Montreal firm developed the Mind Room, which helps Azzurri players put soccer
AARON DERFEL, The Gazette
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Italy plays against France tomorrow in the World Cup final, some of its
best players will be relying on a secret weapon.
with special cleats? No. Shorts that make a forward run faster? Not really.
the secret weapon in question is called the Mind Room and it was developed
months now, at least four players on the Italian national team have been
training in the Mind Room to prepare themselves mentally for clutch moments
in the World Cup. Although the Mind Room is located in Italy, the biofeedback
equipment was invented by Thought Technology Ltd. of Montreal.
Alberto Gilardino, defender Alessandro Nesta as well as midfielders Andrea
Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso all swear by ProComp, the main device in the
Mind Room. Although Nesta is injured, the other three are likely to play
in the final.
guys have been trained by Bruno De Michelis, the head of sport science
of AC Milan, to be able to focus, to concentrate and to get into the zone
for their peak performance," said Lawrence Klein, vice-president
of Thought Technology.
is no question that mental preparation is the key difference, because
these guys are all extraordinarily fit and talented. Our instrumentation
helps the athletes reach that optimal state of mind."
the Mind Room, the athletes lie on reclining chairs, their bodies strapped
to the ProComp device that measures seven physiological signs - from their
brain waves and muscle tension to their breathing and heart rate. De Michelis
then trains them to use their minds to reach a meditative state.
next step is to teach the athletes to maintain that state while visualizing
in their minds their athletic performance. They often watch videos of
their performances on the pitch.
they have a particular problem - like missing a penalty kick or hitting
the crossbar - De Michelis will train them to relax mentally. He does
this by first getting them into the meditative state, then showing them
a video of their flawed performance for a couple of seconds. Naturally,
their muscles will immediately tense and their blood pressure will go
up as they watch the missed goal, but De Michelis will get them to relax
psychologist will repeat this until the player can watch the flawed performance
from start to finish while maintaining the meditative state.
idea is that when they go out on the pitch and have to make the penalty
kick, they'll be so focused, so prepared mentally, that they won't miss.
They'll be able to bring down their heart rate when they don't have to
run to conserve energy, and they'll do that without even thinking.
athletes will be able to reach that state of mind when presented with
challenges," offered Hal Myers, the inventor of ProComp, who holds
a doctorate in experimental medicine and is a part-time collector of Victorian-era
medical equipment that adorns his office.
and Myers, both sports buffs, founded Thought Technology in 1974 to devise
instrumentation for stroke rehabilitation and other medical conditions.
But they soon realized that their biofeedback technology can easily apply
to athletics. Their modest offices occupy the second floor of a nondescript
brick building in Notre Dame de Grace - hardly the place one would expect
to find soccer's secret weapon.
by phone in Italy yesterday, De Michelis said that a number of companies
specialize in bio- or neurofeedback, but he considers Thought Technology's
instrumentation to be the most reliable.
devices are just tools to train better mentally," he said. "Integrated
training gives you the capacity to recover through relaxation, to practise
better, to concentrate better and to visualize in order to improve your
all of Italy's players have used the Mind Room, only those who belong
to AC Milan. So how have they performed?
the World Cup, Pirlo has been making razor-sharp passes on the pitch.
Although Gilardino has been used mostly as a substitute, he set up a crucial
goal against Germany in the semifinal.
for Gattuso, he has run hard in the midfield, often winning the ball.
The Washington Post has described him as among the best players in the
tournament, known for his "tenacious tackling."
Post predicted that "the battle between Gattuso and (France's Zinedine)
Zidane will be one of the key duels of the final."
final that might be decided more in the mind than on the pitch.
The Gazette (Montreal) 2006