Human Performance Improvement: More Mind Than Muscle  

Training both mental and physical skills together produces a complete player – athletes who can overpower their opponents and accurately execute tasks while eliminating mistakes, turnovers and penalties.

Human Performance Improvement (HPI) is a program designed to boost physical and mental performance. The mind is the source of recognizing problems and applying solutions, and HPI training outcomes involve no problems, only solutions.

ProVectraThe arrival of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) involving young adults has caused poor performance in the classroom and on the field. Recent studies have shown that the overuse of electronic devices, such as iPads and cell phones have revealed a direct correlation between poor exam performance and the greater usage of electronic devices, not only in the classroom, but also in team meetings and related instructional times. These results are due to the inability to maintain adequate attention, which is vital for learning.

Attention is necessary to meet the rapid and complex demands of sports. Attention leads to perception and perception leads to action. The speed and span of vision couples together with proper preparation to comprise the necessary components for making accurate decisions at lightning speed. HPI training focuses on these visual skills with various exercises designed to improve awareness, attention and brain processing speed.

Learning is another process that requires attention. Memories and experiences are necessary to create solutions. Working repetitively, one converts details and techniques into memories and permanent experiences. Repetition continues not just until you get it correct, but continually, until you never get it wrong.

So how exactly does HPI work? The program begins with determining the neurologic state of the visual system by measuring vision, speed and information content, by means of what’s referred to as Visual Evoked Potential (VEP).

The processing of vision begins with the retina creating an electric signal, or evoked potential which travels through the brain to the visual cortex. Here, the information is processed and directed to the areas of the brain necessary to accurately fulfill tasks. VEP indicates the speed of the signal (latency) and the amplitude (uV) or the amount of information being transmitted.

Since we can measure this, it follows logically that we can also improve it. We can measure true reaction time by subtracting the VEP speed, indicating how long did it take the mind to inform the body to start and complete the movement.

  • Hand eye coordination and reaction times can also be measured and improved.
  • Foot speed with proper form can be improved guaranteeing accurate results and positioning.
  • Players ability to perceive and react are key indicators for solutions.

All exercises work to improve implicit and explicit memory access. Your implicit memory operates unconsciously without analysis. Explicit memory operates consciously requires analysis.

Types of Implicit Memory

Procedural memory: Includes knowledge of how to perform various tasks, ranging from simple to complex. Athletes use procedural memory all the time to carry out basic tasks.

Priming: The process by which experience increases the accuracy or quickness of a response.

Conditioning: Unconsciously learning to associate one thing with another.

Together, these subtypes help athletes carry out tasks successfully, from hitting a ball, to catching a pass, or even  chasing down and tackling a runner.

The other group is explicit memory. These memories require a conscious effort to retrieve.

Types of Explicit Memory

Semantic: Deals with remembering facts, numbers, formations.

Episodic: Memory of experiences and specific events in time in a serial form. The events may have some emotional context surrounding an event not just the bare facts of the event itself.

Here’s an example of how all this works together: QBs looking over alignments and coverages retrieve an episodic experience from memory and initiate a positive emotion that once the ball is snapped, he turns to implicit memory and unconsciously drives him to execute the task accurately and quickly.

The Bottom Line

All of these types of memory affect athletic performance and can be improved. It can be confusing understanding how to train an athletes mind, when so much of athletic performance coaching focuses heavily on the body, but it’s an extremely critical component of training the whole athlete. If you’d like to learn more about HPI, please visit, or drop us a comment below!

This article was written by Dr. Bob Orsillo, O.D., who provides sports vision services in Tallahassee, Fla., is the optometric physician for all Florida State University athletic programs, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry (FAAO). He volunteers as a clinical coordinator in the Opening Eyes Program with the Florida State Special Olympics. He is also the founder of ProVectra, a training program that combines measures of visual transit speed and information capacity with state-of-the-art motion-tracking and data capture. More information is available at

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