In sports, an athlete’s vision is the signal that directs the muscles of the body to respond. Of all the information that an athlete takes in, over 80% comes from the visual system. The goal of sports vision training is to maximize how the eyes and the brain lead and direct the body during competition.
A comprehensive performance vision evaluation will break down all the components of the visual system. Each component is evaluated to determine any strengths or weaknesses of the visual system. Based on the results, a visual skills profile is created for each athlete. A 8-10 week sport-specific training program is created to maximize each visual skill and the overall performance of the visual system.
Is 20/20 vision enough? While very important, central visual acuity (clarity) is only a small part of what the visual system does for you, and what a serious athlete needs. Below are the functions that your visual system performs:
Dynamic visual acuity: The ability to see objects clearly while they are in motion
Proper eye alignment (aiming): The ability to keep both eyes locked in on a target, even when fatigued
Eye tracking / coordination: The ability of the eyes to track moving objects or targets quickly and efficiently in all directions
Focusing: The ability to change focus quickly and accurately from one distance to another
Depth perception: The ability to quickly and accurately judge the distance between yourself, the ball, other players, or field conditions while stationary or in motion
Peripheral vision / awareness: The ability to detect or be aware of people or objects in your periphery while fixating on a central target
These are your core visual skills necessary for optimal performance. Below are secondary skills that incorporate these core skills with information processing and motor control of the muscular system when the body is in action:
Eye-Hand / Eye-Foot coordination: Precise and accurate control of your body in response to visual information
Balance: Being able to control body movements and visual skills in different positions is important in all sports
Visual Concentration: The ability to focus on a target or task while blocking out external “noise” or distractions
Anticipation timing: A learned skill that allows an athlete to perform tasks “automatically”
Decision making: The ability to quickly make accurate decisions and responses based on visual information presented
Visual memory: The ability of your eyes and brain to take “snapshots” or recognize patterns on the field of play and process them quickly and efficiently
Visualization / Imagery: The ability to make “mental movies” using your mind’s eye or imagination which allow you to rehearse or practice for future situation on the court or in the field
Does sports vision training work? We do know that elite athletes have better visual systems and that visual skills can be trained and improved. There are many studies and testimonials affirming the benefit of these training programs. Visual skills entail taking in sensory information (input), processing that information, and producing a visually guided action (output). Obviously, each athlete is different and some attain greater improvements than others based on their baseline skill level.
So, in today’s competitive sports environment, we don’t want the serious athlete to overlook their visual system and all it does for them during competition. With all the hard work, training and hours of practice involved, we want the athlete’s visual system to be a finely tuned advantage, not something that slows them down or negatively affects their performance. Ultimately, our goal is for each athlete to see their full potential in whatever sport they play.