In collaboration with Maastricht University, I investigated the potential influence of the Cogmed Working Memory Training on the performance of MVV’s first football team. This study, published on April 11, 2019, seeks to understand if targeted cognitive training can enhance football skills. Inspired by a piece from Swedish researcher Vestberg, who emphasized the significance of executive functions in predicting football success, our research delves deep into the relationship between cognitive skills and on-field performance.Read more: Cogmed Working Memory Training on Football Performance
Understanding the Importance of Executive Functions:
Vestberg’s pioneering research has established that footballers playing at elite levels generally possess superior executive functions compared to those at lower tiers. Intrigued by this, I reached out to researchers at Maastricht University, who shared a keen interest in assessing the outcomes of specialized brain training for professional footballers. The University was already plotting a research trajectory to gauge the impact of Cogmed working memory training on MVV’s professional players.
Incorporating Practical Field Tests:
During my Minor in Sport Performance Enhancement, I was introduced to the Loughborough Soccer Passing Test (LSPT). Designed to evaluate a footballer’s passing technique and decision-making skills, this test perfectly complemented our research plan which was lacking a real-world, on-field component.
Central Research Question:
“Can Working Memory Training (WMT) programs, proven to bolster working memory, result in tangible improvements in football players’ performance on the pitch?” Essentially, we wanted to uncover if enhancements in working memory could positively influence a player’s in-game abilities.
Our research spanned three testing phases. Eighteen professional footballers were randomly assigned to either a control or experimental group. Over five weeks, the experimental group underwent the Cogmed Working Memory Training. The effects were measured on a psychological level, neuropsychological level, and through on-field evaluations using the LSPT.
While not groundbreaking, results revealed that footballers who underwent Cogmed training indeed scored higher in the working memory tasks. However, there wasn’t a notable change in other neuropsychological aspects. Additionally, there was no significant evidence suggesting players performed better in the LSPT post-training.
A well-structured research requires stability. However, unforeseen challenges emerged during our study. Commitments had been made with head coach Tini Ruys, but he resigned midway through the season after being assaulted by MVV supporters. His replacement, Ron Elsen, previously active until last season, was introduced. This coaching switch disrupted our research continuity, affecting some players more than others.
To sum up, the limited size of our research group and inconsistencies in the Cogmed Working Memory Training’s execution compromised the study’s reliability. Although Cogmed has been extensively researched in the education and healthcare sectors, its appropriateness for athletes, especially footballers, remains questionable. Alternative tools like Neurotracker, Intelligym, or Eyegym, being more sports-centric, may offer more promise. However, translating computer-screen training to tangible on-field results remains a challenge, as evident from our LSPT observations.