“Elite Athletes Get their Heads in the Game”


We’ve seen this scene daily on Sports Center..A star athlete stands at the free throw line.  The shot must be made or else the team loses, he lets the ball fly and clank the shot goes off the back of the rim. He choked the fans cry out.

The next highlight comes up and we see a player running the ball down the floor with seconds left on the clock   Out of the corner of his eye he finds the open player open just beyond the 3 point arc and swish the ball goes through.  We call this player a hero, one who comes through when the money is on the line.

While certainly great physical prowess is found in all athletes, what separates the hero from the goat is found in the brain.  By examining  brain processes  lead  to excellence in sports as well as what goes wrong when atheletes blow it in the big games scientists think they can enhance training techniques and improve performance under pressure.  In an article written by Nick Bascom in the January 14, 2012 edition of science news– “Brainy Ball Players”, found in the January 14, 2012 edition of Science News, Bascom contends the brain plays a huge part.  In pressure situations the performer must be able to block out all other distractions and let the brain sort out the relevant from the irrelevant physical cues.   Of course once the brain gets the message, the body still has to react appropriately.

Stress can play a large role in anyones life.  How a person reacts to the situation is pivotal to sucess

The study asserts atheletes might fail or choke when it matters the most because of the stress of situation or worries from outside life seeps in.  Witness the theory that golfer Tiger Woods struggles as he has tried to regain form following injury and personal problems.   More than one of Woods’ peers has suggested that he has become too worried about the mechanics of his swing and he should drop his swing coach and just go play golf.

In her book Choke, Sian Beilock believes choke prevention techniques derived from her sports research could also give student an edge at exam time, or help the job seeker ace that job interview. When Yogi Berra once stated that he, ” could not hit and think at the same time.”   Whether competing on the field, the classroom, or on the job, recent discoveries suggest that the key to living up to your potential is to train your brain well, and keep calm and focused.  I think that the 90’s pop group En Vogue said it best: “Free your mind, the rest will follow.”