It’s game time! How will your players fare? Ready to win? You will no doubt increase your chances of winning if you focus on building executive function skills in addition to the skills of the sport! While athletes focus on building muscle strength, flexibility, agility, and other physical attributes . . . point to your forehead! Right behind there is a critically important part of the brain for winning! This part of the brain grows significantly throughout youth until about the age of 25. So it’s something worth paying attention to when it comes to young learners.

Consider the sport. Can the player . . .

  • – Focus?
  • – Remember details?
  • – Follow multiple steps?
  • – See multiple sides to a situation?
  • – Think about multiple concepts simultaneously?
  • – Anticipate?
  • – Create mental images?
  • – Generate possible solutions?
  • – Predict outcomes?
  • – Apply former approaches to new situations?
  • – Be creative?

These are just some of the 40 skills of executive function that I discuss in my book Building Executive Function: The Missing Link to Student Achievement.

Succeeding in a sport is about more than the physical skills; the mental (most often, executive function) skills are a key partner. Building all skills falls into seven phases:

Conceptualization — What is this sport all about?
Observation — What can I learn by watching others?
Learning — How can I get the instruction I need for both the physical and mental aspects of the game?
Practice — How can I build my skills?
Visualization — How can I create mental images to practice in my head?
Application — How can I put my skills to use in a game?
Reflection — How did I perform and what do I need to accomplish next?

During each phase of player–performance–improvement, the player needs significant executive function! You’d surprised at what a little attention to executive function can do!

Here are some tools from our instructional resource MyQPortal ( that can help players build executive function, whether in the classroom or on the field or court!

Building executive function will be the game changer! Literally!

Additional Resource:

Join our Virtual Learning Community (VLC) on Building a Culture of Executive Function.