How sports can enhance cognitive ability

People usually play sports for fun or for physical fitness, but there are also mental benefits. Many sports equally require your body’s full physical and cognitive performance. These sports, such as baseball, basketball, and soccer, enhance the brain’s cognitive abilities through training and play.

Over time, playing sports has an astounding effect on the brain. Bursa Uludağ University in Turkey conducted a series of tests that monitored cognition and coordination on a group of handball players. During these tests, they observed that the players performed significantly better than the average person. Another observation they made was that the more experienced players also edged out the other team handball players in the tests.

Sports are fun to play, and you are also training your cognitive abilities while playing them. Some athletes at Washington notice these improvements as well. Josh Pavlik, a Junior, and player for the WHS baseball team, said that “many sports require hand-eye coordination and practicing the same moves over and over again. After a lot of practice, the moves start to become muscle memory, and your mind is connected with your body.” Practicing these motions repetitively allows for your brain to train and improve your cognition. 

The “zone” or flow state is something that is observed in numerous athletes. The flow state is a state of mind when your muscle memory kicks in, and your brain goes into peak performance. Psychologists have concluded that this is something exclusive to demanding situations where players’ skills are good enough to perform well. These situations are prevalent in competitive sports, and flow state allows the players to perform better. When you are put in these situations, you are training your brain to work under pressure. Noah Lazzareschi, another baseball player and Sophomore at WHS, has noted the zone’s benefits. He believes that “If you’re playing any sport, you are always in the zone and whatever you do [should be]natural. Practicing is when you shouldn’t be in the zone but [should be] thinking about your mechanics.” Sports may be more beneficial for our bodies and minds than we realize. 

Wagner, Herbert et al. “Individual and team performance in team-handball: a review.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4234950/ Journal of sports science & medicine vol. 13,4 808-16. 1 Dec. 2014

“Understand THE ZONE in Sports.” Sports Psychology Today – Sports Psychology, www.sportpsychologytoday.com/youth-sports-psychology/understanding-the-zone-in-sports

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