Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hard Work and Practice: The Foundation of a Buzzer Beater (VIDEO)

“I don’t think anything like that is ever rehearsed. It’s just something that happens from hard work and practice. That’s just not rehearsed. That’s what makes it so great. You don’t think. I think if you think, then that’s how you mess up. You just got to let it fly and not think.”
-- Angel McCoughtry, WNBA Atlanta Dream star.

McCoughtry shot and made a three-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to give the Atlanta Dream a 76-74 win on Tuesday night over the Minnesota Lynx.
It was the Dream's first lead of the second half, and ultimately, their first home win of the season.  The win broke a nine-game losing streak for the Dream against the Lynx, behind McCoughtry’s 18 points and Tiffany Hayes’ 20 points.   

Watch the buzzer-beater below, on Twitter:  

Excerpts taken from:

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Quantum Entanglement: Kawhi, the Spurs, and Beautiful Basketball

Quantum entanglement suggests that Kawhi Leonard should stay put and stick with the Spurs. Wait, what? I thought this was a basketball story. What is this, a physics lesson? 

The phenomenon that is Kawhi Leonard cannot be understood or defined separately from his team, the organization and the culture in which he evolved.

In physics, quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon which occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently of the state of the other(s), even when the particles are separated by a large distance—instead, a quantum state must be described for the system as a whole (taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

The concept of quantum entanglement describes the relationship between two bodies that interact or entangle with each other. Once they do, it becomes impossible to describe one object without considering the other object; both are connected or bonded together.

Accordingly, if you now separate these objects by various distances – two feet or across the globe, it doesn’t matter – when one object is interacted upon, a correlating action occurs simultaneously with the other object. That's right, I googled "quantum entanglement."

Perhaps no team in professional sports provides more evidence for the existence of quantum entanglement that the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA. Their sustained success is remarkable.

Subsequently, Kawhi Leonard's success can only be evaluated through his entanglement with everyone from the Spurs' ownership, the Holts; General Manager R. C. Buford; Head Coach Gregg Popovich and his assistant coaches; Tim Duncan; Manu Ginobili; Tony Parker and all the rest of his teammates.

Kawhi Leonard was selected as the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in his first season. Leonard was a member of the NBA champion Spurs in 2014, and was also named 2014 NBA Finals MVP. He has won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year twice, in 2015 and 2016, and is a two-time first team All-NBA team member.

However, Leonard entered the Spurs orbit of success that started years before. They have made the playoffs in 28 of the last 29 seasons (since 1989–90) and have only missed the playoffs four times since entering the NBA; they have not missed the playoffs in the 21 seasons since Tim Duncan arrival in 1997. Despite being a small market team with origins in the American Basketball Association (prior to the merger of the ABA and NBA), the Spurs success had achieved remarkable heights.

Leonard obviously has been an integral part of the Spurs' recent success and continuation of their championship contention to this point.  However, some critics suggest that the Spurs' system has stifled Kawhi's talent and potential.  Others feel that he would have much more successful with another franchise.   Still other have felt that Kawhi is just a product of the Spurs' system and would not have been successful elsewhere.   Kawhi is more than just a product of the Spurs' organization but is still just a thread within a quantum entanglement.

Some people think that the end of the Spurs dynasty is near. Many rumors have circulated not only about the current state of the Spurs organization but specifically about Leonard's eventual exit from the Spurs through a trade or free agency. Social media mavens are convinced that Leonard is done in San Antonio.

Despite rumors of a rift between Leonard and the Spurs' concerning the diagnosis, treatment, and medical management of his prolonged leg injury and recovery, it does not appear that there has been any real improvement in his readiness to play. Why would any other NBA have a greater interest in Kawhi than the Spurs have?

It is difficult to envision Leonard in any other NBA uniform. History suggests that Spurs that leave through free agency or trade do not continue or improve their level of success that they had while with the Spurs. Can you think of an ex-Spur whose fortunes rose after their departure? I can't either. So, why would Kawhi have similar or greater success anywhere else?

