The Performance Loop
When basketball players are on the court, they are faced with multiple situations that require cognitive processing and decision making. This process is called the Performance Loop. What does the Performance Loop consist of?
- Vision: First, the eye captures raw visual information on the retina, which is transmitted to the visual processing center of the brain.
- Perception: The brain then processes the incoming raw data, separating the most important visual cues from distractors and unnecessary information.
- Cognition: Once the incoming information is prioritized, the brain can now evaluate the situation and consider potential options. In this decision-making process, the brain relies on short- and long-term memory as well previous experience to determine the best possible course of action.
- Execution: This step represents the player’s physical ability. Most practice time focuses on this part, with skill-based exercises. The result is usually sharpened skills, but decision-making may not have improved.
The Elite vs. The Good
When considering the very elite in the history of basketball, two players come to mind; Michael Jordan, and the recently-retired Kobe Bryant. Although their execution put them miles ahead of most, their unique ability to read the play and understand the situation made them the all-time best.
Visual Tracking Speed – A Predictor of Performance?
In an independent study, visual tracking speed was measured with Neurotracker and correlated with basketball-specific performance (assists, turnovers, assist-to-turnover ratio, steals). Relationships were most likely present, based on a statistically significant result, between visual tracking speed and assists, steals, and assist-to-turnover ratio.
This study and its findings have immense potential for improving performance in basketball. The study indicates that it is possible for a program that improves visual tracking speed to have a positive impact on in-game performance. This is called far-transfer, which is performing a training program void of a sports context but able to transfer results to the field. In addition, the study might allow scouts to have an additional piece of information that can help them choose better players for specific positions, because the study showed that backcourt players were very likely to outperform frontcourt players at visual tracking speed.
Perceptual-Cognitive Training – The Future of Sports Training?
Perceptual-cognitive training, like NeuroTracker, is used by elite organizations like Manchester United, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Montreal Impact. Studies have shown potential far-transfer relationships between NeuroTracker and soccer, in addition to basketball. Long gone are the days of exclusively training on-court. Becoming the next elite athlete is now an all-inclusive program that combines on-court training, off-court physical training, and, more recently, cognitive training. For years, there have been famous sports “busts”, players who showed great execution ability in lower leagues, but failed when they made it to the next level. Perceptual-cognitive training could give them a greater chance of succeeding.
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