Think of your favorite sport or activity; vision plays an important role in your success. Coordination, concentration, balance, and accuracy are a few of the visually related abilities you use during a sporting events. Vision affects your batting average, racquetball score, pass completion, free throw percentages, putting accuracy, etc. The term “vision” and the growing field of “sports vision” apply to more than 20/20 eyesight, glasses, or contacts. Vision involves many subtle and sophisticated links between your brain, muscles, and eyes.
When you train for your sports activities, you probably work on your aerobic capacity, endurance, strength, and muscle tone and/or flexibility—you should train your vision as well. Many studies show that professional athletes have much better visual skills than non-athletes. Tests conducted on athletes reveal they often have greater depth perception or better eye-hand coordination, as well as many other excellent visual skills. They have a finely tuned visual system which helps them learn to anticipate and respond more quickly to complex visual conditions.
Precise visual decisions, critical to superior performance in sports, is dependent upon a skilled, stable, reliable, and functionally consistent visual system. Even if you already wear prescription lenses or contact lenses, the visual skills you need for optimum sports performance probably need improvement.
If certain skills are not up to par, you may unconsciously compensate and weak spots may develop in your game. These weak spots become obvious to your opponent who, depending on the level of competition, may play on them. Compensating behavior can include slowness or inconsistencies in one or more areas of performance.
The Visual Skills of Peak Performers
Dynamic Visual Acuity
This allows you to see objects clearly while in motion.
This is the ability to “keep your eyes on the ball,” no matter how fast it may be traveling.
This is defined as changing focus quickly and accurately from one distance to another.
This is seeing people and objects “out of the corner of your eye” while concentrating on a fixed point.
Fusion Flexibility and Stamina
This is ability to keep both eyes working together even under high speed, physically stressful situations.
This is the ability to quickly and accurately judge the distance and speed of objects.
This is the ability to picture events with your “mind’s eye” or imagination. Studies show that when you visualize yourself performing a particular activity, your brain doesn’t know the difference between performing the activity or visualizing. Visualization can boost your confidence and aid in greater focus on your athletic goals.
Athletes’ Vision in Training
Many studies show that professional athletes have much better visual skills than non-athletes. Tests conducted on athletes reveal they often have greater depth perception or better eye-hand coordination, as well as many other excellent visual skills. They have a finely tuned visual system which helps them learn to anticipate and respond more quickly to complex visual conditions.
The Student Athlete Connection
Student athletes all spend a significant amount of time working at near with studying, reading, computer usage, etc. When they are asked to use their visual systems in a skilled fashion at distance or during a sports activity or competition, a shift in visual demand will be difficult to achieve. This will result in decreased and inconsistent performance. Understanding the relationship between vision, learning, and sports is crucial. Sport-specific visual training will result in better performance both on the field and in the classroom.
Sports vision training will increase the performance of all athletes, both in an individual and team level.
Symptoms of Sports-Related Visual Performance Stress
- Performance not up to potential
- Wearing prescription lenses, but leaving them off during sports
- Poor eye-hand coordination
- Performance worsens under high stress situations
- Little or no improvement with practice
- Making unusual errors
- Inconsistent performance
- Better performance on one side, or in one direction, than the other
- Avoiding sports or getting frustrated with participating in sports
- Early fatigue
*Dr. Steven Agnes has worked with athletes from the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Boston Celtics, Portland Trailblazers, Oakland Athletics and various minor league baseball players as well as some local baseball teams and players.*