My Top Four Sports Performance Bloggers

I read just about everything I can on sports psychology and the neuroscientific underpinnings of why athletes succeed and fail because of the way their brains are wired. I’ve listed four of my favorite resources. Add a comment if there are others that we all should be reading. Ross Tucker & Jonathan Dugas    @scienceofsport These guys are athletes, PhDs and have created a fantastic site that focuses on the elements of athletic performance. Academic studies are wordy, evasive and full

Who is better? The Natural or The Hard Worker?

You’ve seen them. The girl who was handed a bat for the first time and smacked the first pitch over the left fielder’s head. The kid in high school who wandered over, still wearing his school uniform, picked up a javelin and casually threw it 15 feet further than everyone else. We talk about them with one part awe, one part jealousy, one part hoping for our own ego’s sake that it was a lucky shot and they couldn’t do

Are we close to a breakthrough for training the athletic brain?

I think we are circling around something significant in training athletic performance. It’s not a breakthrough physical training technique; it’s emerging from a number of stories and lectures on training the athletic brain. Jonah Lehrer discussed the possibility in his April ESPN the Magazine article. Jonah nails it, as he usually does, by labeling the Wonderlic test for NFL hopefuls as a “completely wrong” way of evaluating talent. He opens up the question: how SHOULD talent be evaluated? And developed?

On Being an Expert: Are you an Exploiter? Or an Explorer?

You become an expert by digging more deeply into your discipline than anyone around you. It could be chess. Or playing the piano. Or medieval banquet  artifacts. Or becoming a great manager. Or software developer. Or tennis player. It could be anything, but what you did was spend thousands of hours focused on your specific discipline. It’s such a curious thing to do, to apply yourself so diligently when there are so many other interesting things to do, to read,

Do you love to practice?

If I want to be an expert performer and I’m just starting out, I’m looking up at 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. Dr. Anders Ericsson has shown us in his research that it’s going to take me about nine to ten years of applying myself, four hours a day, five days a week for about a decade to reach the elite level. Phew. That sounds overwhelming and not an appealing way to spend what little free time I have. This

Can you trust your intuition?

Image via Wikipedia There are two characteristics that are basic to experts, according to many separate studies, books and commentaries. The first is, over time (10,000 hours?) experts build up a huge database of patterns in their memory that allows them to predict what’s going to happen next with a lot more accuracy than the rest of us non-experts. It’s like being able to tell the future. With all these patterns logged in the brain, and you can call it

Why are we motivated?

Athletes, artists, dancers, musicians, chess players and surgeons (and pretty much anyone who strives for mastery) put in an enormous amount of time and effort to become an expert. In my last post, I referenced the 10,000 hour threshold, which works out to about 9-10 years of solid practice. That’s a really long time.   I just watched Nancy Etcoff presenting at the 2004 TED, her topic was “The surprising science of happiness”. Not surprisingly, she talks about what makes

It’s more than 10,000 hours, sorry.

So much has been written about putting in 10,000 hours to become an expert. Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code and Matthew Syed in Bounce are recent (and really, very good) books to cover Anders Ericsson’s original research. It’s a great maxim that sticks in your mind: put in the hours and you’ll inevitably emerge an expert in your sport, in chess or playing the piano. It’s been proven, right? So how hard can that be?

The Fifth Set is Tricky

I’ve found myself at 4-4 in the final set and could barely hold my racket, so unnerved about making the critical mistake that would cost me the match. I was so physically and mentally wound up that I looked anywhere for relief to escape the incredible stress I’d put on myself. I’d take huge swings at the ball or simply fold, two very effective ways to bring the match to a quick end, I discovered. Image via Wikipedia Compare my

Choking: You are what you think

Sian Beilock posted an interesting commentary on what’s going on in the brain when you’re choking. Dwelling on a negative outcome actually shows up in an fMRI brainscan: your flight or fight amygdala lights up and your motor controls drops. So you can’t run as fast, make the delicate chip shot or get a damn first serve in. You give up unconsciously. On the flip side, focusing on a great outcome, the brain doesn’t pre-emptively hit the panic button and

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