Reduced School Recess Time Actually Hurts Young Brains (And Math Scores)

In an interesting and frustrating Catch-22, school administrators, in an effort to raise standardized math test scores among their students, often decrease physical education and recess time to keep the kids in the classroom longer.  However, several recent research studies have shown that students who are more fit perform better in school. So, reducing their opportunities to move and be active so they can spend more time learning math could indirectly be slowing down their learning. In fact, psychology researchers at the University of Illinois have recently shown a relationship between fitness, brain structure and math scores. As children mature and learn, their brain’s outer cortex begins to thin as neural networks become more refined and begin to consolidate. This natural process, also known as “gray-matter thinning”, occurs at different rates depending on several different variables.

The Psychology Of Words And The Young Athlete

Ken Taylor
Young athletes live in a pretty strange world. So many adults saying things to them but no one really communicating. Its hard enough for them to decipher one adult's vague instructions but then have to blend the mixed messages of parents and coaches.  

Ken Taylor, former NFL cornerback for the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears, has been working with young athletes for over 20 years, specifically on making them faster. 

Ken and I have been discussing the cognitive side of training athletes and he agrees that coaches and parents need to better understand how a 8-18 year old brain learns new sport skills.

In this approved excerpt from Ken's terrific book, “You Just Can’t Teach That, Or Can You?", he encourages coaches to be specific with their instructions.  

For more from Ken, please visit and follow him @TheSpeedDr.

The Psychology of Words and the Young Athlete
By Ken Taylor

The wrong or right use of words can send an athlete into a chain-reaction spiral of events--actions and reactions that can be positive or negative.  It just depends on the athlete.  The specific use of a word or phrase can create understanding or confusion.  Words can even create peace or war!

Have Patience With Your Young Athlete: The Science Of Delayed Remembering

It’s been a few years since I last coached little tykes but I do remember that every practice required creative, devious ways to hold their attention while trying to teach them the finer points of the game, like who’s on their team and the general direction that the ball should travel for us to win.  There would be small glimmers of understanding during a drill only to have them evaporate during a scrimmage. 

Unfortunately, researchers at Ohio State University were not there to educate me on a concept known as “delayed remembering” that allows kids to remember a new topic better several days after it was first learned. Their newly released study details just how this works.

Learning A New Sport Skill Is Just Trial And Error For Your Brain

Just about every coach and parent, not to mention most young athletes, have heard the vague but obvious phrase, “practice makes perfect.” Quarterbacks wanting to complete more passes need to throw a lot more balls. Rising basketball players who need to increase their free throw percentage need to shoot hundreds of free throws.  In most cases, repeating a motor skill over and over in slightly different environments and conditions will improve the success rate. If not, we would all still struggle with tying our shoes or riding a bike. But what is it about practice that helps our brains figure out the specific task while also generalizing enough to transfer the skill to different scenarios? Kicking a football through the uprights of a goal post is slightly different than kicking a soccer ball into a goal but we didn’t have to completely relearn the kicking task when switching between the two sports. Researchers at McGill University took another step forward in understanding how the trial and error of practice teaches our brain to perform these complex sports skills.

Did Pete Rose's Competitive Spirit Drive Him To Gamble?

For many young baseball fans, Pete Rose is a name that is better known for being a baseball player banned from the game for gambling rather than the all-time leader in hits, not to mention games played, at-bats and singles. 
In 1989, Major League Baseball banned him from the game due to accusations, which Rose later admitted to, of betting on baseball games including on his own team, the Cincinnati Reds, as a player and a manager. While Rose contends that he never bet on the Reds to lose, which would be a conflict of interest, MLB still suspended him indefinitely.
This month, Rose could be seen for the first time as a national baseball analyst on Fox Sports as well as appearing with other prominent members of the Big Red Machine at this year's All-Star game. 
Rose, known as one of the most competitive players and managers to play the game now has his gambling passion under control but he joins a list of other top athletes who have struggled with the excitement and risk involved with wagering on just about anything.
Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Daly, Wayne Rooney, and Paul Hornung are just some of the well-known names that have lost millions of dollars betting on sports, poker, slots or even golf games. Of course, having millions of dollars to start with allows these athletes to wager these large sums. But, is there a connection between their highly competitive personalities and the thrill of placing large and frequent bets?

Choose Your Words Carefully When Motivating Your Young Athletes

Your kids want you to be proud of them. This need for a parent’s approval can be a powerful or destructive force when it comes to youth sports. When we communicate goals for our budding superstars, the wording we choose can make all the difference.   New research out of Ithaca College shows the effect parents can have on their kids’ game-time anxiety, which can directly impact their performance and overall enjoyment of the game. Miranda Kaye, a professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences at Ithaca, knew from previous research that a coach exerts the primary influence on a team’s attitude and confidence. But, she noticed that hardly any studies had looked at the pre-game conversations that parents have with their athletes. "I think people intuitively know that what parents do matters, but it's never been looked at," said Kaye.

Just An Hour Per Day Of Play Can Boost Young Brains

Imagine an activity that your kids could do after school every day that would improve their brain’s ability to make better decisions and solve problems.  Online cognitive drills? Special tutors? Actually, researchers at the University of Illinois have found that just an hour of fun, active play not only gets kids in better shape but significantly improves their cognitive functioning.
Plenty of previous studies have shown the link between fitness and better academic performance in the classroom but it wasn’t clear if this was a cause and effect relationship or just that smarter kids stayed in shape.  So, Charles Hillman Ph.D., kinesiology and community health professor at the University of Illinois, designed an ambitious project to test 221 students, aged 9 and 10, before and after a nine-month after school exercise program.