Using cognitive neuroscience to measure the intangibles of Sport
The interface between cognitive science and athletic performance is one of the next great frontiers of sport. Questions about why and how an athlete "plays faster" than he runs, has a "nose for the ball," "sniffs out a play," and "sees the field" can now be answered by measuring very specific cognitive skills in the athlete. The SportsSense evaluation adapts some of the most researched cognitive processes and measurement tools in science to evaluate a comprehensive set of cognitive skills athletes' brains must perform during play. For example, SportsSense quantifies an athlete's skill at detecting, tracking, and focusing visual information in a chaotic visual environment, at learning and translating what is seen into rapid action decisions, at rapidly improvising reactions when situations change suddenly, and at controlling impulsive reactions to misdirection and distraction. The SportsSense evaluation provides precise measures of these processes that can be used for (1) recruitment/drafting, (2) discovering why players make certain mental mistakes or why they make exceptional decisions that others can't, (3) providing very specific cognitive skills for coaching, training, and drill work, (4) monitoring changes in on-field decision-making and performance due to injury or age, (5) determining which players have the cognitive skill set that is ideal for specific situations on the field or on the court.
Recent News and recognition
Click here for a recent press release about SportsSense and Lipscomb University baseball
Cognition...the missing link in player evaluation
Data from the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective suggested that only 23% of the variance related to NFL draft pick success is attributable to physical attributes. This means that evaluating a player's speed, agility, and strength accounts for less than 25% of an athlete's potential for success in the NFL. Few would disagree that a key factor in the unexplained 75% is the football player's skill at adapting cognitively to the speed, complexity, and dynamic nature of the NFL game. The player's body does what his brain tell it to do. Evaluating the cognitive skills required on the field provides an opportunity to determine an athlete's potential for adapting and excelling at the highest level and identifying which cognitive skills would benefit from targeted training to unlock a player's full physical and cognitive potential.
SportsSense Example: measuring Gridiron cognition
On the gridiron, a player's brain must process chaotic and dynamic visual information and execute decisions and reactions in fractions of a second. The typical college or professional football play lasts 3 to 7 seconds, but athletes make several sub-second decisions throughout the play. The video below highlights some of the decisions that a wide receiver makes during a quick receiver screen play. The video is GoPro footage of Brandin Cooks courtesy of Oregon State Football YouTube channel (turn up the audio to hear the breakdown of decision processes). The SportsSense evaluation isolates and measures these and other core cognitive skills required on the gridiron.
What do the evaluation results look like?
The results of the SportsSense evaluation include an overall SportsSense Index score that combines each player's performance across all measures for that sport and three specific cognitive skill set scores. The first skill set combines several measures to evaluate an athlete's skills at processing dynamic visual information. A second skill set focuses on several measures that evaluate an athlete's recognition skills that are critical for translating what he or she sees into action decisions. A third skill set uses several measures to evaluate an athlete's skills at controlling his or her reactions and motor impulses. In addition to a graphical presentation of the these key scores, teams can order a drill down report on each player that provides detailed analysis of the player's performance on each measure, patterns of high cognitive skills and areas for development and training, and a description of how performance on each measure translates to the field or court. A team report is also provided that allows comparison of player performances by position. A site visit is provided after the evaluation to meet with coaches and staff to review results, discuss player profiles, and discuss strategies for using the evaluation to develop and adapt drill work to enhance players' cognitive performance.
How does sportssense help Teams and coaches?
Immediate benefits for teams, coaches, and athletes:
- Identify the fastest and most accurate decision-makers on the field or on the court.
- Determine each player's unique cognitive skills and challenges to enhance coaching, drill work, and utilizing players in the best situations.
- Determine a player's pre-game and in-game learning potential.
- Design practice/drills targeting specific cognitive demands for the athlete's position.
- Anticipate and understand why a player makes certain mental mistakes.
Long term benefits for teams and coaches:
- Develop a database to compare a team's cognitive skills from year to year and from position to position.
- Recruit athletes with specific cognitive profiles that best fit into team play/schemes.
- Build cognitive and physical position profiles that guide decisions about recruiting or playing a player with modest speed but who anticipates and thinks fast versus a player who fast speed but who is indecisive and slow to make decisions.
- Develop new drills that focus on specific cognitive skill development that can be implemented year in and year out with players needing extra work.
- Monitor changes in on-field cognitive skills over the season, with age, and after injury.
sportssense evaluates unique cognitive skills for these sports:
High school, collegiate, and professional sports:
How long does the evaluation take?
The SportsSense evaluation takes approximately 45 minutes per player to complete the entire suite of state-of-the-art cognitive measures. The evaluation is administered on our precision computer systems. Please send an email to learn more about the evaluation or to schedule a demonstration of the evaluation system.