Other teams seeking Leonard's services should keep quantum entanglement theory in mind when pursuing him.

The only thing that makes sense is that Leonard remain in the Spurs orbit and continue to thrive in the quantum entanglement that is the San Antonio Spurs.

Stay tuned for more about the Spurs and quantum entanglement in future blogposts.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Athlete and Various Types of Vision

“Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”  - 
Muhammad Ali
In the context of mental conditioning and sports psychology, I have often discussed and written about and coached athletes about vision.  I want to spend some time identifying the various types of vision that I have found important to peak performance.

1.  Visual Acuity:  Let's be real.  You must start here, of course.  Most, if not all sports, require excellent visual acuity, or clarity of vision.  Physically, athletes must be able to see and also have excellent hand/eye coordination.  This ability allows a baseball player to hit a fastball, the quarterback to "thread the needle" when passing the football, or a ice hockey player to find his teammate for an assisted goal.  Think:  Ted Williams, Henry Aaron, Drew Brees, Wayne Gretzky.

2.  Mental Clarity:  Great athletes also have the gift of vision that refers to the concept of mental clarity.  As with any type of goal, the more specific and clear the goal is, the more likely it is to be worked on and achieved.   The clarity of the goal requires a high degree of specificity, "measurability," attainability, realism, timeliness and relevance.   These characteristics of clarity are often referred to as SMART goals.

3.  Long-Range - Seeing The Big Picture:  This type of vision refers to the ability to conjure up a long-range vision of yourself and your abilities.   It is what you strive for.  If you can't see it in your mind's eye, you won't be able to achieve it.  Some people call this the dream, the ultimate challenge or the end game.   Think Muhammad Ali, of course.

4.  Short-Range:  Desired goals/objectives:  this type of vision seems fairly obvious.  It is the big picture broken down into chunks.  However, I want to emphasize that it is an important part of any preparation that an athlete attempts.   Any time spent in serious preparation must be tied to a set of smaller goals.  This type of vision is associated with either developmental or performance goals.

Developmental goals are those that help determine practice or rehearsal activities.  Performance goals are those that are associated with game or match performance activities.

5.  Peripheral:  this type of vision involves the awareness of your surroundings, teammates, opponents.  It is the opposite of tunnel vision.  This type of vision sees the whole field or court in real time.  It goes beyond self-involvement.   With this type of vision, the athlete is oriented in the moment, he/she is fully present and totally engaged.   Think Leo Messi.

6.  Intelligent (Sport-Specific):  This type of vision requires the full understanding of the game itself, and an awareness of the need to identify, study and mastery various components of the game. With this type of vision, the athlete is able to conceptualize and have a mental model for their role and function as a teammate and the role and function of others.  This is the type of vision that turns data into information, awareness into action.  Think:  Peyton Manning or Tim Duncan.

7.  Anticipatory:   This type of vision provides the ability to predict and see the court, the field, or the ice beyond the present or real time.   It involves the skill of recognition.  This ability is what Wayne Gretzky, the Hall of Fame professional hockey player called Fast Forwarding.  The faster the recognition, the better the performance.

8.  Intuitive:  This type of vision requires a belief in the importance of tapping into consciousness, including the unconscious, preconscious and subconscious.   It involves the ability to be psychologically-minded.  This aspect of performance suggests that we have the ability to access seemingly inaccessible thoughts, skills, competencies, and abilities.  This belief allows great athletes to obtain mentally and emotionally what they need to achieve and be successful especially when they need to be.

9.  Instinctual:  The type of vision allows us the self-knowledge and awareness to access and use what is "pre-wired" into us whether it be genetic, biological, evolutionary, or developmental.  It helps us to access what we have inside of us.  It allows us to use the gifts that we have been given.  It taps into our athletic DNA,  Great athletes can quickly identify patterns that they have seen before.  It is an athletic sense of recognition.  

