Lopes hoping to gain an edge through study of brain activity
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
Debbie Crews has spent most of her life helping athletes get in the ever-elusive “zone.”
The Grand Canyon University Bowling team will serve as her latest subjects.
Crews has studied brain patterns of elite athletes since the 1980s, working tirelessly to discover the secret formula to achieving maximum athletic performance under extreme pressure.
The result of her life’s work is the Better Your Best system, a mental performance program that puts athletes through a variety of challenges to identify areas of strength and weakness using feedback from brain activity charts.
“It really is like CrossFit for the brain,” said Crews, who started the program 3 1/2 years ago alongside friend and two-time Olympian Judi Adams. “The goal of the program is to take athletes beyond their best by measuring their brain patterns when they’re performing at a high level, and help them get into that mode more often.”
In anticipation of the 2019-20 season, GCU bowlers will spend all of Oct. 12 with Crews and her team. The Lopes will participate in a host of activities – including darts, archery and free throw shooting – to name a few.
Why wouldn’t Crews work with the team on their bowling skills?
The answer is simple.
Performing unfamiliar activities result in greater, more measurable brain activity.
“Brain patterns show up better when experiencing something outside of your performance comfort zone,” Crews explained. “For the bowlers, the activities we’ll put them through will be great because they won’t be able to use their internal coping mechanisms. We’ll be able to get a true measure.”
While performing the various activities, each bowler will wear a headset that sends neurofeedback readings to an app. Crews and her team will be able to study brain activity in the Better Your Best success indicator areas of courage, adventure mindset, forward focus, authenticity and connectedness.
“We’re most interested in how they handle themselves while they’re performing,” Crews said. “How are they managing their good and bad attempts? How is the brain reacting to each situation? We can learn a lot from brain response.”
Crews, who has assisted the Arizona State University Women’s Golf team since 1979, said she studied adventure athletes extensively when developing the Better Your Best program. In many cases, extreme sport athletes must dial in or face the consequences of extreme injury.
“When you look at adventure athletes, they’re setting records at rapid rates,” Crews said. “If they don’t perform like they need to, they can die. Just because these kids don’t face the risk of dying at the bowling alley doesn’t mean their performance doesn’t mean anything to them. We can teach them to be balanced and perform at their top ability.”
GCU Bowling opens its season against ASU in the 5th Annual Grudge Match on Oct. 18 beginning at 4 pm at Thunder Alley on the GCU campus. Admission to the match is free.