Pushing the Limits with Mental Training
In modern sports serious athletes are willing to go to the Nth degree to improve their physical performance to gain an edge of just 1%. At Miller Consulting, we believe that cognitive abilities and mental skills training are key components to reaching the next level. It’s not simply being strong physically but being strong mentally that leads to success. This feature will introduce how we leverage NeuroTracker to push the limits of sports performance and benefit non-athletes.
Going ‘All In’
Our goal is to try to help as many individuals as we can, and the philosophy we try to instill in our clients is developing the mentality of being “all in” while working on their mental training to really reap the benefits. We always ask, ‘Where do you want take your current skills?’, and we figure out the best plan for the individual in question.
With the tools available today, everyone has the potential to actualize their potential cognitively. We are aware of a handful of selected neurotechnologies like Fit Light, Visual Edge, Dynavision, Mendi, but the core of our assessment and conditioning is centered around NeuroTracker. We’ve believed in this tool for years and really see all the benefits it has to offer.
Training Athletic Performance
Our work has been focused on athletes and student-athletes. In particular, we work with a lot of players in team sports, partly due to their popularity, but largely because of their cognitive and mental demands on vision, situational awareness and complex decision-making.
Surprisingly, we see impressive differences from one athlete to the next through their NeuroTracker baselines. These scores are measured in Speed Thresholds, so from the scores of each session we get a nice marker to see where an individual is at cognitively. This also helps us determine the optimal training program moving forward.
For example, we sometimes have athletes whose scores are under 1.0 speed – which is the equivalent of tracking multiple objects moving at less than 68cm/second. At the other end of the spectrum, players can consistently achieve around 3.0 speed, which is a significant difference.
Pushing the Comfort Zone
Once an athlete has reached a certain level, we adjust the program to include progressively more complex dual-tasks while completing a NeuroTracker session. For instance, for a hockey player, we start with standing and introducing them to holding their stick and just being in position. It’s significantly more difficult at first, but they adapt quickly. Then we get more technical with drills like stick handling without looking at the puck.
NeuroTracker combined with Optic Flow training
For basketball players, we like to integrate skills like dribbling, jab steps, and triple threat positions. However, this methodology is flexible, so we might use a purely perceptual-task like Optic Flow to train motion processing skills needed in fast-paced competition. Or alternatively, we can add a physical component like strength work which can increase resilience to the cognitive effects of physical stress.
Whatever the approach, the focus is always on taking each athlete outside of their comfort zone. This is the main design of NeuroTracker even without dual tasks, Optic Flow, or sport specific training programs. In fact, some athletes just get obsessed with their chart and stay focused on raising their speed thresholds as high as possible. If NeuroTracker can train our users’ competitivity, we are not against that!
Alternative Sports Rehab
With the pressures of today’s ultra-competitive sports, injuries are inevitable. At the outset of a prolonged injury, an athlete worries about the loss of physical fitness and muscle atrophy. However, the main concern remains game sharpness and readiness. Although, with the recent breakthrough in cognitive training, this is exactly where mental training should be implemented into a athletes’ rehabilitation. Mental training can make a huge difference overtime.
One of our success stories happened with a basketball player. He knew he needed to take several months off and that he was going to be unable to train for a whole summer. He came to work with us at the outset. After a few months on the platform, instead of the typical feeling of struggling to keep up with the game mentally, he found that his vision on the court had improved beyond his peak fitness levels. He was more aware of the game action with more attention to details and was reacting to opponents faster. He’s now been using NeuroTracker religiously with MILLER Consulting for the past two years.
Additionally, there are athletes struggling with the after-effects of concussions. They’ve been through all their rehab with osteopaths, physios and so on in hope to be cleared for return-to-play. Once they are clear to return, most of them feel like they're still not where they used to be. It takes them much more time to process information, they’re lacking confidence, and generally they just feel desperate to get back to where they were.
With these athletes we start very low, with just one ball tracking for four seconds (1T 4S), then when ready, we move to two targets for six seconds (2T 6S), and upwards until they are getting decent speed thresholds at 4 targets tracking over 8 seconds. We trained boxers in similar situations, and they really notice the difference after just a few weeks on the platform.
We’re very interested in the benefits of cognitive training for non-athletes. One population we are currently working with is with older adults and the elderly. Both populations feel like they are less able to do what they used to do in their day-to-day activities, such as driving or just reading speed.
The challenge here is that cognitive decline typically continues to progress with age. More so if the effects lead to being less active and the brain is just getting less overall stimulation. Since several research studies have solidified the benefits of NeuroTracker in measuring and improving driving skills for older populations, we feel like there is a lot to offer.
Another more specific population we are aiming to start working with is a group of post-pregnancy mothers with the help of Julie Bertrand at Jab Santé. There’s little awareness of the challenges mothers face in the first six months, but they are significant.
Following the pregnancy there is a risk of depression, the sudden adjustment to a new lifestyle, stress, fatigue, and loss of sleep. This is followed by the pressures of returning to work, with little sympathy in a typical male dominated workplace. We’re really hoping mental training can make a difference here and increase resilience to all these factors.
Lastly, we’re keen to introduce our training to elementary school students. qEEG brain mapping research with NeuroTracker indicates that the training sustainably boosts neuroplasticity, which represents a significant feature in our learning process. If we can improve a young child’s fundamental learning capacities at a young age, this could have life positive effects on their whole learning trajectory.
From our experience so far, young kids love NeuroTracker like it’s a game, they understand it, and they’re motivated to do well at it. Research has also demonstrated that it’s well suited for children at any intellectual level, and it significantly improves their attention. A current study with McGill University is investigating if it can directly enhance math and language abilities.
We’ve known about NeuroTracker for more than 10 years already, it represents a platform that we have used in the past during our sport career. Back then, pretty much only the world’s top tier sports teams had access to it. Now it’s affordable and the new remote training platform through NeuroTrackerX has been a game changer for accessibility, opening to different populations to work with and much more.
One of our goals is to create a mental training community without boundaries, so people can share their path to improvement and support each other along this journey.
We’re genuinely excited about the direction we are taking with cognitive training and are currently developing a new mental training room where athletes will be able to sharpen their cognitive abilities. We are working alongside Dr. Jean-Michel Pelletier (www.psysportif.com), a renowned sport psychologist and an expert in sports trauma. There we’ll look toexpand our neurotechnologies with tools like EEG brain mapping, Neurofeedback, and a lot more!