10.  Neural - Muscle Memory:  This type of vision is critical and complementary to instinct.  We can best utilize, develop and leverage our instinct by building our muscle memory.  By understanding the importance of deliberate practice and rehearsal we can leverage and unlock what is programmed within us.    This ability allows the athlete to recall and execute quickly and immediately perform what is required because it has been deeply encoded and learned fully.   Think:  Steph Curry.

11.  Centering - Quieting the Cognitive Mind:  This type of vision requires the development of mindfulness and the practice of sports-oriented meditation.  Great athletes are able to reduce or eliminate chatter as they perform. Great athletes understand the need for removing cognitive barriers to performance.  Quieting the chatter positions the athlete for success by establishing the requirements of being present and in the moment.  Think Michael Phelps.  

Can you see the importance of each of types of vision?   Can you think of other examples of these types of vision?  Can you think of other athletes that utilize each type of vision?   Let me know what you think about these ideas. I look forward to your comments.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Is There Any Difference Between Fear, Anxiety and Excitement?

Much of what we used to know about fear and anxiety, we can toss in the trash can.

It isn't that we need to rethink fear, it's that we need to re-experience fear. We need to change our relationship to fear. Rethinking fear gets us back in our head about fear. Being in our head about fear is what created the problem in the first place. 

For many people, the sensation that we call fear, anxiety or nerves (sometimes we call it stress), can stop us from proceeding with whatever we were doing at the time. Often, that sensation is experienced as something to avoid or something to stop. It's as if we can only resume what we were doing if that feeling of fear goes away (and stays away). If we resume the activity that produced that sensation and the feel comes back, we stop again. We wait for it to pass.  Sometimes, we try to fight through the fear.  

Rather than fighting, avoiding or stopping fear and anxiety, it is important to become curious (and more comfortable) about fear and anxiety.  We need to become students of fear. We need to understand that uncomfortable feeling.  We need to label that discomfort as a signal of excitement, alertness; a signal to pay attention, to activate.  It is not necessarily a signal to stop or freeze.

Here are some guidelines for experiencing fear in a new way:

1. Fear is not to be eradicated.

2. Fear is a human emotion derived from being alive.

3. Fear is not a sign of weakness or incompetence.

4. Fear is not a hinderance to be fought or defeated.

5. Fear is part of the natural order of things.

Performance Anxiety

In my experience, there are not too many athletes that use the words performance anxiety when discussing the challenges regarding their sport. However, the assessments that I have conducted over the years strongly suggest that athletes commonly experience many of the symptoms typically associated with performance anxiety.

Because ultimately the goal of mental toughness is to experience “no fear,” why would an athlete admit vulnerability and acknowledge performance anxiety?  It is more likely that athletes will allow themselves to talk about building mental toughness, than acknowledge the legitimate existence of fear of any sort.

Let's face it. If you are human and if you are required to perform, you will experience fear, otherwise know as performance anxiety.

Human evolution produced the midbrain including the Amygdala. The midbrain was responsible for our survival by sending fast messages from our senses through neural transmission. These messages effectively alerted us to possible danger. They activated us to perform a flight or fight response. They were simple and primitive, because they had to be. They were not very discerning. The midbrain signals "Danger" or "Run Away Fast" or "Bite" or "Attack," nothing more.

Do you really want to eliminate that important function? Of course, not.  

Most sports do not involve excessive danger.  Even when danger is involved, you need focus not fear.  

Many athletes try to not be anxious; however, this often backfires. Pre-competition  excitement is necessary for peak performance. Re-assessing the internal sensations you feel in a positive way is important – rather than saying or thinking you’re anxious, remind yourself that this excitement prepare your body to perform at its best. 

We humans have another part of our brain, the more complex pre-frontal cortex. That part of our brain does the thinking, complex problem-solving, long-term decision-making. The pre-frontal cortex interprets and evaluates more fully. However, it often interprets the "flight or fight" and it overreacts. Simply put, the cortex fears the fear.  Fearing the fear is the response that we need to regulate and manage. That is the response over which we have some control. That is what mental conditioning focuses upon.

