Chunking: an odd word to associate with sports. According to the “athletic brain” researchers at AxonPotential.com, it’s the process athletes use to mentally organize information so they can make good decisions when it counts. Athletes can develop chunking skills by repeating sport-specific drills and game-day scenarios during practice.
An example of chunking information is the way we remember phone numbers; we think of the three-digit area code as one entity and the main number as another. For athletes, chunking relates to the ability to recognize plays, patterns and situations and to know how to react to achieve desired results.
Let’s say you’re a point guard dribbling up the right side of the court with 15 seconds left and your team down by one. Suddenly, just over half-court, two defenders trap you. Panicked, you try to dribble out of it but lose the handle. The ball bounces off your foot and ricochets out of bounds. Game over. You’re left hanging your head as your archrival is hoisted into the air by his teammates.
Chunking helps athletes avoid such horrific scenarios. According to AxonPotential.com, chunking creates “more cognitive space to think about what the court might look like in the next second, or what matchup might be exploited.” You could have prevented your mistake by repeatedly confronting similar traps in practice, performing ball handling drills under pressure to learn how to split the double-team and dribble out of traps.
Once you develop your ability to chunk information by practicing sport-specific skills in game-like scenarios, your brain can focus on other aspects of the game. AxonPotential.com again: “In a sense, mastering the snap judgment decisions and recognitions allows expert athletes to think about things like strategy, and devote more thought than they otherwise would be able to, because their minds have become more efficient at recognizing the patterns of the game.” By developing your mental skills under game circumstances in practice, you gain the ability to think strategically about how to avoid the trap when the game is on the line.
Elite athletes have a memory bank of experiences. That’s why they usually make the right decisions in game-changing situations. Use the videos in the player above to implement drills in your practice that create game-like conditions.
Dwyane Wade On-Court Drills
Drew Brees On-Field Throwing Drills
David Wright On-Field Baseball Training
Real Salt Lake MLS Training Camp
For more sport-specific drills, go to STACK TV where a library of training videos awaits you.