“We have a good thing going,” says Rome Odunze, junior wide receiver for the Washington Huskies. His words mirror the stats. Currently 3-0 for the season, the Huskies just outpaced the Michigan State Spartans 41-7. This isn’t luck or mere physical prowess. Welcome to the age where cognition is the new frontier in athletic performance. The Huskies know it, and they’re leveraging it with NeuroTrainer.
Setting the Tempo
Three games into the 2023 season, the University of Washington Huskies have a strong record, marking decisive victories over their opponents. With an undefeated 3-0 record and a recent 41-7 win over the Michigan State Spartans, the Huskies seem to be functioning on all cylinders. Their total yardage? A staggering 713, etching it as second-best in school history. Even the scoreboard reflects the team’s strong performance, with the Huskies outscoring their opponents 140-36.
Junior wide receiver Rome Odunze sums it up best: “We have a good thing going. We have that trust in one another, and that allows us to come out here and have success.”
What’s behind the Huskies’ electric start? A blend of skill, strategy, and a culture that promotes cognitive as well as physical fitness.
In June 2023, UW Football partnered with NeuroTrainer to blend neuroscience and virtual reality and prime the human brain for peak performance.
“So much of the game of football is mental,” says Ron McKeefery, Head Football Strength & Conditioning Coach at the University of Washington and a multi-time Coach of the Year awardee. “Neurotrainer allows us to objectively measure and develop our athletes’ visual, auditory, and proprioceptive systems using unique and immersive media. We are excited to add Neurotrainer to our arsenal of tools.”
Cognitive Gains in a Gamified Gym
Built to provide coaches with both personalized and structured training protocols, NeuroTrainer introduces athletes to a new dimension of training.
“What sets Neurotrainer apart is the ability to do so in virtual reality while providing individualized training programs based on the athletes’ performance in real time,” McKeefery points out.
“Neurotrainer has the unique ability to alter future repetitions and training sessions based on how the athlete is performing, thus targeting need areas for the athlete.”
He’s not the only one to leverage the technology to run “mental reps.” The LA Galaxy, Texas Tech, Davidson College and University of South Alabama have all deployed their programs to optimize focus, impulse control and decision making in a safe setting that minimizes physical wear and tear.
The Silicon Forest Advantage
Located in the heart of the tech-rich Silicon Forest, the University of Washington has always had a leg up when it comes to leveraging technology for athletic prowess.
“I often have told our players and coaches we must equally train the 6 inches between the ears, so that we can control the 6 feet below it. The University of Washington is located in the heart of the Silicon Forest, and it is only natural that we stay connected to the latest technology and cutting-edge tools to train our athletes.”
The Age Of NeuroFitness
We’re in a new era of athlete development, one where neuroscience can serve as a primer for practice and games.
“A number of our players and positions swear by neurofitness. Not only do they feel like they are improving their focus, decision speed and situational awareness but they have also seen a great benefit to using neuroscience as a primer for practice and games.”
Impacts Beyond Sports
While NeuroTrainer sharpens athletic skills, its impact resonates far beyond the playing field. NeuroTrainer is undergoing research to quantify its effect on academic focus and productivity in the classroom.
“Our athletes are not only elite on the field but also elite in the classroom. They all see how working on neurofitness will help their game and help them reach new levels of human performance,” shares McKeefery.
The Final Whistle
So, why are the Huskies off to such an electrifying start this season? Could be talent, could be teamwork, or could be the extra edge of neurofitness. One thing’s for sure: they’re a team to watch, and it seems like their cognitive game is as strong as their physical one.
NeuroTrainer is no magic bullet. But it is another tool in the Huskies’ already impressive toolkit, one that aims to sharpen the mind as keenly as the body. After all, in the hyper-competitive world of college football, every millisecond of decision-making, every nuanced understanding of spatial relationships, and every gain in focus can make the difference between a first down and a turnover.
In the words of Coach McKeefery, “It helps maintain our holistic training goals of developing our athletes’ mind, body, and spirit.”
As the season progresses, keep an eye out for how this blend of mind and muscle plays out on the field. The Huskies are setting the tempo, and they’re doing it with a playbook that extends beyond the Xs and Os.