Coach and Athletic Director

November/December 2018

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nighttime sleep and predispose individuals to a higher body mass index, diabetes mellitus and heart disease. Overall, short durations a few times a week are your best bet. 2 Daydream productively. You may not think to daydream while reviewing your game plan, but it can be a positive and constructive exercise. Although some people might find it surprising, a 2013 study found that positive constructive daydreaming may actually help you think of more creative plays. When you let your mind off its leash, the brain's unfocus circuit — known as the default mode network (DMN) — takes over. This part of the brain helps players feel more connected to other team members. But when it comes to focus, it's a catch-22. Too much DMN activity can obstruct a player's ability to score a touchdown, while unfocus off the field prepares their brains with a focus-unfocus rhythm that's needed throughout the day. You can incorporate positive constructive daydreaming during each practice's stretching routine. This way, players warm up their muscles and unwind their minds. Start with playful or wishful imagery and then let their thoughts wander. Instead of staying still, a low-demand activity such as walking can aid this type of daydreaming. 3 Take a hike. If you're looking to make some creative plays, walking may help you run through scenarios in your mind. Be sure to remember that walking outside trumps a treadmill, and meandering down a curvy hiking path can boost creativity more than walking around the block. Creativity starts to flow when your body is less constrained, because your mind also is less constrained. Encourage your players to schedule times for daily walks, or switch up a few practices and gather the team for an off-field excursion to a nearby park. Before hitting the trail, advise your players to let their minds be free. At the end of the walk, ask them to share any ideas that popped up along the way. From these strategies, you can see how focus and unfocus work together. To help your players bring their mental A-game, build unfocus techniques into weekly practices to strengthen their focus, help them feel more connected to teammates, build peak self-awareness, and conserve brain energy to avoid injuries. The right kind of football practice isn't exclusive to the field. It's also found by tapping into the power of unfocusing from within. Srini Pillay, M.D., is a Harvard psychiatrist, brain researcher and author of "Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind." David R. McDuff, M.D., is a sports psychiatrist, performance medicine physician for the Indianapolis Colts and author of "Sports Psychiatry: Strategies for Life Balance and Peak Performance." C O A C H A D . C O M 39

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