On his eleventh birthday, Massimo Polistina began to play a new “video game” that was unlike any the hockey player had ever tried before.
The biggest difference? He couldn’t beat it. In fact, as he got better and better, the computer program adapted became more challenging. Another difference? This game was one designed to help boost Hockey I.Q.
The Hockey Intelligym is a computer-based cognitive training program for athletes proven to enhance hockey sense and on-ice performance by strengthening cognitive skills including anticipation, awareness, decision making under pressure, and focus.
Four years later, 15-year-old Massimo has completed over 230 sessions with the IntelliGym and plays with the St. Louis Jr Blues Midget AAA program and has his sights set on college hockey, then the pros.
His father, Mark Polistina, introduced his son to the program in an effort to provide him with all the tools possible to help him improve and achieve his hockey goals. He says he has absolutely seen an improvement in the 15-year-old’s play.
“I’ve seen an improvement in his ability to see the ice better and his ability to anticipate the movement of the puck better, those are probably two of the biggest things,” Mark explains. “I see him surveying what’s ahead of him.”
The IntelliGym has also been shown in studies out of the University of Delaware and USA Hockey to reduce the number of head impacts among IntelliGym® users when compared to a control group.
“He’s never had a head injury, and he plays pretty high level hockey so we’re lucky so far,” he says. “I do notice that little sixth sense if you will, to avoid the worst of a collision.”
Massimo’s interest in the IntelliGym is retained, he says, because it is consistently challenging - and he can see the difference on his on-ice performance after training. The centre, and occasional wing, took a short break from the program and immediately felt a difference in his play - so he picked it back up.
“I’ve seen an improvement in my vision on the ice. I feel like I make passes or see passes before people notice they’re there. That’s a big element, to see the openings before other people see them,” he says.
Massimo plans on continuing to use the program - and particularly appreciates the boosted confidence he says IntelliGym has given him.
“If you know you can see the ice better, you have the confidence to go in harder to the corners knowing that you know where the puck will go,” he says. “It helps with scoring. You know where the play is going to go and it helps you read the play better.”
Hockey IntelliGym was first created by cognitive psychologists, computer engineers, and game theorists to help military fighter pilots develop precise instincts. It was then adapted for hockey via a collaboration between USA Hockey and the original team of scientists and researchers.
Hockey IntelliGym is currently used by over 30,000 hockey players aged 10 to 25. If a player trains twice a week, results show up on ice after about 6 to 8 weeks. With consistent use, the Hockey Intelligym may just be what a player needs to round out their hockey IQ.
For more information and to sign up, visit www.usahockeyintelligym.com.