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Cognitive Training | Episode 1: Improve your Reaction Time

Cognitive Training - The Modern Approach to Tennis Training?

Now, this takes brain training to a whole other stratosphere. Cognitive training is more than just a few simple and repetitive reflex drills. Advanced tennis coaching techniques and innovative modern-day training philosophies have been paired together to create this program. Instead of just focusing on the physical aspect, cognitive training aims to unlock the brain's full potential to react quickly and supercharge performance.

During cognitive training, the player is bombarded with multiple tasks at the same time. For example, the athlete is required to move quickly towards selected targets while catching a ball and counting simultaneously. This task presents several meaningful challenges to the game of tennis. Examples include being able to analyze the projection of the ball, being prompted to change directions and keeping the mind engaged throughout. Throughout this exercise, all these small hurdles need to be overcome to complete the activity successfully.

The purpose of cognitive and reaction time training is to condition the player to adapt to the ever-changing environment during a match. Tennis is much more than a physical and technical sport. Being mentally resilient and making the correct decisions are just as important. As the player becomes more competent, connections between the neurons in the brain will begin to strengthen. What was once a seemingly impossible task will now become automatic. As the brain rewires to boost reaction speed and adaptiveness, the player can become more confident within the heat of battle.

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Cognitive Training | Episode 2: Reaction Time: Multi-Tasking

The 3 Stages of Reaction

Like a supercomputer, players must process enormous amounts of information before reacting to a movement or shot. However, unlike sports like running or cycling, tennis is an acyclical sport. This means that the player can never be on cruise control because of the dynamic environment on the court. Whether it's the opponent's game or changing outdoor climate, tennis is a game of unpredictability.

With principles founded on basic human biology, the reaction process can be broken down into three distinct steps.

  1. Step 1. Sensory processing - The human body has a number of senses to help process what's going on the tennis court. Examples of these senses include touch, vision, and balance. This can be thought of as intel for the brain.
  2. Step 2. Decision making - Once the brain has processed the sensory information, a decision about the next move can be made. Much like a commander-in-chief, the details of the intel will change the course of action.
  3. Step 3. Execution - The last stage of reaction time is where the magic happens. After a decision has been made, signals from the brain will be sent down to the muscles to execute the next movement.

The time for each one of these stages to occur will decide on a player's average reaction time. Making the right decision at the right time relies on how fast this process takes. And more often than not, the difference between an elite and good player is the decisions made on the court.

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Cognitive Training | Episode 3: Reaction Time: Visual Processing

Practical Tips to Elevate Your Game Today

No fancy equipment or secret techniques are required for cognitive training. Instead, simple elements of a program can be modified to start enhancing reaction speeds and performance. Incorporate these practical tips into any training session to begin nurturing a winning mindset.

  1. Tip 1. Setting a time limit. Creating a sense of urgency encourages the player to always stay alert and sharp. Executing movements as fast as possible helps develop lateral quickness and agility around the court. However, quick reactions alone are not enough. Instead, the body needs to keep up with the information being processed by the brain.
  2. Tip 2. Use visual aids. Tennis players rely on their vision for almost every part of the game. The ability to anticipate where the ball is going. Monitoring opponent movement. Identifying where the wind is blowing. These are just snippets of what the brain must process during any rally. Using visual aids, such as colored cones or targets, enhances the player's ability to react to visual information they receive on the court.
  3. Tip 3. Add in some mental gymnastics. For example, challenging a player's memory or basic arithmetic strengthens the connections to crucial parts of the brain. Memory-based tasks activate the posterior parietal cortex of the brain, which also processes visual information. On the other hand, activities with numbers engage the parietal lobe responsible for proprioception (e.g., the ability to detect your own body's movement). As a result, the player can adapt and react to what they see more efficiently.

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Cognitive Training | Episode 4: Improve your Working Memory

Usually, this is a skill that is often sharpened over years of training and match experience. However, along with neuro-cognitive and performance coach Bram Swinnen, ASICS Tennis Academy has developed this specific program dedicated to improving tennis players' reaction time. By rocking the boat against traditional forms of coaching, we have used proven scientific principles to revolutionize training forever.

If you want to learn how to improve reaction time, ASICS Tennis Academy has uploaded free resources for all coaches, trainers, and tennis players. As a pioneer in the cognitive training space, Bram Swinnen has developed unique techniques to help players develop a winning and resilient mindset.

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