To excel in sports, it takes hard work and dedication. Athletes spend countless hours training in order to reach their peak performance levels and gain an edge over the competition. When we think of sports training, we usually associate it with physical and mental training. Exercising muscles to become stronger and the brain to recognize situations and develop solutions. However, vision should not be overlooked in the training regimen. The basic concept of sport vision training is that visual agility and the ability to understand and react to whatever you are seeing, can be developed and improved through vision training and exercise.
Beyond 20/20 Vision
There is a good deal more to having superior sport vision than simply having 20/20 acuity. Take two boys of the same size and physical skill. One is an excellent athlete and the other is not. Why? One possible answer is the difference in the two boys’ vision. Optimum vision for many sports involves anticipating what is about to happen, seeing what happens, physically reacting to what you see and then anticipating what will happen next. Proponents of sport vision training maintain that these are skills that can be measured and improved.
Elements of Sport Vision
Many sport vision professionals point to seven general elements of sport vision:
(1). Visual Acuity: The basic ability to see clearly.
(2). Depth Perception: Seeing in three dimensions to judge an object’s speed and distance.
(3). Eye/Body Coordination: The ability to take visual input from the eyes to the brain and then to the hands and feet.
(4). Contrast Sensitivity: The ability to see detail in various lighting and climatic conditions.
(5). Peripheral Vision: The awareness of what is happening outside of your main frame of focus.
(6). Eye Tracking: the ability to follow and anticipate the path of a ball or other object.
(7). Eye Movement Skills: The ability of the two eyes to work together as a team at high speeds and in stressful conditions.
Vision Training Programs Are Customized for Each Sport
Vision training can be individualized based on the needs of the sport itself. Training could be different for a football player versus a baseball player or a hockey player. It could even be different between a football quarterback and a receiver. Most of the training techniques, however, tend to break down into one of the following two groups.
Computer Challenges: Using a computer monitor and a joystick, athletes do specialized video activities aimed at sharpening the synapses that connect the eyes, brain and hand. The computer software measures and then advances performance.
Physical Drills: Like full-body versions of their computer counterparts, these drills seek to shorten the time between eyes seeing and body moving. For example, picture nine 1-ft squares marked on the floor in checkerboard fashion. Following prompts from a video console, the athlete moves his or her feet from square to square in a progressively quicker sequence.
Does Vision Training Really Work?
While all the variables that go into athletic performance make it difficult to quantify how much vision training can translate into batting averages, completion rates and shooting percentages, a study of student athletes at the U.S. Air Force Academy indicated that eye movement speed could be improved as much as 24 percent and hand-eye speed and accuracy could be increased up to 150 percent.
Benefits of Vision Training Extend Beyond Sports
Georgia Tech polled athletes that participated in the school’s sport vision training program. While 77% percent of the athletes felt the training helped their athletic performance, an even more impressive 83% said it helped their academic performance. Like many aspects of sports, the training and participation have benefits in all areas of life.
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