Mental conditioning makes you perform better so that your response to fear is not over-activated. The process of mental conditioning helps you learn to be activated, but aren't over-activated when your cortex evaluates the situation. It slows down your fear responses so that you can perform as planned and rehearsed.  

One approach is to develop self-talk about what you are experiencing with statements like:  

"I enjoy the challenge of competition."
“This feeling means I’m ready and prepared for the task at hand.” 
“I’m excited about being able to play well today,” 
“This is not anxiety, this is excitement, which means I’m going to perform at my best” 

These types of statements help you reframe the fear and increase your focus. It also helps you manage your thoughts, rather than the thoughts managing you.

Other mental conditioning tools like mental imagery, visualization, breathing exercises and mindfulness approaches including relaxation techniques and meditation, are also very effective in activating our nervous system to perform without overreacting.  In other words, they allow us to act without over-reacting.  This conditioning dampens our fear reaction and produces the conditions for activation and excitement. 

Your ability to dampen your fear response and reduce your performance anxiety, is a key component of strengthening your mental core.

I will be talking more about your mental core in future blogposts.    

For more information about strengthening your mental core, self-talk, mindfulness, mental imagery, sports psychology, etc. download Mindfuel, the mental conditioning app:

Thursday, October 05, 2017

I Hate to Break It to You, but You've Got the Yips

Some call it "a pressure-induced involuntary muscle movement."   Others call it "a loss of control of your shot."  In most circles, it's called the yips.  

As you may be aware or you may have experienced, the yips are the loss of fine motor skills in athletes. The condition seems to occur suddenly and without an apparent trigger, cause or adequate explanation.  It usually appears in mature athletes with years of experience.  It has been poorly understood and we have, to this point, no known treatment or therapy. Though rare, athletes affected by the yips sometimes recover their ability, which may require an overall or partial change in technique. However, many at the highest level of their sport are forced to abandon their livelihood.  Some are still at or near the peak of their careers.

The yips manifest themselves as muscle twitches, jumps, shakes, jitters, flinches, staggers, and jerks. The condition occurs most often in sports which athletes are required to perform a single precise and well-timed action such as in baseball, golf, tennis, bowling, darts, and cricket. 

There are many suggestions that it is a muscular problem or neurological issue.  However, technical solutions that focus on major changes in technique or motion are largely ineffective.

On a less severe but more frequent note, many athletes go through slumps, some that last longer than others.   For example, in basketball, jump shooters and free-throw shooters often go through periods of time where their shooting percentages decrease significantly or their shooting becomes streaky, or both.  In either case, their ability to successfully make their shots has been altered.  Likewise, tennis players can lose their ability to serve in a flash.  Golfers lose their ability to putt, or drive the ball off a tee.    

Whether you are experience the yips, or you are in a slump, it is clear to me that even a minor shooting, serving, putting, or pitching problem, has its source and/or is quickly exacerbated and maintained by an athlete's internal dialogue; their self-talk.

In my last blogpost, I talked about strengthening your mental core.  Your self-talk or internal dialogue is an important part of your mental core.  

If you take a look at slumps in putting and teeing-off in golf, shooting in basketball, or serving in tennis, self-talk or internal dialogue is crucial in understanding the beginning, middle and end of a slump, or more problematically, the development of the yips. 

The most successful athletes are often the best mentally conditioned.  Their self-talk is either positive or non-existent.   As I and many others involved in sports and performance psychology know, self-talk affects performance.  During competition or practice sessions, the ability of an athlete to eliminate harsh or negative self-talk can improve performance dramatically.  

