As a graduate in Sports Psychology, I have been supporting and coaching professional and Olympic athletes for over 15 years in many disciplines such as basketball, handball, Soccer, Golf, Skeet Olympic, cycling and even motor sport. During my years of practice, I learned that physical training, mastery of technical and tactical components, medical and nutritional monitoring are important factors for success in sport. But is it enough? Here I’ll explain why I believe that athletic success is also dependent on cognitive performance, and how this can be achieved in confinement during COVID-19.
The Hidden Challenge to Human Performance
I have been able to meet or observe many talented, promising athletes who unfortunately have not managed to rise to the highest level. For most of these athletes, they could not reach their full potential, sometimes losing their competitive form at important events, or simply making the wrong choices in the crucial moments of a match.
I came to realize that a critical factor in these challenges of competing under pressure is the cognitive dimension of human performance. This is the reason why I have chosen to specialize in visual, cognitive and motor training for over the past 5 years. Conditioning these abilities in athletes is the key to unlocking their potential.
Leveraging Cognitive Training Technologies
As an academic, I am very attentive to advances in research in the field of sports sciences. My work and intervention methodologies follow this guideline and are based on the latest scientific work and publications in training or sports performance.
My scientific reading led me to follow the work of Professor Jocelyn Faubert and his collaborators on the impacts of NeuroTracker (3D-MOT) on cognitive functions. In 2017, I acquired a professional version of NeuroTracker to assess and develop, more precisely, the perceptual-cognitive functions of my athletes. I also use Neurofeedback, the FitLight trainer, and the Senaptec Sensory Station, in parallel with my visual-attention training protocols.
I am impressed with the effectiveness of NeuroTracker for the development of the attentional capacities of my athletes. I also find NeuroTracker’s Speed Threshold scores to be an excellent marker of physical and psychological fatigue. This is particularly interesting for apply strategies to reduce the risk of injury prevalence, or even regulating the demands of mental training.
Solutions for Athletic Training During Lockdown
In France, since March 17, 2020, the country has been placed in containment and all sports competitions have been stopped. Globally speaking, this unprecedented situation poses unique risks to athletes’ psychological health and mental game-shape.
For this reason, since the start of quarantine, I have been remotely interviewing each athlete on a weekly basis. This is mainly about providing a service for listening, counselling and psychological support. But naturally, I wanted to provide support more than this.
I realized that this extremely challenging period of confinement also brought a unique opportunity for each athlete to develop the mental side of their game. Within this framework, I have been delivering remote training for my athletes with the NeuroTrackerX platform. With this they benefit from visual-attention training at home, via custom programs that I manage remotely with the NeuroTrackerX platform.
4 Benefits of Remote NeuroTracker Training
This type of distance training program is particularly helpful during COVID-19 for the following reasons.
Maintaining Training Routine
Firstly, NeuroTracker allows the athlete to have a more structured week, where there is something structured they can do to maintain their athletics abilities. This can help a lot psychologically, because it’s very easy for sports men and women feel in limbo at this time.
Between the sessions of muscular strengthening, maintenance of physical condition and training of visual-attentional skills, the weeks and the days are more rhythmic. It certainly helps to be able to pursue precise training objectives. This is essential for the athlete to be comfortable from a perspective of commitment and mindset.
‘Training on the Couch’
Secondly, this type of cognitive training from a personal computer allows the athlete to continue ‘training on the couch’. This is extra useful for team sport athletes, as the majority of their traditional training is simply impossible during confinement.
The use of the NeuroTrackerX platform during this period of ‘forced rest’ opens up interesting perspectives in terms of development and the progression of players in terms of attention. Rather than experiencing ‘game rust’, athletes can attain new levels of mental abilities, which research has shown to be directly relevant to performance on the field.
Reducing Return-to-Play Injury Risks
Thirdly, the greatest risk the athlete will face after the quarantine is over, is the threat of injury. This has been shown by numerous studies published on the subject, especially after the 2011 Lockout in the NFL. Research has shown that cognitive status can play a central role in sports injuries. For example, concussions have been shown to expose athletes to the risks ACL injuries.
Indeed, training on NeuroTracker makes it possible to maintain and develop the attentional and alertness skills of the athlete, which is essential to avoid errors of attention and awareness during recovery training. This can be relevant both from impact or receiving injuries.
Anticipating Play Before it Happens
Finally, given the fact that NeuroTracker’s 3D-Multiple Object Tracking training improves the perception of human biological movement, i.e. the ability to read and interpret information from body language (position of the body, head, orientation of the hip), it is an excellent way to reduce the risk of sports injury related to errors in reading or anticipation by the player, such as with tackling in soccer or rugby.
For the sports world, the Coronavirus has brought immense challenges, but at the same time it is has also revealed new opportunities to evolve the ways in which we can condition human performance. NeuroTracker provides a nice role model which demonstrates that home cognitive training can be both practical and useful.
Hopefully this is just the beginning, and will lead to a slew of personalized Neurotechnologies that athletes can incorporate into their overall performance programs.
About Julien Southon
Julien is a specialist in visual, cognitive and motor performance. Passionate about sport from an early age, his academic qualifications encompass biology and psychology applied to training and sports performance, health, movement, performance and motor learning. His path to performance training moved through the educational sciences, motor learning, stress and psychosocial risk, neuroscience and psychology, leading him to found Sport Your Brain. Based in France, he has worked with a wide range professional athletes and even executive leaders.
If you are interested in learning more about remote training solutions with NeuroTracker, check out our telehealth guide.