In addition to alleviating psychological symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression) and sports related injuries (e.g., concussions, migraines, muscle tension) that can interfere with sports performance, neurofeedback training can improve various areas necessary for peak performance: Relaxation, Focus, Agility and Timing (Winning with Sports, 2008), as well as maintaining and/or enhancing Motivation (Wilson, Peper, & Moss, 2006). Pressure to perform can be intrinsic or extrinsic, but whatever the cause, pressure can have damaging effects if the athlete is unable to effectively manage it. Unexpected mistakes as a result of unmanaged pressure can be costly during competition for the athlete or the team as a whole (Albright, 2010). With training, an athlete can become more comfortable performing in high pressure situations without buckling or choking (Winning with Sports, 2008). This training becomes essential especially for those athletes in specialty positions/sports. Coupled with relaxation, training to improve focus further helps an athlete to eliminate distractions from opponents, the crowd, and/or self talk that can inhibit optimal performance. Many times athletes can be their own worst enemy; focusing on past failures removes the athlete’s confidence, setting them up to fail as long as they remain unfocused and self-criticizing (Wilson et al., 2006; Winning with Sports, 2008).
“Neurofeedback tries to block this downward spiral of self-destructive doubting. When it works, it helps the player find ‘the zone’ and stay in it” (Max, n.d., para. 3). Finally, agility and timing also become an important factor for peak performance (Winning with Sports, 2008). An athlete already has the skill to compete in his/her chosen sport while meeting the demands of his/her position, but he/she needs to fine tune their skills in order to be effective on a consistent basis. Split-second decisions become easier through training, and the athlete becomes better able to perform as the movements become automatic.
Sports psychologists have been around for many years, helping athletes through techniques such as visualization, hypnosis, and imagery. However, neurofeedback goes a step further by retraining the brain for optimal performance (Albright, 2010). Many sports teams around the world are beginning to turn to neurofeedback in order to become more successful on the playing field. In 2006, the Italian soccer team received neurofeedback training and when they won the World Cup, they attributed their win to that very training (Wilson et al., 2006). The Canadian free ski team also used neurofeedback to reach peak performance levels in the 2010 winter Olympics (Starkman, 2009), while the Vancouver Canucks turned to the same training in their race for the Stanley Cup in 2011 (Vancouver Canucks, 2011). In addition to the successful Italian soccer team and Canadian skiers and hockey players, the tennis champion, Mary Pierce, and Olympic gold medalist skier, Hermann Maier have spoken in support of neurofeedback training (Max, n.d.).
Neurofeedback is helping athletes to gain the competitive edge over their opponents. Allowing athletes to reach their optimal mental and physical state necessary to be successful on the field, training is an investment in their career – in themselves.
Albright, C. (2010). How Neurofeedback Therapy Can Help Athletes Reach Peak Performance Levels. Retrieved on September 9, 2011 from: http://ezinearticles.com/?How-Neurofeedback-Therapy-Can-Help-Athletes-Reach-Peak-Performance-Levels&id=3589814
Hammond, D.C. (2007). Neurofeedback for the Enhancement of Athletic Performance and Physical Balance. The Journal of the American Board of Sports Psychology, 1.
Max, D.T. (n.d.). Wired for Victory. Can a bunch of electrodes and a computer screen help you swim faster, sink your putts, and swish your free throws? Retrieved on September 9, 2011 from: mensvogue.com
Starkman, R. (2009). Athletes Wired for Success. Retrieved on September 19, 2011 from: http://www.thoughttechnology.com/olympic.htm
Wilson, V., Peper, E., & Moss, D. (2006). “The Mind Room: in Italian Soccer Training: The Use of Biofeedback and Neurofeedback for Optimum Performance”: Biofeedback, 34 (3), 79-81.
Winning with Sports Neurofeedback Training. 2008. Retrieved on September 9, 2011 from: http://moonviewsanctuary.com/optimal-peak-performance/sports-neurofeedback-training.html
Vancouver Canucks Race to the Stanley cup- Is it all in their Minds? 2011. Retrieved on September 19, 2011 from http://bio-medical.com/news/2011/06/vancouver-canucks-race-to-the-stanley-cup-is-it-all-in-their-minds/