Unfortunately, many athletes do not or cannot quiet their inner dialogue, particularly their inner critic.  Excessive self-talk, whether positive or negative, is like having fans (or one particular fan) in the stadium, the arena, or in the gallery yelling at you at various intervals right before and during your shot or serve.  A fan who wants to disrupt you might yell:  "Miss it!"    A supportive fan might yell:  "You can do this!"   Encountered at the wrong time (i.e., at the moment you are executing your task) either can disrupt. 

Your inner dialogue during competition, might sound like this: 

"I don't think I can make this."  "If I miss this, my coach is gonna bench me."  "This is a lot of pressure."  "It's all on me."  "What if I miss?"  "I should have practiced this shot more."  "Come on, you've got this!"  "Would you just relax?!"  

Now, your self-talk is not necessarily intended or designed to disrupt.  Often, as with a supportive fan, it is usually intended to calm you or focus you on the task at hand.  It might be meant to provide encouragement or motivation.  Unfortunately, like an enthusiastic parent yelling instructions (or encouragement) to you from the stands, the net effect is that it disrupts your concentration and focus.  Over time, it erodes your self-confidence because the message is that you need last-second help, encouragement and instruction.  It's not a good message, really.  More importantly, it interferes with deep muscle learning and disrupts muscle memory.  Self-talk can undermine all the hard work that you have put in.  

With these types of messages, your brain is interrupting your shot, and your muscles are saying, "Wait, what?"   Because of this sudden emergency interruption, your muscles are saying "I must be about to do something wrong, otherwise, why would my brain be talking to me right now?" 

So, while you are busy talking to yourself, your muscles are reacting to your inner message by either trying to adjust, overcontrol, restrict, or over-correct your shot.  In most circumstances, you will ever so slightly slow down, stop or inhibit your motion  (shorting the shot) or over-correct (by shooting long).  Once you begin to overcorrect during the shot, your regular motion is affected.   Sure, you might still make the shot, but the probability has been changed, often dramatically.  

With enough disruptive self-talk occurring on a regular basis in practice and during competition, an athlete's ability to effectively develop and firmly establish smooth fine motor movements is compromised.  Self-talk affects the encoding of muscle memory through a series of micro-disruptions. With a sufficient stream of micro-disruptions, small disruptions of fine motor movements occur, resulting in an inefficient, and often erratic set of fine motor movements.   As your motor movements are affected, so is your comfort with your shot.  Any ongoing discomfort begins to erode your self-confidence.  Eventually, your self-talk produces self-doubt which causes you to not only question yourself but to question the fine motor movements themselves.

That's the way you forget how to shoot, putt, throw, kick, serve.  It's your inner critic thats attacking your muscle memory.  This constant internal criticism can erode what you have spend hours trying to perfect.  It's a type of waterboarding.  Death by a thousand cuts.

The more that I work with athletes and look closely at their self-talk, it appears that self-talk is prevalent enough to cause physiological disruption in fine motor movements.  At first, it affects individual shots, causing enough disruption in the athlete to miss any particular shot.  If the athlete's self-talk is disruptive enough and frequent enough, it causes shooting slumps; and, if an athlete's self-talk is chronic enough will create a more severe disorder, the yips.

My experience is that many, if not all, athletes have, at least, a very mild case of the yips.  With enough practice, most athletes can overcome harsh, negative, and disruptive self-talk.  However, when self-talk is at it's most disruptive, it can affect even the most rehearsed shot.  

In fact, I contend that any missed shot has, at some level, been disrupted by self-talk.  A missed shot becomes a slump through increasingly negative self-talk, followed by increased self-consciousness about subsequent misses.  The yips are simply the extreme consequences of extreme self-consciousness.  At its worst and most frequent, negative self-talk could "metastasize" into the yips. 

So, what can you do about your early stage yips?  

Be aware that your self-talk is disrupting your deep muscle learning and memory.    Don't let the yips get to you.  Want to make your shot consistently, or serve with confidence?  Want to avoid slumps?  Quiet your self-talk.  Shut your inner critic down.  Your muscle memory will thank you for it.     

