Reward-based training. We get it. Kids, dogs, any human or animal with intelligence responds to positive results. We also understand habits, good, bad or otherwise. And mood swings, and sudden boredom! What we don’t understand is why we feel good one moment, and for no apparent reason, not so much the next.
The answer to all lies in our brain’s dependency on the mood-altering chemicals it produces, as well as its plasticity; the ability to change. Our mental state and physical performance changes accordingly.
Skepticism may creep in when it comes to mind over matter. Ironically, we are wired to believe things we can see and question those we cannot. Yet, things are happening in our minds all the time, particularly in the subconscious, that are influenced from within and without.
Consider sports. An athlete who has a great game is “In the zone.” A bad performance? “He didn’t have his head in the game!”
We acknowledge the requisite mental preparation.
Take a specific example. When Kirk Cousins graduated Michigan State in 2011, he held all the passing records and ranked in the Big Ten’s all-time Top 10 in completion percentage. That was also the year he began working with Dr. Tim Royer and the Grand Rapids-based Neurocore Brain Performance Centers.
Migraines are 3 times more prevalent in women than in men! If you’re a migraine sufferer, give us a call – maybe our program can help. pic.twitter.com/j3zw5PCql2
— Neurocore (@neurocore) May 19, 2018
Neurocore had only been around for about 10 years, founded in 2004 by Dr. Royer primarily to help children and adults with attention-deficit, concentration and sleep disorders. It now has locations across Michigan and in Florida. Everyone, regardless of their mental health status, has specific needs that can be remedied with the brain function optimization Neurocore offers. What looks to be major potential in the athletic world is just being tapped.
It was no surprise Cousins was selected in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He left Michigan to play for the Washington Redskins, and all seemed right with his world. His chance to prove himself on the main stage came when he filled in for the injured starting quarterback.
In the first game, he threw 10 passes. Nine were intercepted. Doubtless he could say what happened on those plays, because the problem was a brain in panic mode instead of calm and focused.
More defeats put him into a downward cycle of deteriorating play. By mid-October, he was benched, but his coaches’ dismissal of him was nothing compared to his disappointment in himself. He spent that down time working on his game and figuring out what he needed to work on. Even while traveling, he practiced, showing up at high schools where young receivers were thrilled to help him out. It was in that atmosphere, where he was relaxed and enjoying mentoring the teenagers, that he threw consistently.
By February, he was working with Dr. Royer on an intense training plan to teach his brain to reach that sweet spot and stay in the zone. That requires relaxing the conscious mind and allowing the subconscious, where muscle memory lives, to take over.
It began with an assessment that showed Cousins’ brain was basically always in overdrive. It was producing adrenaline and other hormones even when he didn’t need them. His was a textbook case of Royer’s assertion that the most important work he does is helping athletes recover from the mind and bodily stresses of competition. It becomes a matter of overall health.
Take the Portland Trail Blazers. Their training facility includes the “Brain Room,” considered just as important as any other workout room in the place. Regular visits are part of every team member’s fitness regimen, from game preparation to bringing the brain into a slower activity rate after competition.
“We start recovery the moment the buzzer sounds and the game is over,” Dr. Royer said. “These elite athletes aren’t just strong physically, they’re also very strong mentally. And they’re going to perform no matter how much pressure you put them under.”
They do the same thing Cousins and anyone can do with Neurocore’s innovative biofeedback program.
The brain trainee watches a movie, while their brain’s electrical activity is not just monitored, but fed to software that controls the DVD player.
“When the player is focused and calm, the DVD will play. If the player starts to think about too many things, the DVD will stop instantaneously in relation to what his brain is doing,” Dr. Royer explained. “In 30 minutes, we can do over 2,000 reinforcements to the brain so that your body and brain can focus and recover at the highest level possible.”
Dr. Royer works closely with the team’s Director of Player Health and Performance, Dr. Chris Stackpole.
“We will be able to teach them, this is what it feels like to be overworked, this is what it feels like to be too distracted,” Dr. Stackpole said. “All those little aspects will help them to figure out what it takes to be at the ideal state more times than not.”
By “figure out,” he refers to the brain making these adjustments at subconscious levels. Working out was never so effortless.
For the team, brain training has corresponded with a rise out of a pretty bad slump. They have been consistently making into the playoffs.
His pre-season showing shortly after starting his ramped-up brain training was so impressive, he was named starting quarterback. He topped 4,000 passing yards for three consecutive seasons, putting him in a league of only 11 NFL quarterbacks to have ever accomplished that amazing feat.
In 2018, he signed a 3-year, $84 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings, the reigning NFC championship team.
Both Cousins and Royer are convinced brain training is the next best thing in the world of professional sports, where only the truly exceptional rise to the top.
“Certainly, my on-field performance can correlate with my Neurocore work to some degree,” Cousins said. “I’ve found being able to maximize the mental and emotional side to athletics, in turn, helps to maximize the physical.
Find out more about Neurocore Brain Training Centers by following them on Facebook.