Shalom Life | March 29, 2015

Israeli Air Force Technology Used to Train Hockey Players' Brains

Applied Congnitive Engineering training system develops a player's ability to make fast-paced decisions

By: Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com

Published: March 21st, 2012 in Business » World

Israeli Air Force Technology Used to Train Hockey Players' Brains

Muscles can be toned, endurance can be refined, leadership qualities can be taught. But how do you train a hockey player's brain? Can a coach work the areas of a player's brain responsible for awareness and intuition?

The Israeli Air Force, of all people, has the answer.

More specifically, the answer comes from Applied Cognitive Engineering, or ACE, an Israeli technology company that has worked with the Israelis and the U.S. Air Force, as well as NASA and the American military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Originally used to train fighter pilots, ACE's IntelliGym is now being adopted by more and more hockey coaches.

The cognitive training system develops players' awareness and ability to make fast-paced decisions and has already made its mark on the hockey world in just three years.

"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. "I think it was one of those things where it became almost second nature. I read this play differently because of the tools I've been using. It helped develop a high level of awareness for me."

In the sports world, IntellyGym was first harnessed by a number of big-time basketball coaches, including Hall-of-Famer Hubie Brown, who now sits on ACE's advisory board. When the team behind the IntelliGym noticed the incredible speed and action of hockey, they saw another area where they could provide a vital training tool.

"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 on-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."

While other schools, including the United States Air Force Academy, have adopted IntelliGym in their hockey programs, the greatest results so far have been with the United States' National Development Team Program. In perhaps the greatest testament to the merits of the program, last summer's draft boasted an impressive 16 selections who had trained with the IntelliGym, including top picks J.T. Miller, Connor Murphy, and Tyler Biggs.

But the number of NHL prospects is not the only statistic ACE boasts in touting the efficiency of its program.

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. Because the U.S. program has only used the IntelliGym for three years, the sample size for these statistics is rather small. But in the world of hockey, it's championships that are the ultimate metric. And considering the U.S. U-18 team is a three-time world champion and the U-17 and U-18 teams have combined to win 10 of their last 13 tournaments, the results seem to be indisputable.

"Before I got here, I was at a festival in the summer and the guys from Israel were there meeting with different coaches. That did give me interest in their research," said former NHLer and current U.S. national U-18 coach Danton Cole. "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."

The sample size is small and more results are likely needed to prove IntelliGym's true value, but Dankner sees other, potentially greater, long-term benefits of his interface.

"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," said Dankner. "Injuries happen when you are hit and not ready. If you know your surroundings better, you are less likely to be hit.

"Looking at the medical records, we found a 25 percent decline in injuries related to being hit on the ice, like concussions. This is a small sample, but I think we have an interesting thing we will research shortly."

The pool of data may be shallow right now, but Dankner believes his system may not just develop a better hockey player, but a safer hockey player as well.

Facebook Integrates Israeli App into Messenger Facebook Integrates Israeli App into Messenger TrendingToronto's Iconic Pancer’s Deli To Reopen Toronto's Iconic Pancer’s Deli To Reopen TrendingDisney Producing Animated Series in Jerusalem? Disney Producing Animated Series in Jerusalem? Trending
 

Of Course There's An 'Uptown Funk' Passover Parody

March 29, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
Of Course There's An 'Uptown Funk' Passover Parody

Brought to you from the same Jewish a cappella group that brought "Chanukah (Shake It Off)"

Read More

Wales Defeats Israel 3 - 0 in EURO 2016 Qualifiers

March 28, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
Wales Defeats Israel 3 - 0 in EURO 2016 Qualifiers

The blue-and-whites experienced their first loss of the EURO 2016 qualifying matches at home in Haifa

Read More

Op-Ed: Obama, not Netanyahu, is Killing the Two-State Solution

March 27, 2015 | By Ben Cohen, JNS.org
Op-Ed: Obama, not Netanyahu, is Killing the Two-State Solution

The U.S. President has never really empathized with the emotions that govern Israeli perceptions of the wider region

Read More

Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Op-Ed: Lena Dunham’s 'Dog or Jewish Boyfriend' Piece is Thoughtless and Offensive

In her latest literary endeavour, 'Girls' star Dunham tries to come across as funny by comparing her boyfriend to a dog; she doesn't

Read More

James Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish'

March 27, 2015 | By Daniel Koren
James Deen to Play Himself on Showtime's 'Happyish'

The prolific Jewish porn star will appear in a cameo on the new show out on April 26th

Read More

Woman Exposes Herself To Minors At Arizona Bar Mitzvah

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Woman Exposes Herself To Minors At Arizona Bar Mitzvah

Lindsey Radomski is being charged by police after allegedly exposing herself to, and performing oral sex on, minors at a Bar Mitzvah this past Saturday

Read More

Association Assisting Holocaust Survivors Needs Your Help To Make Their Passover Seder Possible

March 27, 2015 | By Caitlin Marceau
Association Assisting Holocaust Survivors Needs Your Help To Make Their Passover Seder Possible

The group, which holds an annual Passover Seder, is in danger of having to cancel their event due to the lack of funds needed to help the 450+ survivors who, without them, will be celebrating alone this year

Read More

Shortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO]

March 27, 2015 | By Tali Farkash & Liron Nagler-Cohen
Shortly Before they Died in Brooklyn Fire, the Sassoon Children Recorded This Emotional Song [VIDEO]

Song is their own version of Hasidic singer Yaakov Shwekey's hit "Cry No More"

Read More

More Headlines