For more information about strengthening your mental core, self-talk, mindfulness, mental imagery, sports psychology, etc. download Mindfuel, the mental conditioning app:

Friday, September 22, 2017

Strengthening Your Mental Core

The word "core" in the physical fitness and conditioning world has become a buzzword.  Like the physical core, there is also a mental core related to mental conditioning. Physical core training is about increasing power, strength and stabilization.  So, is the training of your mental core.

Many fitness buffs often think only of sit-ups and crunches as the secret to strengthening the core. True fitness experts know that there is much more to the core than an impressive six-pack.  Similarly, many athletes and coaches think that the mental core is simply just about developing mental toughness (the equivalent of a mental core six-pack).  The mental core is much more than mental toughness.

The mental core creates a solid, fundamental, and broad base for your overall mental fitness and, thus, your subsequent ability to perform successfully.

So, what does constitute the mental core? Here are some of my thoughts.   
  • Internal Dialogue/Self-Talk -  simply put, these are the things you say to yourself about yourself, your opponent, your teammates, your coach, the fans.  It also includes what you say to your during practice, during your performance in games, during time-outs, after games. Often the things you say to yourself about yourself are harsh, toxic and distract you from your performance.  The real problem with our cognitive mindset is that that it is often stuck in evaluation activities when it should be focused on other tasks (such as gathering information, skill acquisition, rehearsal, and execution, for example).   Increasing your awareness of your internal dialogue/self-talk and its effect on your performance will have a great influence on your performance skills.  Additionally, it is important to realize that silencing your inner critic and internal "chatter" is more useful that simply changing your self-talk from negative to positive. 
  • Pre- and Post-Performance Recovery Skills -  here, emphasis is placed on the importance of developing a set of skills and activities that provide you with an opportunity to fully recover mentally from performances and competition that is as crucial as physical recovery.   Evidence is mounting that both mental and physical recovery skills (including sleep) are more important than we ever considered in the past.  
  • Resilience - this refers to your skill and ability to quickly and fully bounce back from setbacks, to deal with adversity, learn from mistakes and effectively put your mistakes behind you.  Only recently has resilience been seriously considered as a component of mental toughness.   Resilience includes carefully obtaining, valuing, and incorporating constructive feedback.   
  • Systems Thinking - in the case of your mental core, this refers to your awareness and understanding of the matrixed complexity, interrelatedness and connection of multiple factors involved in your performance. It also refers to the idea that in order to affect real behavioral change, a system that provides structure and consistency must be put into place.  Systems thinking in this context implies that mental conditioning and strengthening of your mental core requires you to become a student of mental conditioning, sports and performance psychology (as well as a student of your sport).  
  • Anxiety Management - refers to the idea that 1)  anxiety is a part of performance and competition; 2)  mental fitness includes the acknowledgment and management rather than the eradication of anxiety; 2) that excitement and anxiety can be two words for the same thing; and, 3)  the goal of mental conditioning can't and shouldn't be to eliminate anxiety.  
  • Emotional Intelligence - emotional intelligence (and related skills) is an important and necessary component of performance enhancement in players, coaches, and teammates. Emotional intelligence involves the understanding of the critical role that emotional information and social interactions play in performance and success. Evidence suggests that emotional intelligence is an important characteristic of effective leadership and team development as well as coaching effectiveness.
  • Confidence - this component of your mental core is one of the characteristics that has been long considered critical to success in any endeavor, including sports and the performing arts. In this model of the mental core, confidence is defined as a general sense that one's skills and abilities are capable of achieving one's desired outcomes.  Many people include this component in their idea of mental toughness.  Confidence is particularly dependent upon a health cognitive mindset.  
  • Preparation Skills - this factor suggests that 1)  success is related to one's understanding and awareness that personal growth occurs through the methodical process of continuous learning and development of skills, rather than inherent, genetically-informed and pre-ordained talent; and, 2) is highly influenced by your desire and willingness to consistently spend long-hours of monotonous, focused, disciplined, repetitive activity to improve and perfect your skills and abilities.  
  • Mindfulness - this important factor of the mental core refers to a broad set of skills that include mental imagery and visualization, relaxation and meditation skills, focusing and centering skills (that are useful in practice, preparation, performance, recovery and evaluation activities of athletes and coaches). Mindfulness approaches can be very helpful to post-performance recovery and injury recovery.  
Note that there has been increasing evidence that body language is important in performance.  Be aware of your body language; however, I have seen increasing evidence that body language is more of a indicator of the strength of your mental core than a factor or component of the mental core.  

