The definition of a playmaker is a bit elusive: it combines having the right mindset, anticipation, perception, and decision-making skills. In their new book The Playmaker’s Advantage: How to Raise Your Mental Game to the Next Level, Len Zaichkowsky and Daniel Peterson take a look at what the science says and how coaches can help their athletes improve in this area. On this episode of the podcast, the authors join us for a chat on what they learned writing the book, and how it can be applied in practice.
Notes and quotes
Dr. Zaichkowsky is a widely known sport and performance scientist whose specialty is the psychophysiology of human performance. He spent 37 years on the faculty at Boston University, and has consulted with top teams and federations across a number of sports. Together with fellow sports psychologist Daniel Peterson, the released The Playmaker’s Advantage: How to Raise Your Mental Game to the Next Level earlier this summer to rave reviews.
- 3:00 – How the book came about.
- 8:30 – A look at Zaichkowsky’s background and why playmakers are essential.
- 17:15 – Why don’t all talented athletes reach a high level? “Talent is only part of the equation. The best athletes are playmakers. They have the cognitive ability to make everything they do in training count. “
- 20:30 – Training the cognitive side: “The cognitive side of sport is hard. Athletes are wiped when they are finished; the concentration is intense. “
- 22:15 – Perfection in practice and deliberate practice. “Deliberate practice is hard work; it requires intense planning. We are not worried about perfect practice; practice can be messy. “
- 29:30 – Lessons from coach Mike Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins: “The next frontier is to get players to better understand anticipation skills, recognition skills, and decision making. In my generation there has always been the sense that this cannot be taught, but it is not unlike learning how to skate. “
- 35:15 – Are cognitive abilities in sport innate or gained through training?
- 37:30 – Drawing parallels in decision making to the work of Daniel Kahneman.
- 42:00 – Improving perception through technology.
- 45:30 – Defining athletic cognition.
- 54:30 – Marginal gains.
- 58:00 – Where are the next breakthroughs in sports performance?
To hear more about these topics you can listen to the full episode above. If you like what you hear on the GAINcast, don’t forget to give us a review and subscribe on iTunes.
The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic:
- If you like the podcast, don’t miss our latest book Training Talk: Conversations with a Dozen Master Coaches for more in-depth insights on training from some of the world’s top coaches.
- Don’t forget to join HMMR Plus to get full access to our video, article, and podcast archive here on HMMR Media.
- You can find the book on Amazon. Vern also reviewed in here.
- Another book referenced Thinking, Fast and Slow, which we also wrote about here.
- We also referenced the work of Samuele Marcora and the recent book Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson. We interviewed Hutchinson recently on