Opening Doors

Posted at 1:37 pm on 02/26/2014 by Barry Jacobs
I have conducted extensive research into how and why there has been a radical shift in the performance of elite adventure sports athletes.  It is a fascinating question how these athletes have taken the adventure sports performance into the stratosphere, far beyond the performance of any other sports genre.  So, what can a bunch of adrenalin junkies teach first responders about changing incident scene management?

First responders are the action adventure athletes of the street. First responders' dedication, commitment and determination to make things better, to change the outcome of emergency incidents is similar to the dedication elite adventure athletes bring to their pursuit of the ultimate challenge. First responders risk their lives for the least of us and they don’t ask for anything in return; they also pursue ultimate challenge. Due to these similarities, lessons learned from the growth in performance in the elite adventure sports world can transform the work first responders bring every day on the street.

The action adventure sports athlete is the only sports athlete that experiences the risk first responders experience everyday. The risk I am referring to is the potential of not going home at the end of the day and this very risk drives the exponential growth in the performance of action adventure sports athletes.

The key to understanding how elite athletes have elevated their performance, surmounting the next big challenge, is to understand how the brain works when facing huge risks such as when one places one's life on the line.  The latest neuroscience research indicates that these athletes can regulate the brain’s ability to switch gears.  The elite adventure sport athlete can shut down certain parts of the brain and activate other parts. A high-performing adventure sport athlete has learned how to switch from the inefficient problem solving of the conscious brain and to tap into the creative problem solving abilities of the subconscious mind.  As the brain shifts gears, more and more neurological fire power is targeted towards the problem that has the brain’s attention.  And there is the first critical element of changing how the game is played. 

What is happening as the brain switches gears is an efficiency transfer.  As risk increases, more attention goes towards focus and the brain begins to shut down parts of the pre-frontal cortex in order to boost the efficiency of processing. Adventure sports athletes have learned how to move out of the flight or fight response of the Sympathetic Nervous System. As these athletes allow adrenalin flow to increase focus, the brain adapts and switches to faster and more efficient processing in the subconscious part of the brain.

Throwing these neurological switches enables action adventure sports athletes to use parts of their brains that are faster and more creative and forge far-reaching neurological connections that lead to the thinking outside the box and improve in the moment critical “hot” decision making.  This enhanced situational awareness, heightened perceptions and rapid processing of information created the sensation of time slowing down. Once trained, the brain automatically makes these changes without thought. The action adventure sport athletes have mastered this in order to survive the risk they are barreling towards. Does this sound familiar? If so, please come with me on a unique journey that will change the way you play the game, on the street. 

Barry Jacobs

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