Assess these core components of your mental core.  Start by identifying your mental core strengths and limitations in each of these areas.  Focus on and leverage your strengths while also learning more about how to shore up your limitations.  Learn to use these basic skills to build a foundation for mental core training.

Future blog posts will go into more detail about your mental core.  Please let me know if you have any comments or questions about your mental core below.

For more information about mental conditioning and your mental core, download my mobile app.
Mindfuel at:

Also,check out my sports and performance psychology book, Razor Thin:  The Difference Between Winning and Losing.  You can purchase it at

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Super Bowl LI Match-up: The Tale of Two Mindsets

Let's take a look at some factors that may influence the outcome of Super Bowl LI between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.

The Franchise Systems
  • Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot and current owner of the Atlanta Falcons has a long history of success as a businessman, and has a set of leadership principles that he follows closely.   
Advantage:  New England Patriots

Super Bowl Experience
  • This is Bill Belichick's seventh Super Bowl appearance with Tom Brady as his starting quarterback. They have won four of the six Super Bowls they have participated in.  Brady was voted MVP for Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XLIX.
  • This is the second appearance in the Super Bowl for the Atlanta Falcons since their were founded in 1966.  It is their first Super Bowl since the 1998 season.  Dan Quinn has been an assistant coach for Seattle Seahawks during their Super Bowl appearances.  He knows what it is like, but he has not been head coach there.  
Advantage:  New England Patriots

Mental Conditioning, Team Training and Team Building
  • In the off-season, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and director of sports medicine and performance Marty Lauzon had a four day team-building session with seven veteran Navy SEALs of Acumen Performance Group.  
  • Falcon head coach Dan Quinn spent several years with the Seattle Seahawks and their head coach Pete Carroll.  The Seahawks embrace the use of mental conditioning and employ various high-profile mental conditioning coaches, including Michael Gervais and George Mumford (Michael Jordan's meditation ) guru.
  • Bill Belichick is a master of getting his teams prepared for playoff and Super Bowl games.  He understands the mental aspect of the game as well as anyone.   
Advantage:  Atlanta Falcons

  • For the past 3 years. Tom Brady uses the BrainHQ training program developed by Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science.  A cognitive enhancement tool and brain training program, Brady had it installed at his TB12 Sports Center.  BrainHQ has 29 brain exercises that are done on a computer screen. One example of an exercise that Brady uses is called “Double Decision.”

  • Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback uses a device called NeuroTracker that he says has helped him sharpen his cognitive skills, providing an edge when he targets receivers or chooses plays. The focus has helped fuel an MVP-caliber season.  Ryan uses the 3D glasses at least three times a week to improve peripheral vision.
Advantage:  None

  • The New England Patriots won the last Super Bowl in which they participated two years ago.
  • The Atlanta Falcons have never won the Super Bowl.  This year they have embraced "The Brotherhood" as their rallying cry.  
Advantage:  Atlanta Falcons

  • New England has been distracted by the focus the media and the public has placed on Tom Brady's alleged support of Donald Trump; the injury to star tight-end Rob Gronkowski, and the long-standing Deflategate controversy.
  • The Atlanta Falcons are slight underdogs in Las Vegas.  This may take any pressure off of them.  
Advantage:  Atlanta Falcons

Overall Advantage:  Atlanta Falcons

What is your prediction?