BIO feedback the way forward to better performance

Biofeedback - M N Viswanath

India had never won a gold medal in the individual event of the summer Olympics since its inception, until Abhinav Bindra did on the 11 August by winning the 10M Air rifle event of the Beijing Olympics 2008. He also has the honour of being India’s first gold medallist of a world shooting championship.

Indeed the Olympic gold did not fall in to his lap one day from above nor was it bought like the way a publisher in Delhi crudely suggested: Abhinav had to work hard for it in every way and he left no stone unturned in its pursuit. He tried everything- hiring foreign trainers and coaches, running on the Alps in bitter cold, climbing a 40 feet pizza pole, walking on a swaying bridge and climbing walls-to conquer fear, dry firing in dark room, the Samadhi tank, training at the US Olympic training centre and training with the bio-neuro feedback equipment to obtain psychophysiology recordings. Abhinav tried his hand on the neuro [bio] feedback equipment with the help of Tim Harkness, a sports psychologist from South Africa-before the Beijing Olympics. Abhinav Bindra agrees that neuro-feedback is a fantastic tool with a powerful effect on performance. The last mentioned is of curious importance to me- as a sports psychology coach and as a proud owner & practitioner of bio feedback technology. Let me explain on what is Bio-feedback, its applications & uses.

Bio-feedback [of which neuro-feedback is a part]   is a computer based technology by which it is possible to know what is happening with in our body and brain as we think, feel and perform. The BFB & NFB recordings are utilized for:

  1. In controlling anxiety [stress management].
  2. Reduce or induce energy& intensity.
  3. In improving attention.
  4. To facilitate injury rehabilitation.
  5. To improve performance consistency. [Athletics, music, dance etc].
  6. To improve overall conscious brain functioning.
  7. To treat repetitive strain injury- i.e. posture defects like low back pain.

The body and mind react in different ways during training and competition as well as during poor performance and successful performance. A teacher, coach or trainer will not be able to identify through the naked eye, these subtle differences across situations. So, a competitive situation is simulated in the lab settings and the performer [athlete, dancer, musician, singer, student, patient, computer professional etc] is trained to read the body’s feedback through the feedback mechanism[ NFB, BFB] – sweaty palms, shallow breathing, muscle tension, changes in heart beats and brain wave patterns are sure indicators of stress. The client is taught to bring these readings to control as required and then trained to take on the field in competition without the aid of the feedback machine and to perform in an Ideal performance state [IPS].  The modalities of biofeedback commonly used are- sEMG – to measure muscle tension. EDA/GSR- to measure arousal- indicated by sweat & perspiration in the hands. HRA- to measure variation of heart rate. Thermal feedback to measure- skin temperature. Respiration- to measure rate of breathing. EEG- to measure brain waves and study brain functioning.

The most successful application of Feedback technology is the `PEAK PERFORMANCE’ related to sports and performing arts. This technology is widely used in the west to train Olympic athletes of both summer and winter Olympic Games. It is extensively used to train the archers, shooters and golfers Generally BFB& NFB can be applied to any sport or any performance as such.

A mind room using the BFB & NFB technology was created for the 2006 Soccer World cup winning Italian team. The Chelsea football club also has a mind room with feedback technology- created for its players.

A paper published recently shows the positive results of NFB to reduce symptoms of Anxiety and depression.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/just-published-scientific-paper-shows-positive-results-of-neurofeedback-to-reduce-symptoms-of-anxiety-and-depression-300425036.html

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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Brain fade’ a veiled threat to all performers

Brain Fade - Steve Smith

The recently concluded India-Australia test match at Bengaluru in the first week of March 2017 was a scintillating cricket match, but mired in controversy.

Steve Smith, unhappy with the LBW ruling that went against him, looked toward the dressing room seeking to get some help on whether to go for a review or not.

This incident turned the match on its head for other reasons. The Aussie captain was accused of cheating, as it was against the rules to look for counsel. Later, at a press meet, he admitted his guilt and said he was under a moment of brain fade.

After Virat Kohli got out LBW, by not offering a shot – through misjudgment of the line and length of the ball, Mark Waugh said this was happening to Kohli because of brain fade.

The new coinage, brain fade, seems to have gained currency after the match.

‘Trevor your underarm stinks’.

Let me take you down memory lane to the year 1981. On February 1st, Australia were playing New Zealand in a one day Benson and Hedges World series match at the MCG.

Here is a glimpse of the video.

The chase came down to the last over and last ball with New Zealand requiring seven runs to win with Brian McKechnie at the crease.  The Aussie captain Greg Chappell instructed his bowler Trevor Chappell [his younger brother] to bowl underarm, which the bowler promptly did, preventing the Kiwis from scoring six runs that would have turned the match into a tie.

The Aussies won the day but drew a lot of flak for not playing within the spirit of the game. Though at that time bowling underarm was a legal delivery [later abolished by the ICC], it was unfair and contrary to the tradition the game is known for.

