The Book

The next frontier of sports training rests not with the body, but with the mind.

For years, common wisdom has held that athletic performance is rooted in genetics and peak physical enhancement of the body. But journalist Brandon Sneed has another idea: that mental engineering — training the cognitive process of the brain — presents yet a new level of sports performance, and that athletes, despite already being at the top of the genetic pool, can actually become better.

This is a watershed idea — the conscious alteration of our brains can have drastic effects, so much so that elite athletes around the world are already seeing incredible results: stars like Steph Curry, Kerri Walsh Jennings, Russell Wilson, and dozens others are experimenting with this concept. They are hooking their brains to computers and using other cutting-edge technology that seems like stuff out of sci-fi movies to get at the root of their respective performance. What they are finding helps them is eye-opening, powerful, and, in their words, “life-changing.”

In Head in the Game, Sneed takes on a mesmerizing tour of what seems to be a new frontier in performance enhancement, from neuroscience labs at Duke, to the Super Bowl, to the mountains of Patagonia, to the Taj Mahal of virtual reality, to the jungles of Peru, and beyond. Anchoring all of this is a dynamic cast of characters, from the director of human performance at Red Bull, to the former Nike higher-up who left to start his own cognitive engineering company, to the drug addict who built sensory deprivation chambers in a fit of near-madness only to find them in high demand by the world’s best athletes, to paradigm-shattering neuroscientists who have created technology that allows athletes to look at their brains using a headset and a smartphone, and many more.

What does all of this add up to? Not only is it dramatically altering the gazillion-dollar and ever-expanding landscape of sports business, and revolutionizing how teams and owners analyze athletes — it is changing the way we think about how athletes do what they do, and what we might learn from them. Most of all, this is not going away.

In turns comical and revelatory, shocking and thrilling, thoughtful and moving, Head in the Game brings a new level of understanding to what is possible for our world’s elite athletes — and what is possible for all of us.

Reviews

Head in the Game takes us on an absorbing journey into the workings of not only high-achieving athletes’ minds, but, along the way, the minds of us all. Exquisitely researched and told with a commanding and accessible voice, Sneed has shared insights that are not only often revelatory, but potentially life-changing. No matter whether you come at Sneed’s work as a sports freak or a student of neuroscience, this is a goddamned jewel.”

Peter Richmond
New York Times bestselling author of Badasses

We often look toward athletes and marvel at their 40 times, their verticals, their bench presses. But surely there has to be more to this whole thing. In Head in the Game, Brandon Sneed offers a deep dive into the cranial lobes of elite athletes. You’ll marvel at what he uncovers.”

Jeff Pearlman
New York Times bestselling author of Gunslinger, Showtime, Sweetness, and Boys Will Be Boys

This book is so much fun. Brandon Sneed is such an engaging tour guide to a world I knew very little about. Sneed has written a thrilling manifesto that reveals the many ways we can enhance the efficiency of our brains to improve our games and our lives.”

Don Van Natta, Jr.
ESPN investigative reporter, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author of First Off the Tee, Her Way, and Wonder Girl

Brandon Sneed will make you re-think everything you thought you knew about performance. A seamless blend of brave memoir, deep science, and relentless journalism, Head in the Game is a graceful story about a revolution in sports and, ultimately, what it means to be a human being. If the brain is the new Wild West of performance training, Sneed is our thoughtful and tireless cowboy guide. A stunning work of narrative nonfiction.

Lars Anderson
New York Times bestselling author of The Mannings and The Storm and the Tide

There’s a revolution around the corner in sports that this book and Sneed’s captivating voice bring into focus in marvelous detail to illuminate what lies ahead. Head in the Game is a remarkable examination.”

Brin-Jonathan Butler
author of The Domino Diaries

In his awesome book HEAD IN THE GAME, Sneed pulls back the veil on one of the most important, but least talked about, aspects of sports: the mind. In an engaging, articulate, entertaining way, Sneed shows us how the very best athletes get an edge in a world in which finding an edge is nearly impossible. This book will captivate both casual and rabid sports fans.

Kate Fagan
espnW columnist and author of What Made Maddy Run

This book is great. Head in the Game opens your eyes so much to the new world of mental engineering in sports that it’s a feat of mental engineering of its own: Anyone looking to learn more about the world around them and how the athletes they adore do what they do should read it immediately.

Will Leitch
author of Are We Winning? and God Save the Fan

The Author

Brandon Sneed

Brandon is an author, journalist, speaker, and a little crazy like you. 

He recently joined B/R Mag at Bleacher Report as a writer-at-large. His story “I’m Not the Lone Wolf” is a 2017 finalist for the prestigious Livingston Award, which honors the best reporting and storytelling by journalists under the age of 35 in print, broadcast and digital journalism. It is the largest all-media, general reporting prize in American journalism.

“I’m Not the Lone Wolf” tells the story of Urban Meyer, the great college football coach who won national championships at Florida while coaching Tim Tebow, was forced out of the game by mental health problems that landed him in the hospital thinking he was dying, and found his way back to lead his alma mater, Ohio State, to yet another national championship. 

Previously, Brandon’s stories have appeared in Outside, ESPN The Magazine, and more, and have twice been notable selections in Best American Sports Writing. When he’s not on the road, home base is Greenville, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife, toddler son, the baby in his wife’s belly, and their two dogs, a Jack Russell Terrier and a half-Jack Russell half-pit bull. For news about Brandon’s work and events, or just to say hey, visit brandonsneed.com.

He is represented by Eric Lupfer at Fletcher & Co.

Select Stories

Legendary Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer's dramatic journey to better mental health. A 2017 Livingston Award finalist. (B/R Mag)
A stunning story of overcoming what everyone expected you to be, and how one of the most violent and volatile UFC fighters in the world's life was saved by a young kid with cancer. For B/R Mag, one of my favorite stories ever.
How Tim Tebow became a baseball player, chose football, then wondered what we all wonder. What if? And then he totally went for it. (B/R Mag)
For 28 years, Kay Grayson lived side-by-side with wild black bears in North Carolina's swampy coastal forests, hand-feeding them, defending them against poachers, and letting them in her home. When she went missing last year, the only thing the investigators could find were her clean-picked bones. And that's just the start of the mystery. (Outside)
A small town, a big character, a story like no other. (SB Nation Longform)