Human Performance, Performance | Nov 7, 2019
In this fifth instalment, Optios explore how neuroscience allows for a more holistic approach to talent identification, recruitment and development.

An article brought to you in association with our Partners Optios:

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Optios, formerly The Platypus Institute is a pioneering leader in the field of maximizing elite-level sports performance based on neurocognitive assessments and has extensive experience working with coaches and athletes. For more information click here.

“Show me the money!” is a notorious catchphrase from the 1996 movie Jerry Maguire that sums up the mercenary negotiations that often occur when recruiting star athletes.

Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s character in this film refuses to sign a new deal being proposed by a sports agent (played by Tom Cruise) until his contract is worth ten million dollars.

Scouting and recruiting elite athletes is a highly competitive business with very high stakes. Neurocognitive assessments mitigate the risks associated with placing big bets on draft picks at the professional level or on player acquisitions at colleges, academies, and universities.

How do neurocognitive assessments work? Neurocognitive assessments monitor brain functions, physiological “fight-or-flight” markers, and behavioral responses to a variety of stimuli. These tests establish baselines for a wide range of brain functions using EEG monitoring devices that can be viewed in real-time on 3-D brain maps. These assessments also have a psychometric component that gauges behavioral traits and creates a psychological profile.

What does a neurocognitive assessment measure? Neuro assessments measure a broad spectrum of cognitive and neurophysiological baselines. These include reaction time, information processing speed, emotional reactivity, stress responses, resilience, visual processing speed, time “in the zone,” ability to think outside the box, learning speed, working memory, and overall cognitive capacity. Neurocognitive assessments can also use algorithms to identify individual brain signatures that are more likely to synchronize collectively with other team players on a neural level.

“Organizations at both the collegiate and professional level invest substantial resources and dollars into evaluating new talent on a yearly basis and have historically relied heavily on physical and character assessments to determine fit,” Tom Nugent of Optios said in a recent interview. “We can work closely with scouts and front office management to create a more holistic approach to talent identification by layering the cognitive element to their process. By having a more comprehensive understanding of the athletes, teams can potentially save millions by not overreaching on potential high-level busts, but also reap the benefit in identifying diamonds in the rough.”

Back in the 1990s, the average NBA salary was under a million dollars, and only a handful of players earned more than $3 million annually. This year, over 200 NBA players will earn upwards of $5 million. Stephen Curry’s annual salary for 2019/2020 is $40 million.

The domino effect of making a colossal investment in one star athlete who gets sidelined is in the headlines this basketball season due to Curry’s late-October hand injury that required hours of surgery and put him out of commission for at least three months. His team, the Golden State Warriors, need a deeper bench to fill in the All-Star gaps of their starting lineup now that their Most Valuable Player won’t be back in action until next year. This comes on top of having lost Klay Thompson to injury from last year’s playoffs.

Having Curry sidelined four games into the 2019-20 season is a major blow to his team’s chances of reaching the playoffs. Now, the Warriors are scrambling to minimize the negative ripple-effects associated with losing their MVP.

The key to minimizing the Warriors’ fiscal losses will be for team managers and coaches to identify which young players are worth keeping and who they should sell. As NBA reporter, Mark Medina, summed up: “So the Warriors will have to figure out which pending free agents are worth keeping and at what price. Then, they will calculate whether any of their young assets could be part of a future trade package.”

Optios’ neurocognitive assessments can also identify undervalued talent among second draft picks. According to an article by Matt Korman, the odds of picking a ‘diamond in the rough’ who becomes a successful second rounder (e.g., Draymond Green who was the 35th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft and became a three-time All-Star and All-NBA player) are only around 2.4 percent.

How Can Scouts Increase Their Odds of Hitting the Jackpot and Simultaneously Mitigate Risks When Recruiting New Talent?

Less than a decade ago, deciding which players to sign (and who to let go) was based on a combination of gut instincts and some basic analytics. However, in recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has begun to transform how athletes are evaluated.

AI can comb through massive amounts of data much faster than humans possibly could, the stats provided by these algorithms give coaches and team owners much more in-depth information about players’ performance than was previously at their fingertips when selecting talent.

“Everything that happens on the field, terabytes of data per game, is being collected, so this is where it’s really getting exciting,” Ari Kaplan, who is a Major League Baseball (MLB) scout and data analyst, said in a recent interview. “In some cases [AI] gives you insights you would never think of, and those instances can be game-changers,” he added.

AI is only part of the story when it comes to using advanced technology to help recruiters scout the right talent and steer clear of making detrimental player aquisitions.

AI-based algorithms combined with neurocognitive assessments can help sports teams and recruiters spot diamonds in the rough who have the potential to become star players.

Recent advances in NeuroPerformance technology make it possible for talent evaluators and scouts to use neurocognitive assessments to gauge each player’s bandwidth “from the neck up” before making high-cost investments on player acquisitions.

Optios helps coaches and sports team managers/owners decide which talent to recruit based on a battery of tests that assess and rank how each player’s brain operates in comparison to other elite athletes.

Individual athlete’s scores on brain function markers such as processing speeds, workload capacity, attention, focus and “playbook-holding“ memory can be ranked based on other athletes in the same pool of potential draft picks.

Brain-based technologies unearth hidden clues about how an individual athlete is likely to perform on the playing field that are unobservable to onlookers and missed by most AI.

Neurocognitive Assessments Complement AI Scouting & Recruitment Tools

Superstar athletes are easy to spot. One of the trickiest parts of the talent selection process revolves around mitigating the risks associated with choosing mid-level players. As part of a multi-faceted talent selection process, neurocognitive assessments provide unique insights about a middle-of-the-pack player’s potential.

Optios has developed a scientifically-validated toolkit to gauge athletic potential. Their  patented EEG-brain imaging technology and big data analytics tools are used to create comprehensive neurocognitive assessments and psychological-behavioral profiles.

Scouts and team owners who incorporate neurocognitive assessments into the recruitment process have the upper hand when it comes to talent selection.

Optios’ Cognitive Combine “Boost” Programs transform middle-of-the-pack professional athletes into world-class champions.

Optios takes a holistic approach that optimizes a player’s short- and long-term potential by identifying strengths and weaknesses early in their career. This can boost the performance of mid-level players and create a deeper bench.

Neurocognitive assessments enable scouts and recruiters to make evidence-based decisions when selecting talent. NeuroPerformance tools increase the odds of creating a team with more athletes who can pick up the slack if any players in the starting lineup—especially an MVP like Steph Curry—are injured during the season.

For more on neuroscience, check out the first four articles in this series:

Headstart: Demonstrating the Value of Neurocognitive Assessments for Pro Athletes, Coaches & Scouts

Headstart: Why Athletes and Coaches Are Turning Toward Neuroscience

Headstart: Why Neuroscience Promises to Be a Game-Changer for Elite Sport

Headstart: How to Make That Playbook Stick in the Athlete’s Mind

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