|The Mental Part of the Game
It is generally agreed that the mental part of any sporting activity is a very important part of the game. Good thinking skills help at any level of sports from just beginning to the professional level. However, at the collegiate level and especially at the professional level it is even more important because often the physical abilities between athletes are very minor and it is the way the athletes think and use good judgment that will make the biggest differences. In fact, the better your mental skills are, the better your physical skills. How you think at a very basic level can have a profound effect on maximizing your physical skills.
Up to now coaches could only guess at how to improve these basic mental skills, but the American Institute of Learning and Cognitive Development has discovered an approach to improving thinking skills that had been developed in Australia. We have been trained in this approach and have brought it to the United States. We originally brought it here to improve academic and business skills, but we have found it has great application in sports. The developer of the approach told us it had applications in sports, but we had not thought much about it until one of the partners within AILCD, after improving some of his thinking skills, cut twelve strokes off his golf game while actually playing less golf. This woke us up to the opportunities in sports that this approach had. Up to this date we have only worked with amateur athletes. They all have stated that this approach has improved their games. We have worked with a former professional baseball player who played in the major leagues for fifteen years. We worked with him to help him reach greater goals and to be more efficient in his business. It helped him there tremendously and he has stated that he wished he had this training when he was playing baseball as he felt it would have helped him be even better in his playing days. In Australia, a coach trained in this approach has helped keep the Canterberry Bulldogs, a world class rugby team, at the top of their league for twenty years by continually developing “B” players into “A” players and “A players” in world class players.
The way we think can be divided into three different levels of cognition. The first level is made up of basic thinking skills or functional skills that we develop with our parents’ interaction from the time of our birth to the time we start school. The second level of cognition is made up of procedural skills that we develop in school such as reading and writing. These skills are dependent of the efficient development of the functional skills. The final level of cognition is the conceptual level of thinking, where we combine ideas into concepts that gives us our beliefs about ourselves and the world. This level of cognition is directly impacted by the efficiency of the functional skills as well. Inefficiencies in the basic thinking skills impacts our effectiveness in every facet of life, including sports.
Some of the basic thinking skills that have a direct impact on sports are shape recognition, direction and orientation, classification and categorization, environmental acuity, field discrimination, analysis and synthesis, pattern recognition, abstract sequencing, motor integration and others. If any of these skills are inefficient, it could have a big affect on an athlete’s performance. How well we recognize things, how well we process them, how well we strategize and how well we execute has everything to do with the efficiency or inefficiency of these basic or functional cognitive skills.
At the American Institute of Learning and Cognitive Development we have successfully been applying our approach to helping poor students become great students, businesses become far more successful and families relate far better. We even have helped brain injured clients recover lost skills. We are currently working with the United States Marine Corps to help them train their Marines in how to recognize and avoid roadside bombs and snipers.
We are interested in working with professional and collegiate athletes and their coaching staffs to improve performances by improving the thinking skills of their athletes. The results will occur both on and off the field as their athletes become better critical thinkers.