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On the Ball

  Segment 2 Brainy Putting
Photo of Tina Tombs
  Golf Pro Tina Tombs subjects herself to Crews' hypothesis

Debbie Crews of Arizona State University believes one key to athletic success is getting the left and right hemispheres of the brain in balance. Her theory is that, in sports, the left hemisphere--the analytical, verbal side--is quite busy telling you what to do. To perform well as you swing a golf club, for instance--the left hemisphere must calm down. So the right hemisphere--which controls rhythm, timing, balance, coordination, creativity and imagery--steps up its activity. In the last second before you move, then, the two hemispheres achieve a state of balance.

In "Brainy Putting," Crews uses Alan to illustrate her theory, outfitting him in a cap with electrodes to pick up his brainwaves. Then she asks him to putt.

Rating each of his own putts on a scale of 1 to 10, Alan averages about an 8. Then Crews puts him on a balance board, forcing him to get his body in balance in the hopes that his brain will follow suit.

It's tough going at first, but Alan finds a way to do it by imagining himself as a cloud. As an EEG will reveal, Alan's use of imagery puts his brain in balance. Once he stops trying to figure out how to balance--a left-brain activity--and lets his body take care of itself--helped by his right-brain imagery--things get easier.

Alan's rates his putts again after his stint on the balance board. This time, he gives most putts a 9. But just as Alan gets used to the idea that relaxing and letting go is what's important, Crews puts him on a stationary bicycle and gets him all pumped up.
Photo of Alan smiling  
Alan game improves with a balanced brain  

Despite his revved-up physical state, Alan's brain remains pretty well balanced. Crews hypothesizes that the aroused brain has more energy with which to focus. And it works. Alan continues to rate his putts high and appears to gain confidence in his game.

Finally, Crews ups the ante and pits Alan against professional golfer Tina Tombs, offering financial reward to the winner.

Surprisingly, Alan, with his balanced brain and low expectations, outperforms Tombs. With her unbalanced brain and high expectations, Tombs can't seem to find her groove.


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