How IMG's Mind Gym is Revolutionizing the Way Athletes Train
By Brandon Hall, STACK
The tool that's revolutionizing athletic training looks like the offspring of a Simon board.
It's a series of small black disks, each capable of lighting up in six different colors. Along with the interconnected tablet, these simple lights are changing the way elite athletes train. Known as The FITLIGHT Trainer system, the technology is already being used by teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks. Individual athletes like J.J. Watt, Antonio Brown and Steph Curry include the tech in their training.
The FITLIGHT is often used for the type of training that won't leave you out of breath—hand-eye coordination, mental focus drills and vision training. That's exactly how it's implemented in the "Mind Gym" at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Located above the academy's sprawling weight room, the Mind Gym is a classroom stuffed with high-tech gadgets designed to challenge an athlete's mental-visual connection. The FITLIGHT Trainer plays a starring role. "The program was originally developed for Air Force fighter pilots," says Dr. Taryn Morgan, IMG's Assistant Director of Athletic and Personal Development. "The goal is to train the cognitive perceptional side—things like reaction time, decision making, control, anticipation. Getting players to react, think and manage any stress that's coming at them. Being able to pick up cues in their environment really quickly, just like on the field."
STACK recently got a chance to see a number of NFL prospects train in the Mind Gym, including Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs. Dobbs trained on the technology throughout college, and watching him pick his way through the drills was impressive.
"The Mind Gym is very beneficial, because your brain is what really separates you. Everyone is fast, everyone is strong on the field. But how fast can you process information?," Dobbs told STACK. "You're trying to find a leg up on the next guy." In this clip, an athlete is tested on how fast he can recognize the colors and how accurate he is at deactivating the lights in a pre-determined pattern—in this case, red, blue, green, yellow, purple.