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Head in the Game

Head in the Game Cover

Head in the Game

The Mental Engineering of the World's Greatest Athletes

By Brandon Sneed

Dey Street Books, Hardcover, 9780062455932, 384pp.

Publication Date: February 28, 2017

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Description

The next frontier of sports training doesn't rest with the body, but with the mind

For years, common wisdom has held that athletic performance is rooted in genetics and peak physical enhancement of the body. But journalist Brandon Sneed has another idea: that mental engineering -- training the cognitive process of the brain -- presents yet a new level of sports performance, and that athletes, despite already being at the top of the genetic pool, can actually become better.

This is a watershed idea -- the conscious alteration of our brains can have drastic effects, so much so that elite athletes around the world are already seeing incredible results: stars like Steph Curry, Kerri Walsh Jennings, Russell Wilson, and dozens others are experimenting with this concept. They are hooking their brains to computers and using other cutting-edge technology that seems like stuff out of sci-fi movies to get at the root of their respective performance. What they are finding helps them is eye-opening, powerful, and, in their words, "life-changing."

In Head in the Game, Sneed takes on a mesmerizing tour of what seems to be a new frontier in performance enhancement, from neuroscience labs at Duke, to the Super Bowl, to the mountains of Patagonia, to the Taj Mahal of virtual reality, to the jungles of Peru, and beyond. Anchoring all of this is a dynamic cast of characters, from the director of human performance at Red Bull, to the former Nike higher-up who left to start his own cognitive engineering company, to the drug addict who built sensory deprivation chambers in a fit of near-madness only to find them in high demand by the world's best athletes, to paradigm-shattering neuroscientists who have created technology that allows athletes to look at their brains using a headset and a smartphone, and many more.

What does all of this add up to? Not only is it dramatically altering the gazillion-dollar and ever-expanding landscape of sports business, and revolutionizing how teams and owners analyze athletes -- it is changing the way we think about how athletes do what they do, and what we might learn from them. Most of all, this is not going away.

In turns comical and revelatory, shocking and thrilling, thoughtful and moving, Head in the Game brings a new level of understanding to what is possible for our world's elite athletes -- and what is possible for all of us.

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