The physical prowess of an athlete is indisputable. Gravity-defying dunks, aerodynamic leaps, and 100 mph throws are all part of the allure as spectators. Watching these impeccably tuned physiques take on the laws of physics, ignites relevance inside ourselves that we, too, can defy odds.
The amount of time athletes invest in their physical game, therefore, comes as no surprise. Professional athletes can train 5-6 hours per day, 6 days per week. And according to a recent lawsuit against UNC Chapel Hill and the NCAA, college athletes can spend nearly the same amount of time (another worry worth debating another day).
However, when physical equivalency is seen on the field or court, it's the mental game that reveals itself as the difference between finishing at the front of the pack, or not finishing at all. Mental toughness (or "grit") has seeped its way into game-defining moments- and into the training regime of professional athletes and performance-driven individuals alike.
"There's a reason Steph Curry tweets 'Lock In!' before the start of a game", said Lucid CEO, Jason Stirman in our recent conversation.
Lucid, now available in the App store, is the newest mental training app that lends visualizations, positive affirmations and mindfulness meditations in just minutes per day, from expert sport coaches who train stars like Steph Curry, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. The phrase, "lock in", references the mindset that Steph is more conscious of his present state and ready in that moment to perform- a message Lucid conveys to its users.
With athletes like LeBron James stating that the mental side of the game is way over 50-percent of what it takes to be successful, against the rising rates of injuries in professional sports, it poses a few questions...
Why do 90-percent of coaches and athletes spend almost 100-percent of their time working on the physical and fundamental aspects related to their sport?
Should more time be dedicated to strengthening the "cantaloupe-sized hunk of alien computational material that lives inside your skull"?
That's how David Eagleman, a Baylor College of Medicine neuroscientist refers to our brains.
"While your brain isn't a muscle, it can be trained like one. And the brain actually tells your muscles what to do. It runs your body", Eagleman said.
Author of the book, The Brain: The Story of You, Eagleman has an avid quest to protect and exercise your brain. He is also the founder of the app, BrainCheck, which monitors brain health during athletic activity or post-injury through a series of neurocognitive tests to monitor general changes or recovery from injury. Translation: brain evaluation on the sidelines for trainers and coaches in a matter of minutes to combat the rising rates of concussions in sports (also noted in my column earlier this year entitled, Top 10 Sports Business Trends to Watch in 2016).
The fervent belief of so much of the game living in our heads is a breeding ground for growth in this "mental market". Apps, meditation series and training seminars are highlighting the one area, often neglected and ignored, that ultimately separates top performers from those who do not reach their full potential.
In the words of one of the greatest athletes of our time...
"This game is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical."
- Yogi Berra