Hitting a baseball has often been called the hardest thing in sports. When you're talking about professional baseball, the batter has milliseconds to take in the information about the placement and type of pitch that's coming at him, make a judgment on if the pitch is hittable, assess the probabilities of the success of the hit, and make the movements necessary to connect with the ball. It's an unbelievably complex process, and yet you can see hundreds of examples in any major league baseball game any night of the summer.
Why does all this matter? For several reasons, according to sports writer Zach Schonbrun. First of all, it matters to anyone in baseball (including us fans sitting in the stands or in bars or in homes cheering on our favorite players) because it opens up opportunities for our batters to improve and for the next generation of players with the brains of master ball strikers to be scouted to our favorite teams. But beyond the baseball diamond, these principles can be expanded to help anyone improve any set of skills they want. Using the ideas in Schonbrun's book The Performance Cortex, musicians can learn to play more proficiently, bakers can decorate their cakes more efficiently, and knitters can wield their needles with more speed and accuracy than before.
This book is a deep dive--way way deep--into the neuroscience of performance. Schonbrun takes us on a journey through all different areas of brain science that could apply to making a good ball player better. He takes us through probability and prediction, expertise and experience, movement and motion, schemas and skills. The research is impeccable and extensive and offers science-based answers for all the questions you could ever possibly think of. You know it's going to be a compelling tool when sports and business shark Mark Cuban has been seen toting it around, and indeed this book is a powerhouse of information.
This is not a quick read. In fact, I think some of my grad school textbooks were easier to digest, but each chapter brings a new and interesting level of understanding as well as host of fascinating brain scientists from around the world that keep the stories personable and personal. Where Moneyball looked at the new data-driven model of sports management, The Performance Cortex takes us to the next level, the brain science based model of sports management. In short, this is the future of your favorite baseball team.
But most importantly, if Zach Schonbrun and his neuroscientist friends can bring my beloved Kansas City Royals back to the level of that 2015 World Series win, then this book is the best sports book ever!
The Performance Cortex was provided to me by Dutton, with many thanks.