The reason Greg Chappell attributed to his infamous decision was that – he was too exhausted, frustrated, stressed and under pressure.

Brain fade??   What is that!!!?

The lexicons describe it as a temporary state of inability to concentrate or think clearly or simply get confused and make a poor decision.

Psychologically speaking, I wouldn’t compare it with the more severe condition known as choking, brain freeze, falling apart under pressure or mental meltdown, where the brain goes blank completely and the person seems lost – unable to know what is happening. However, in both the instances the primary reason for the effect is- Pressure.

The cerebral cortex in the brain is the place where decisions are made, which is why it is referred to as the thinker of the brain. It is the seat of intelligence, imagination, analysis, planning and judgment. In short- it is the seat of mental activity.

When everything seems to be normal, the cerebral cortex will take the correct decision by analyzing and judging the situation based on past experiences, perception and knowledge.

But when we are under intense pressure and are threatened, the usual process is bypassed and an important part in the brain – the amygdala springs into action by initializing the fight or fight response.

It is like an emergency alarm going off, triggering an SOS or distress call for help. It will see that the primary objective of the human being is taken care of – that is to oversee the threat. That is why some of the reactions can happen without even thinking. The primary emotion below this is fear – the fear of loss.

Emotion has a thinking mind of its own and sometimes when threatened can act independently of the cognitive thinking mind, seemingly illogical.

That Smith and Greg Chappell were under pressure is true

Pressure is what could have forced Greg Chappell to make an instinctive decision to instruct his brother to bowl underarm to save the threat of loss [defeat].

He later admitted he was frustrated, exhausted, pressurized- the whole thing can be called as Distress or simply, stress.

In the Bengaluru test, Steve Smith’s presence at the wicket was crucial to lead Australia to victory and avert defeat. When he was adjudged LBW, he might have gone into a brain fade sensing defeat and reacted without thinking.

Emotional intelligence is the key to handle such pressure related situations.

( M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com)

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click at http://www.amazon.in/Success-Mantra-Sports-First-Viswanath/dp/8193194039

Reputation can play havoc on opponents

 

AB De Villers
AB de Villiers at IPL 2017 – Photo – Hindustan Times

AB de Villiers had to miss the first two games for RCB since he was not fully fit.

On April 10, 2017 he staged a sensational comeback from injury, with a spectacular 89 [46 balls, 9×6, 3×4] but his effort was not just good enough to ensure a huge total for the RCB [148 in 20 overs] that could take them victory.

Ultimately, Kings 11 Punjab got the better of RCB [150 in 14.3 overs] with more than 5 overs to spare. This match would have been a low-key affair but for the heroics of AB De Villiers towards the end on the RCB’S innings. From the beginning the King’s X1 bowlers-bowled a tight line and did not allow RCB to do some quick scoring –runs had started to dry up for RCB even with AB de at the crease, it appeared at one stage that RCB would not even reach 150. Then AB De let his strings loose and runs started to flow for RCB. The Kings X1 bowling that looked effective and economical suddenly started to look mediocre in AB DE’s hands: he was at his destructive best as he threatened to hit every ball out of the stadium [9×6].

At this stage I was left wondering- how do batsmen of the likes of AB DE, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Chris Gayle, Brendon Mc Cullum, Glen Maxwell, Virat Kohli, Carlos Braithwaite and David Warner make mince- meat of good bowling attacks? Bowlers who have looked menacing till then look like novices bowling against these destructive batsmen at their best. These hapless bowlers end up bowling to the batsman’s strength, offer a lot loose deliveries and freebies. As I searched for the answer my intuitive mind told me it was the REPUTATION & EXPERIENCE of these batsmen that does the trick. Against any other batsman the same bowlers would be at their best, executing their various skills while dominating the batsman in the process: but, not against these marauders. Why?

  1. The bowler’s- when they are bowling against a batsman with a reputation of explosive batting- are under pressure and feel threatened [especially so in T-20 cricket].
  2. Instead of thinking of what they need to do under the circumstances they fear what may happen to them [fours and sixes]
  3. They think negatively of what they should not do in order to escape being whacked- in the end do the thing they should not have done.
  4. Sometimes this fearsome reputation puts so much pressure on the bowlers that their brain goes in to a freeze: the resultant effect is that, they are unable to think properly and end up doing something foolish.

5.They are afraid of their own reputation and think of the sense of shame they have to bear with –if things went against them. Who would like to be another Stuart Broad in the hands of Yuvraj Singh [6×6]?

What would be the best possible thing for a bowler to do under these circumstances?

Bowlers when faced against batsman in destructive mood must first, get their brains working by taking some deep breaths. Talk to themselves and change their thoughts to positive. Bring the pressure bearing thoughts to control. Forget that they are bowling to a batsman A or B of repute: think the opposite batsman is like any other batsman. Think of what they need to do. Think of their strengths and visualize executing successfully in line with their plan of action.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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Sports Injuries! At What Cost?

