An athlete needs more than talent, strength and passion to compete in sports. Whether it is shooting a 3-pointer, picking up the path of a curve-ball, sinking a long putt, or lining up a target, excellent vision plays an extremely important role in performance. But clear 20/20 vision is only one important factor in achieving maximum visual performance. Vision, in fact, involves many subtle and sophisticated links between your eyes, brain and muscles. The stamina, flexibility and fine-tuning of your visual system can often provide you with the split-second timing you need to excel in your sport of choice. While most athletes focus on training aerobic capacity, endurance, strength, muscle tone, flexibility and even nutrition, they often overlook training the visual system. This is quite the oversight, no pun intended, as the visual system is perhaps the most critical system to achieving optimal athletic performance. Consider that about 80% of how we learn and perform is through vision.
At the Rocky Mountain Sports Vision Institute (RMSVI) we utilize state of the art instrumentation and devices to thoroughly evaluate an athlete’s visual skills, and then custom design a program to addresses his or her weaknesses and to enhance those skills that are vital to their primary sport(s). This exciting new field of “legal” performance enhancement gives athletes a competitive edge as most of their competition neglects or isn’t even aware of this type of training.
Come take a tour of the facility. We think you’ll agree, our “eye gym” is second to none!
Many people falsely assume that just because you have 20/20 eyesight, you don’t need vision training. But please understand that eyesight is not the same as vision. Vision is the ability to interpret what is being seen. While eyesight of less than 20/20 can, in most cases be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, this does little to improve vision. The most effective way to improve specific visual skills is through vision training.
It is also a myth that our visual skills are largely inherited. In other words, we are born with a visual system that will only develop to a certain level of performance, and then it is set in stone. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While it is true that champion athletes do have excellent visual skills, it is also true that the average athlete, with proper training, can greatly improve their visual skills, perhaps to that of an elite athlete.
In sports, the slower the object moves, the more time a player has to visually read the information and respond. As the speed increases, the visual time allowed for the “read” decreases. Better players react quicker, whether by hitting the fastball, fielding the sharply hit ground ball, catching the deflected pass, shooting the jump-shot with a man in your face, or returning a wicked serve. The more adept an athlete is at reading the visual information more quickly, the better the consistency of his/her performance.
Every athlete, regardless of the sport, needs quick reactions and accurate judgmental skills. Their entire visual system must be operating at peak efficiency in order to generate the proper actions and reactions necessary for consistently top performance.
At the RMSVI, we have the expertise and equipment to take athletes to the next level. Here is just a sampling of some of the visual skills we can train:
- Dynamic Visual Acuity: the ability to see objects clearly while in motion
- Eye Tracking: the ability to “keep your eye on the ball” or follow a moving object.
- Eye Focusing: the ability to maintain clear vision as your eyes change focus quickly and accurately while looking from one distance to another.
- Peripheral Vision: the ability to see people and objects out of the corner of your eye while concentrating on a fixed point.
- Depth Perception: being able to quickly and accurately judge the distance between yourself, the ball, your opponents, teammates, boundary lines and other objects.
- Fusion and Flexibility Stamina: being able to keep both eyes working together even under high speed physically stressful conditions.
- Visualization: the ability to picture events with your mind’s eye or imagination (i.e. remembering plays, court position, and planning future action)
- Eye-Hand-Body Coordination: appropriate use of your hands, feet and body when responding to visual information.
- Visual concentration: being able to stay on task for increased awareness and fewer distractions.
There are two phases in the RMSVI Program:
Phase 1 (Evaluation):
Plan on spending an hour and a half during your comprehensive sports vision evaluation. This will be unlike any vision testing you have done before. We utilize state of the art sports vision specific instrumentation to analyze over 20 visual skills: Eye Hand Coordination, Detailed Color Vision Testing, Depth Perception, Reaction Time, Eye Foot Coordination, Multiple Object Tracking, just to name a few. The data is then compiled and a thorough report is generated summarizing an athlete’s strengths and weaknesses. From this assessment a customized training program is then developed focusing not only on the athlete’s weaknesses, but also taking into account their primary sport(s).
Phase 2 (Training):
Taking place over the course of 12 weeks, trainers will work one on one with athletes to improve their weaknesses as well as enhance the visual skills that are of particular importance to their sport(s) of interest. While greater emphasis will be placed on weaknesses, the intent of the program is to raise all facets of an athlete’s vision and visual motor skills to their maximum levels. Each weekly session will last approximately 45 minutes to an hour. In the beginning the training will be more basic and then gradually progress in difficulty. As the training progresses, we add challenges to make the training really expand an athlete’s visual threshold. This is similar to a runner wearing weights around his ankles during training and then taking them off for a race. Our goal is to improve an athlete’s vision to the point that when he/she returns to the field he/she will find it significantly easier to perceive and process what he/she sees. In addition to the weekly sessions, athletes will be given visual exercises to perform at home which are vital to the success of the program.
For the skeptical at heart, multiple studies have shown the benefits of Sports Vision Training. Recently a study showed The University of Cincinnati Baseball Team improved its team batting average from 0.251 in 2010 to 0.285 in 2011 after undergoing an extensive vision training program. This took the team from a batting average ranking of 12th in the Big East all the way to 4th. A 2011 study at Duke University showed significant improvements in visual cognition after vision training using stroboscopic spectacles. Both motion detection and central attention improved significantly. Finally, a study involving the Vancouver Canucks analyzing twelve performance metrics showed significant improvements in nine of the twelve metrics after vision training utilizing the Neurotracker. Hence, sports vision training can and does have a dramatic effect on an athlete’s performance on the field.