A computer program, designed by an Israeli technology company, is being applied to enhance the cognitive ability and awareness of hockey teams in the United States, reported the NHL Insider on Sunday.
The Israeli Applied Cognitive Engineering (ACE) company works with the Israeli army and the U.S. Air Force, as well as NASA and the American military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The company’s IntelligGym cognitive training program “is a breakthrough concept, proven to improve the performance of thousands of athletes, on the court, by more than 30 percent. Working with national teams and elite teen athletes, the Basketball IntelliGym and the Hockey IntelliGym improve those crucial skills, perceived as untrainable until recently. Those include skills such as awareness, reading plays, anticipation, decision making under pressure, execution, long term concentration, and avoiding errors,” notes its Website.
"We had no idea what to expect. It kind of looked like a video game. Sure enough, you could see how it related to hockey and increased your awareness and knowledge," said Michael Cornell, a junior defenseman and alternate captain at the University of Maine, whose team used the IntelliGym last season.
"We were asking coaches how they train athletes to make the right decisions," said Danny Dankner, ACE's chief operating officer. "For many of them, they thought being a smart player was a born trait. Either you were born that way or not. But, just like training your muscles, everyone can train their brain fundamentals. The percentage of improvement for pilots in in-air performance was tens of percent on average. If you want to train situational alertness and read-and-react skills and pattern recognition, these are skills that are harder to train."
"We realized if you train the players' skills and they are more aware of their surroundings and have better working memory, you are less prone to be injured while playing hockey. It's injury prevention because you are more aware of what is going on around you," Dankner continued.
The NHL Insider explained that since adopting the IntelliGym, the United States national Under-18 team has gone from winning 29 percent of its games to a whopping 70 percent.
"The cognitive element where you instinctively do something can give you the edge between making it and not making it. This [IntelliGym] is something that can help you be better at that. Every time you do a little better, it adjusts and makes it harder and makes you better," said former NHLer and current U.S. national U-18 coach Danton Cole.