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli with his injured shoulder ( Pic : Deccan Herald)

India’s cricket captain Virat Kohli reportedly earns a whopping Rs 5 crores per day from all earnings-playing cricket, endorsing various products and as a brand ambassador. He is the highest paid cricketer in the IPL -10 edition with a contract of Rs 15 crores with his franchise-RCB. But now, he has to miss the early part of the IPL-10 edition beginning April 5th 2017 as a result of an injury to his shoulder.

 

Rohit Sharma has returned to active cricket after a 5 month lay- off due to thigh injury. K.L.Rahul, R.Ashwin, Murali Vijay are set to miss the IPL- 10 edition- all due to injury. Ravindra jadeja and Umesh yadav will also miss the early part of IPL-10 for the same reason. Injury to his wrist has bothered Rafael Nadal for the last three years – Roger Federer & Saina Nehwal have returned to their playing days after going under the knife. Yuki Bhambri and Denis Istomin have been ruled out of the Davis cup tie between India and Uzbekistan due to injuries. Injuries are an inevitable part of an athlete’s career with sport being intensely professional these days. Injuries have nipped many a promising career in the bud or brought more than one career in to a grinding halt with their re-occurrence.

Though physical factors may be the main cause of injuries-psychological factors may also play a role leading to injuries:- Continue reading “Sports Injuries! At What Cost?”

What Mental Mockery Can Do To You?

KL Rahul( Cricket Country)
KL Rahul in action against Australia in Dharamsala test.

( picture from cricketcountry.com)

On 26/3/17 the second day of the fourth test match between India and Australia at Dharamsala: Post lunch session- Opener K.L.Rahul who played with a lots of patience and responsibility since play began in the morning was batting on 60 and facing up to Pat Cummins, who was bowling a spell that was hostile, intimidating and fast with speeds of over 145. In that over after every ball, Pat Cummins muttered something to Rahul: the first time Rahul ignored it: the second time he stared back and nodded his head in dissent. The next ball was bounced: Rahul instead of allowing the ball to go past him decided to slog it over mid-on but ended up giving a simple catch to mid-off. Rahul even in his wildest dreams would not play such a rash shot. All the good work was undone with one shot. It was a simple case of rush of blood, lapse of concentration, and momentary brain fade. What led to this? Obviously, it was Pat Cummins mental mockery. In the end it was Pat who had the last laugh and Rahul was forced to leave dejected and defeated. Pat forced Rahul in to mental disintegration coaxing him to play a reckless shot. In fact, Rahul tried to give-it- back- to- Pat Cummins by playing an aggressive shot- which was the wrong thing to do.

A sporting contest normally is an execution of different skills to get the better of your opponents to gain supremacy over the other. But, when things are not going their way: it has been a customary practice with the players to play mental games to regain control of the proceedings. In cricket, players indulge in verbal bashing commonly known as sledging– especially on the batsman in order to irritate, provoke and intimidate. The result is that the batsman loses concentration- internally, by his own frustrating & irritating thoughts and externally, by all the drama that is going on around him.

Mind games are not restricted to cricket alone: we have seen it happen in Tennis, where players like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were infamous for using negative tactics to win matches. Whenever the opponent was holding the upper hand they held up matches-by picking up fights with spectators, protesting against linesman, referee or officials. In the melee the hapless opponents waiting for the game to restart would get irritated and frustrated and by the time the game started they would have lost their concentration and rhythm. Ultimately, fortunes would change and they would end up losing the match. Time wasting, irritating habits, verbal abuse, negative body language are also some of the mind games players’ play to fox their opponents in to submission. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were not two batsmen who let sledging get in to their mind nor did they react negatively to the abettors with all the drama happening around them.

How to deal with mental mockery?  

  1. The best thing would be to ignore and look elsewhere.
  2. Do not look directly in to the eyes of the person engaged in sledging.
  3. When sledging is happening around you, focus on something different like the pitch, the stumps, and the greenery of the turf around you. If you are playing a game like tennis- look around to spot something of a particular color like green, blue, white or yellow OR look at the strings of your racquet
  4. Take it with a smile and treat it just as another banter- with the guys trying to break your mind with their antics. The more you take it seriously the more stressed you are going to be. Change your thoughts to positive and focus on what is important at that point of time. Try to maintain your composure even under severe provocation.
  5. Hum your favorite tune or focus on your breathing to take away your mind from all the distractions.
  6. Mental preparedness using the above mantras is the key to handle mental mockery. You know you’ll be sledged – be prepared for it.

M N Viswanath, author of Success Mantra In Sports and sports performance coach, he can be reached at viswanath.author@gmail.com

The book Success Mantra In Sports is available on Amazon and flipkart. To book your copy you can click here, amazon

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