Bryan Jovick is a former strength and conditioning coach for five NCAA Division I universities, ending his coaching career at the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Jovick now leads Reflexion’s expansion into schools and universities, and we asked him to answer one of our most common question.
I often get asked “how does this improve reaction time?”, “how does getting better at your light board drills make athletes a better basketball player?”, or “I believe reaction time is task-specific, so how would your system work to improve performance?”
Improving things like reaction time is about 1/10 of what we are trying to accomplish here. The other cognitive abilities we assess and track progress in are peripheral vision, eye tracking, depth perception in various contrasts, eye-hand coordination, memory & pattern recognition, and ultimately, prioritization & decision making under pressure. We have an assessment that takes 3 min and provides a report card of all abilities and gives an overall score. This is their “baseline”.
From there, the possibilities are endless as far an applications are concerned. My favorite application for strength coaches is to run assessments in a fatigued state and compare those scores to their fresh baseline scores. Measuring cognitive decline in a fatigued state puts data behind the pursuit of creating fatigue-resistant athletes, who can not only perform at a high level, but who can also absorb more information in practice and process more variables in games.
To the specific question about “how does getting better at a reactive light board make you a better basketball player”? The answer is “we can’t prove that”. However, it’s the same answer if you’re asked to prove that squatting makes athletes better basketball players…The value of squatting is increased lower body control, joint integrity while cutting/pivoting, accelerating & decelerating, and putting force through the floor. Improvements in these athletic characteristics have been shown to lead to enhanced basketball performance, but not squatting directly.
Lastly, without data measuring all parts of what goes behind a cognitive performance, like reaction time, it’s very hard to isolate what the actual problem is. In the example of reaction time, if there was a concern, you would not be able to discern whether it was a brain processing issue, prioritization, cognitive decline through being distracted, or simply a peripheral vision deficiency. All of these play into reaction time and it’s hard to isolate what the problem is without a data-driven system that can separate all cognitive functions that are involved.
Overall, it’s another tool in the toolbox in the pursuit of helping athletes reach their full potential.