Memory plays a big role in sports performance. At a surface level, athletes must remember everything from an offensive play to an immediate command from a coach. Muscle memory helps the body react quickly under stress and execute well-practiced actions to rise above the competition. Although it’s clear that physical training and practice improve this type of memory, what role does cognitive visual training play in improving memory capabilities, and as a result, athletic performance?

According to an article published in the International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology in September 2010, working memory must be taken into account in studying motor learning, performing under pressure, and imagery within sports performance. Working memory is the cognitive function that’s required to hold a small amount of information so it can be used for ongoing activity.

Research shows that motor skills, as related to sports, must rely on memory a great deal in the early cognitive stage. As athletic skills develop, individuals can associate particular sporting scenarios with expected responses. In the most elite athletes, autonomous reactions tend to take over, often referred to as muscle memory.

Memory also plays a role in improving athletic performance under pressure. According to several studies, pressure can cause anxiety, which can then interrupt the working memory system. This interruption can play a role in situations where athletes “choke under pressure.”

Finally, there may be a connection between memory and the imagery and self-talk techniques taught by sports psychologists. Imagery and perception are somewhat similar and occur in the same areas of the brain. Refining these areas can also play a role in improving athletic performance.

Sports performance training must encompass not only physical and nutritional aspects but also heighten cognitive function and improve brain health. In recent years, many companies have introduced innovative technology solutions to help athletes do just that. Some technological training programs include cognitive visual training, computerized memory-boosting programs, stroboscopic visual tools, and others.

Cognitive visual training in particular can help enhance sports performance, helping hard-working athletes reach their potential, as well as provide a method to address sports-related head injuries and brain health.

A paper published in iResearchNet.com reported that many different studies of a variety of sports including volleyball, golf, soccer, and others illustrated that memory is functionally related to motor performance. Embracing tools that promote memory training, then, is an important facet of sports performance training for today’s athletes.