
- Positivity: Do not listen to the negativity around you. Instead, focus on the positivity inside. Find what makes you happy and motivates you
Brain training is an important part of becoming a pro athlete. You cannot be the best in any sport by training only your body. It does not matter how good you are at a particular sport, if you cannot hold up to a real-game situation, you are not going to be able to perform.
Adequately training your mind is going to allow you to block out the stimuli that are irrelevant and be able to see the stimuli which are needed to make a split-second decision.
If you talk to any pro athlete, it will become apparent how important brain training is. There is no athlete who does not put equal importance on training their mind as well as their body. It may take a lot of work and effort, but the good news is that anyone can train their mind. Brain training is not hard to do, but it does require a lot of time and dedication.