Did you know that many times sport performances that fail are not caused by mental error, poor equipment or clothing, or even the wrong physical movement? In actuality, they are often the result of the movement being performed at the incorrect time or the incorrect place. This is an error in visual perception and processing. Vision is the primary sense used by athletes. Over 90% of information collected in sport is visual. The eyes are a direct extension of the brain and carry an extensive amount of information back to it; they are how the brain reaches out and touches the world. This is why the eyes lead the body, and athletes constantly create visually guided movements that require frequent manipulation. Their vision provides them with information about where, when and how to perform. When people think of vision they often think of it only in terms of sight or visual clarity. Yet, vision in sport encompasses so much more, and goes beyond 20/20. It involves things like vergence, focus flexibility, fixation stability, eye movements, visual information processing (like visual spatial skills, visual motor integration, and visual analysis), contrast sensitivity, depth perception, reaction time and anticipation timing. In sport, it's not only what you see that's important, it's how you perceive what you see and respond to it. You may be able to see well, but if your perception of that information is incorrect, then your movements and responses will be incorrect also.
Sports vision training works on improving the visual abilities of an athlete that are most crucial for excellence in their sport. It enables them to process and respond to what they see faster, more accurately and more efficiently. This type of training not only trains the eyes; it trains a person's cognitive and motor system to work better together. If they can see something faster, process it faster and make a better decision, will be a better athlete. Sports vision training combines traditional vision training tools with advanced technology and sport specific drills. The athlete undergoes a preliminary assessment, which analyzes their performance and highlights areas of strengths and areas for improvement. A custom training program is then developed from that information. It is tailored to that athlete, their sport and position for maximum effectiveness. Just as physical training progresses from simple movements to more complex drills, so does vision training. Each session is composed of exercises, intervals and sets. Cognitive challenges, sport specific movements and balance are then introduced to increase an athlete's focus and visual and mental flexibility.
1. Dynamic Visual Acuity:
Athletes, targets or opponents are rarely stationary during sport. Dynamic visual acuity helps athletes see clearly while they are in motion and helps them track moving objects more accurately.
2. Visual Processing Speed:
This is the speed at which we process what we see. Visual processing speed allows athletes to "see faster", make better decisions and react more quickly.
3. Eye Hand/Foot/Body Coordination:
This involves simultaneous control of eye and body/hand/foot movements.
We use accommodation to focus in on objects. This system must be flexible in order for an athlete to change focus from near to far (and vice versa) quickly.
5. Depth Perception:
Depth perception is our perception of the location, speed and distance of an object.
6. Multiple Object Tracking:
Athletes must attend multiple things at once during a game. For instance, while paying attention to a ball or puck they must also be aware of and track movements of teammates, opponents and obstacles. Multiple object tracking focuses on the ability of an athlete to split their attention and follow multiple objects in space, simultaneously.
7. Visual Capture:
This is also referred to as working memory. It is the ability to take a "mental snapshot" of what is happening and make mental and physical decisions based on that information.
Anticipation timing is crucial in determining when to make a move. For instance, in baseball, you must anticipate when the ball will arrive in the right location for you to hit it. It is the ability to "think ahead" and make a decision. This skill may also encompass visual capture and rely on making decisions based on an opponent or teammate's body language.
9. Eye Tracking:
Since most objects in sport are in motion, it is essential that an athlete can make accurate and precise eye movements to follow those objects.
10. Peripheral Awareness:
Peripheral awareness refers to ability to identify objects using our side vision. Sports vision training improves peripheral awareness, creating a wider field of view and making athletes more aware of their surroundings.
11. Spatial Awareness:
This refers to the ability to know where you are in relation to other objects, players and location on the field/court/ice/ring.
12. Convergence and Divergence:
This refers to the eyes' ability to work together as a team. It relies on the coordinated abilities of the eyes to follow an object as it moves closer or further away from us.
13. Concentration and Focus: These are essential skills that help an athlete minimize distractions and focus on the task at hand. Distractions can range from music, crowds, camera flashes, and inner thoughts (to name a few).
14. Impulse Control:
We must learn to act when appropriate and not on based on an impulse or feeling.
15. Contrast Sensitivity:
Some sports having varying levels of contrast due to changing illumination produced by weather, artificial illumination, shadows, glare, playing surface conditions and backgrounds. It is the ability to distinguish an object from its surroundings. It is determined by the difference in colour and brightness of the object and other objects within the same field of view.
All athletes who have completed sports vision training experience the same effects. They report that: the game seems to "slow down", they can make better decisions, they are more aware of their surroundings, and have more time to make decisions. They are better able to focus and ignore distractions. Practices and and training sessions become more efficient. They are better able to "get in the zone" during games and competitions. Overall, they report the game seems easier.
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