The Brain Science of Fan Behavior in Football, Basketball and Team Sports

Seattle Seahawks prepared for Super Bowl.
Seattle Seahawks prepared for Super Bowl.

This is that time of year we football fans go into withdrawal. First it was college football ending its season. Now, we await next Sunday’s Super Bowl with the NFL’s final game. I love it too for its brain science, brain wave entrainment, and the inspiration it provides in our modern lives. Team sports can bring the best and worst out of its fans too. Whether it be your child’s little league team, local high school, or favorite college team, many fans act out an alter-ego of their personality and have been found to dress up in team colors, and even commit acts of violence (usually with the help of alcohol). Where group viewing enhances brain wave entrainment, alcohol depresses cognition. And a natural consequence of decreased cognition is frustration, anger, and sometimes violence. However, most fans are very civil and games like the College Championship Game between Ohio State & Oregon two weeks ago, brings the best out of viewers. This game was a super-charged brain wave entrainment experience, and it broke ESPN’s previous viewership record of two years ago. The sub-stories were inspirational too.

Ohio State football fans go crazy during 2015 Championship game.
Ohio State football fans go crazy during 2015 Championship game.

Next Sunday, we finish up NFL football with the Patriots vs. Seahawks Super Bowl. But it won’t mean as much to me. These two teams, it seems, are playing more for bragging rights than community and love of the game. There’s an emptyness in their rhetoric too, severing our entrainment built up over the season. For me, the brain science I find most enjoyable in team sports is the connections you develop with players and teams. I love the personal stories of overcoming odds, and relate it to my adversity with illness and everyday life. I draw upon that inspiration and use it as teaching tools to help better myself and those around me. Still, I yearn for truth.

The brain and sensory system during cognition.
The brain and sensory system during cognition.

Football is perhaps the best brain science sport because it is so team-concentric and detail oriented with instant replay, and affords considerable brain wave entrainment via television, news, and social networking. The resulting connectedness along with enumerable opportunities for discussion via news and local conversation, heightens the connectedness around a common interest. The connectedness, the repetition, the extraordinary use of statistical information – is very healthy for the brain, especially if you suffer from any form of cognitive disfunction. Though the Super Bowl is still to play, I have already turned my attention to NBA basketball, where I am following the league ambassadors. I was watching LaBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers this week, and was reminded that basketball play, the “it,” is not about basketball. It’s about a group of people coming together in pursuit of a common good, a “Pay it Forward” paradym, for team, family, community, nation, and game. Enjoy your emotional roll-a-coaster as we shift our attention from the ending of football, to basketball, hockey, or whatever fires you up.

Why rhythmic progressions are key to muscle memory, player effectiveness, and reducing injury in sports

Proproioception of Movement
Proproioception of Movement

Athletic skill, like that necessary for everyday movement, is based on muscle memory, also known as “proprioception.” We ultimately achieve optimal muscle memory thru “rhythmic progression” of the patterns that are needed in an activity. I also discuss proprioception and movement in my blog on basketball.

Drumming for Basketball.ball drills1
Drumming for Basketball.ball drills1

Sports Science vs Brain Science of Basketball: Where does the Shot come from?

With newer limits on NFL workouts in the pre-season, there have been an increase in non-contact injuries. Why? Because of faded memories of the prioception of the movements innvolved. Too offset this, you need to do more rhythmic progression work to re-establish muscle memory of the required athletic movements. The Examine story below points to some of the problems.

Mysterious Non-Contact Injuries Plague NFL Teams

With the big increase of non-contact related football injuries felt related to not enough pre-season drills and such, I sensed the cause was due to insufficient rhythmic progression work this pre-season. These are the fine motor movements and timing needed in running and defending routes and such on the field. These need constant mental and physical re-connecting, especially 4-5 months off the field.

And I speak from not only having played and coached athletics, but also from my research and work with drumming, and in rehabing from a 1992 brain  injury. In the latter, I came to personally realize how important rhythmic movements are in everyday life.

Stephen Dolle speaking on drumming and rhythm at Wright State University
Stephen Dolle speaking on drumming and rhythm at Wright State University

Since 2004, I’ve been involved in drumming and have studied rhythm and movement, sensory processing and cognition, and mobile mHealth apps. I found drums & rhythm particularly beneficial in movement, balance, and coordination. I eventually created exercises with bells, shakers, and clave to help with sophisticated movements.

In 2008, I began incorporating basketball into my rhythm & movement work, and noted ways it helped body movement and spatial awareness, beyond drumming. I then began to use basketball “free throws” and outside shooting as “applied kinesiology” or AK in stress management and mental focus. AK is what chiropractors use in evaluations, and is also used by psychiatrists and psychotherapists in helping clients to overcome emotional trauma. At its core, AK is a “truth test,” as negative thoughts weaken you physically, and distract you mentally from an activity.

Drumming for basbetball workshops aid movement, timing, and on court communications
Drumming for basbetball workshops aid movement, timing, and on court communications

When you examine athletic preparation in sports from football to baseball, basketball, tennis, soccer, and the like, the one constant pre-game work-out is rhythmic progression and repetition of the movements of that sport. Repetition helps to put the movements back into muscle memory, while making it easier to execute without “thinking.”

Drum circle beats helps players with timing, stress management, and symptoms associated with concussion.
Drum circle beats helps players with timing, stress management, and symptoms associated with concussion.

My advice to those involved in athletics is to never cheat on your rhythmic progression warm-ups. These warm-ups and AK methods also help prepare your mind so you play more effectively, using more of the mind more for strategy, and muscle memory for execution. Being in a clear mental state does the rest.

Whatever your athletic requirements or movement needs, never forget the importance of preparation with rhythmic progressions. Best way to reach me is by email.

Stephen Dolle
contact[at]dollecommunications[dot]com
Dolle Communications