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Abhinav Prakash

Co-Founder & CEOBoxOut Performance


Steph Curry and the world's elite athletes are using deep science and cutting-edge tech to study and train their brains, and the results have been profound—not only in their games, but also their lives.

  • You’ve probably seen the viral video.
    Steph Curry dribbles a basketball with one hand and with his other tosses a tennis ball back and forth with his trainer. This is just one in a long series of his typical, elaborate dribbling drills—only he’s also wearing some sort of goggles, the lenses of which seem to be flashing black. Curry uses them through all kinds of different drills; they’re a favorite tool for his trainer, Brandon Payne, who says that the goggles are one of the biggest reasons why Curry smashed the three-point record and became the first unanimous league MVP in history.

    The goggles, however, are just an aspect of a greater philosophy that drives Curry and Payne’s training. Curry began working out with Payne in 2011 during the NBA lockout, driving an hour south of his home in Charlotte to Fort Mill, South Carolina, and Payne’s bland-looking warehouse, home to his private coaching business, Accelerate Basketball. It was here that Steph Curry started to become STEPH CURRY. Now Curry flies Payne to Oakland all the time so they can work out; Payne spends weeks if not months on the road with him. And all of this is because, in addition to his savvy strength training and physical conditioning, Payne is one of pro basketball’s foremost experts in what he calls “neurocognitive efficiency.”
    Payne and Curry are a good fit because, the way Payne puts it, “So much of it comes down to the intelligence level of the player. You have to have players who can look past the drill, who can understand the multiple layers of benefit that each drill gives them. And Steph is that kind of guy.”
    Curry is even better than Payne imagined, because he is uniquely intelligent, curious and unafraid to (a) ask questions, and (b) try new things.

  • And man, has he tried things. Three of his primary experiments are the goggles, a high-tech training tool used during shooting and agility drills called FITLIGHT and a sensory deprivation chamber.
    Perhaps even more telling than the stuff he’s using is why he’s using it—but first, the stuff itself.
    The goggles came to Curry from Sensory Performance Technology, and were called the Eclipse. They are an updated version of the Nike SPARQ Vapor Strobes—Nike discontinued the product a few years ago. One of the main guys working on their development was Herb Yoo, Nike’s director of innovation. When Nike shut SPARQ down, he left and started a new company, Senaptec, to build more of the same. He has a saying: The eyes are the window to the brain. And his whole idea is to build better vision by building a stronger brain. Yoo says, “You may have heard coaches, or analysts in the media, say, ‘Oh, that athlete has great vision.’ But what does that really mean? They don’t know. They’re using the term vision as this umbrella term. But...better athletes have better visual skills.”
    Like Curry, let’s look past the surface down to the multiple layers of it all. Great vision comes down to astonishing science: We experience our five senses because of specialized cells throughout our body called sensory receptors, which transmit everything you feel, hear, smell, taste and see to your brain.

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    Of all the sensory receptors we have, 70 percent are in our eyes alone. That’s 260 million (130 million per eye) receptors taking information in through the eyes and sending it to the brain, by way of 2.4 million nerve fibers.
    This adds up to our eyes sending our brain 109 gigabytes of data every second.
    Most of us can process that—and a lot of it is selectively ignored by our brain—but it’s the athletes who can process that the fastest who are among the greatest.
    Take Babe Ruth. In 1921, researchers from Columbia University’s psychology department performed some studies on the Great Bambino, and they found that he had one of the most remarkable sets of eyes—and one of the most athletic brains—in existence at the time. He processed visual information 12 percent faster than normal men, and compared to the normal man, Babe’s visual perception occurred 150 percent faster.
    The world seems to move in slow motion for such athletes because their brain is working at warp speed.
    By making the brain do more with less, the strobe goggles are a way to make the brain more easily reach said warp speed when one’s vision is clear.
    Read the full article by Brandon Sneed for B/R Mag here.

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