How brain training helps athletes better deal with stress, improving performance

How brain training helps athletes better deal with stress, improving performance

Top athletes often have to perform under tremendous pressure. To deal with this, clubs are increasingly using so-called “brain training” for players. Eindhoven, among others, tests youth. “It helps increase athletic performance.”

“When stress rises, people often switch to a ‘thinking mode’. Then at some point they are no longer performing,” says sports psychologist and sports scientist Avke van de Woo. So you see many opportunities for brain training. This training motivates athletes to learn how to handle stress well.

How does brain training work

How exactly does this brain training work? There are several techniques for this. For example, PSV football club has young players training in a gym in a smaller and smaller space. This increases the importance of speed of thought and action. To this end, the football club works with students from the Eindhoven University of Technology.

According to Van de Wouw, there are more forms of training for the brain. Distinguish between implicit and explicit brain training.

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Play a match in mind

The implicit form of the match is visualized in advance. According to Van de Wouw, this technique is used by gymnasts like Epke Zonderland, among others.

“You play the game in your mind. That way you know exactly what exercise you are going to do and when. You imagine, as it were, how you want the game to go. This also happens with penalty kicks, for example,” he explains.

Dealing with different situations

According to Van de Wouw, explicit form is learning to deal with different situations. “If you’re a soccer player, for example, it’s crazy to suddenly start playing with a very small ball.”

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But she thinks that’s what’s important. “Because that’s how you challenge your mind.”

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convinced of the effect

So reducing space, as PSV does, is suitable for this type of brain training. Van de Wu is convinced of the effect. “If you go through all the scenarios beforehand and know beforehand what you would do in certain situations, you can handle stress more easily,” she explains.

“It also provides more self-confidence and increases athletic performance. Because if it gets too exciting on the court, it doesn’t work on performance.”

for all players

Although some athletes are more sensitive to stress than others, brain training helps all players. “They are also athletes who can handle pressure well,” Van de Wouw says. Because brain training also helps in making the right decisions.

“You demand a lot from the brain under different and changing conditions. In sports you have to be in good shape, but you also have to make good decisions during the performance and be able to carry them out well.”

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“Not getting there early enough”

You can’t get there early enough, says Van de Woo. “If you start brain training at a young age, it can be beneficial for the athlete.”

According to her, many children daydream while playing sports. “By training the brain you can therefore give them more control.”

Part of the sport

Ideas are also a big part of sports. If you teach children early on to play scenarios in their heads through brain training, they will have more control over that later.

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“Then it gets a little less weird. Because in the end it’s just part of it for a great athlete.”

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