Enhancing Soccer Performance through Cognitive Training

My journey into Cognition and Sport began during my final internship at Maastricht University. Vestberg (2012) inferred that elite soccer players possess enhanced executive functions over their counterparts in lower tiers. Intrigued, we set out to determine if cognitive training can elevate the performance of these top-tier players.

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Embarking on the MVV Adventure: Part 1

Kickstarting a series on my graduation research with MVV’s premier team, this article chronicles how I became intertwined with MVV and the groundbreaking Cogmed Project.

In 2015, I embarked on the ‘Sport Performance Enhancement’ minor. Here, the spotlight was on Talent Development and Recognition. We gained insights into sports physiology and psychology. But the ‘Talent’ module stood out, offering a deep dive into decision-making during sports. This was my inaugural exposure to executive functions and working memory, though framed differently.

During this period, my mother, Marianne Kleinhesselink, chanced upon Cogmed’s working memory training. As an orthopedagogist, she tackled children’s learning and focus issues. She noticed recurrent challenges, especially linked to weak working memory. This revelation steered her towards becoming a Cogmed-certified coach.

In her training journey, she unearthed the profound impact of working memory on athletes. Heeding her advice, I perused Vestberg’s 2012 paper. With each word, my curiosity soared, culminating in a pivotal question: “What if elite soccer players underwent working memory training? Would their prowess escalate?” This quest led me to collaborate with luminaries like Dr. Dymphie in de Braek and Professor Rudolf Ponds at Maastricht University’s Psychology Department.

A subsequent meeting at the university painted a clear picture: MVV’s elite players would undergo Cogmed’s Working Memory Training. The marriage of my practical experiences with university theory was uncanny. My minor introduced me to the LSPT-test, assessing soccer players’ passing and decision-making prowess. I couldn’t envision a better metric for gauging cognition in gameplay. My elation was palpable when green-lit to contribute to the pioneering research with MVV’s core team.

This venture seamlessly dovetailed into my graduation trajectory. Hence, my final research query crystallized as: ‘How does Cognitive Training enhance on-field performance metrics?’.”

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