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Sports Brain Blog 3: 5 Ways To Build Plasticity For Performance, Influence and Longevity


My brain plasticity is getting better. I feel different, better, more ready for anything. I'm leaning into doing new things, learning, reading and paying full attention to what I'm doing. For many years I have created brain plasticity opportunities on my tennis court.

Windows To Subconscious

In The Morning And The Evening, I Will Lift Up My Eyes To You, Lord ~ King David

There are a few windows into your subconscious mind that you can look through to see what is cooking under the surface of your conscious mind. Every morning and every night you have two, and anytime you get coaching, you have another. Morning and evening you go through moments of Theta wave activity in your brain, and in that half dream state you have access to your subconscious mind. Those are the times you want to visualize your best success. That's when you want to tell yourself a new truth in which to act. It's a great time to rehearse the three biggest actions you will take on the day, and mentally rehearse playing a great match.

Morning and night are the best times to visualize.

The worst thing you can do is immediately pick up your phone or other device, because you will immediately leave theta, moving toward distractions. Stay away from the glowing rectangles when you arise, and some time before bed. Build in time as you wake up and go down into sleep to program yourself. Do some reading as you go in our come out of Theta.

Another window to your subconscious is coaching. In reality any type of listening can affect you. This is why it's a grave error when organizations stop listening to the people they serve. What you also need to pay attention to is your own internal resistance to the new information. It's during those moments that my greatest coaching magic happens, but that is probably the subject of a future post.

Sleep

Perfect Practice Doesn't Make Perfect. It is practice followed by a night of sleep, that leads to perfection. ~ Matthew Walker

Three of the most important things that happen when you sleep have to do with processing. Chemical and information processing are vital for sharpening your mind and performance. During REM sleep your brain sorts out the important information for the day. During deep sleep, your glymphatic system in your brain dumps the waste that might otherwise accumulate, leaving you with brain fog and memory issues. From there, deep sleep is also when a selective amount of information is stored in long term memory, making it available for recall. Building in memory means better learning, but bad sleep means sabotaging your own ability to change and grow.

Paying Full Attention

Never Stop Questioning. ~ Albert Einstein

One of the discoveries about the brain that hasn't been often shared is that brain plasticity improves as people get fully engrossed in the task at hand. Robert Lansdorp, the legendary coach who trained 5 world number one players, preaches discipline. He is a curmudgeon and he is certainly not for everyone, but his requirement that players pay full attention is part of his secret sauce. Having sat with him at his home, made videos with him, and observed him coaching, it seems like the strongest effect he has on people. One of his favorite stories is about speaking at a USPTA conference with over 100 certified tennis professionals in attendance. He purposely taught something that was physically impossible, as in not possible because of the laws of physics. He continued on, and finally a coach from Germany raised his hand to ask how this was possible. Robert was showing how to hit a forehand with the racquet angled downward while using a "windshield wiper" stroke. Coach Lansdorp then congratulated the one coach, while chiding everyone else for not paying attention, thinking for themselves or asking a question. They dumbly followed along while he taught something false. He then explained that he sees coaches in his area teaching that way. So, stop, pay attention and try to find a way to do everything in the best possible way and don't blindly follow experts.

Success, Challenge, Succeed

Stroke survivors now have hope because of a therapy that challenges them to relearn old behaviors using the the part of body effected by the brain damage. They are given a challenging task, something doable, but difficult. Once they are successful, the challenge level is increased. Many have made full recoveries. Healthy people can learn from this, taking on new challenges. It's misguided to train in specificity for too long with one thing, because a healthier brain is better able to do more things. It's true that there is a time on task element to growing brain plasticity, but more time should be spent on reaction time, footwork patterns, understanding strategy, learning how to monitor internal states of being and many other facets of success, rather than simply working on forehands, backhand, serves and other techniques. Take the challenge to learn something new outside of your comfort zone.

Do New Things

Read, go on hikes, climb trees, walk narrow ledges, spend time with new friends, go to a place you have never been, learn to cook a new dish, take a class on a subject that interests you. Lately I'm really digging into Neuroscience and practicing neuroplasticity exercises. I'm also reading a biography of Mark Twain, who was a very complicated man, and deeply entwined in the voice of this nation. I want to understand how he has influenced me and us. I want to know the person, rather than what people say about him. Recently I read Frankenstein: a modern Prometheus? by Mary Shelley, written 200 years ago, because I realized I didn't really know the story, even though I often refer to Frankenstein's Monster. It turns out the monster is the most logical and reasonable character in the story. So, find those seminal works that you know you need to know to deepen your understanding of things. You will be better at your sport, more fun to be around, have better longevity and influence. Learn new physical skills that improve balance, dexterity and ability to problem solve or hit targets. Above all else, learn the moral lessons from ancient and new wisdom to make the world a better place for you, family, friends and your sport. Your brain will love you for it.


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Bill Patton has been in the Sports Coaching Industry for over 30 years, and has mastered his craft. He currently works with CEOs of Start Ups, High Ranking Military Leaders, The Winning Summit, Tennis Innovation Week, and BrainSports.Coach a new site that delivers cutting edge brain research. Bill’s mission is to give you the competitive edge by delivering fundamental, non-conventional, counter-intuitive, nuanced skills to take your game, coaching, learning and parenting to a new level. The main objectives of this blog is to give the very latest, most ignored, and opposing views of conventional wisdom, so that you won’t have to make the mistakes Bill formerly made in using his own supercomputer. Much has been about becoming 1% better, and Coach Patton is dedicated to his own constant improvement and yours. Get a FREE 20 minute Sports Brain Consultation.

Bill is the author of 12 books, formerly a certified tennis teaching professional for over 25 years, before now settling on the title Sports Neuroscientist. He has a B.S. Industrial Psychology, and written a Masters Thesis in Education.

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