As an athlete chances are you have heard this comment from your coaches, “the game is 90% mental and 10% physical”. For those seeking elite sports performance wise words have been spoken. The problem is that most athletes spend 100% of their time focusing on the tactical and physical aspects related to their sport. Being a top-level athlete puts pressure not just on the body, but also the brain making training of this area just as important to focus on, if not more so, as your training your body.
So why does focusing on your brain translate into better performance? Keeping our brain in the game allows us to see what is “under the hood” and gain detail about an athlete’s brain function. Often times, athletes are unaware of the cognitive barriers that hinder their performance, so when we have the awareness into the strengths and weaknesses of an individual’s cognitive skills we can focus on developing them. Just like the muscles in our bodies, athletes have the ability to train and strengthen their brains thanks to neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to change, adapt and make new connections throughout life.
A well trained brain helps athletes meet their athletic potential by increasing cognitive skills such as focus and attention, problem solving, reaction time and visual processing. Athletes are also able to achieve their performance goals by improving their motor skills and eliminating performance anxiety, perfectionism, fear of failure and other forms of psychological distress.
With a little help from neuroscience, the relationship between cognitive functioning and improved sports performance is now a key area for pro-athletes, coaches and scouts. Don’t forget to keep your brain in the game!
Dr Adriene Berkeley, DPsych, CPsychol, RSci
Chartered Psychologist & Registered Neuroscientist
Founder of PsyNeu – A psychology and neuroscience based mental health practice