Serious athletes are known to do whatever it takes to excel in their sports. An athletic career is only as good as the player, and the player only gets better by working harder and consistently every day. This can mean anything from strict diet plans, carefully developed workout schedules, and specific rest regimes.
When it comes to excellence in performance, dedication to training takes top priority. However, science has proven that exercise is more than just lifting heavy weights, memorizing playbooks, and eating the right kinds of food.
Sports vision training has become a revolutionary yet vital component of the athletic training regime. With the right sports vision training exercises and equipment, any athlete can take their game to the next level.
Let’s take a closer look at what this means and why it’s important to include visual training for athletes and their training plans.
What is Sports Vision Training?
Sports vision training is a type of training that focuses on heightening an athlete’s visual abilities within their sport. Through visual tests and screenings, professionals can determine where a player stands concerning their optical performance. They can then develop a comprehensive training program specific to their strengths, weaknesses, and even their sport of choice.
Sports vision training looks at things like hand-eye coordination, dynamic visual activity, visual reaction time, peripheral vision, and tracking focusing.
The components which an athlete’s training will center on depends on their level of skill in each and what demands their specific sport has for them.
Necessary Visual Skills
A sports visual exercise or therapy will focus on some or all of the individual vision skills needed for them to reach their highest playing abilities.
- Eye Tracking: learning to keep your eye on the ball
- Peripheral Awareness: the ability to see things out of the corner of your eye
- Dynamic Visual Acuity: learning to see objects clearly while they’re in motion
- Focusing: changing focus from one object to another quickly and clearly
- Hand-eye and Body-eye Coordination: being able to use your eyes to direct the movements of hands, body, and other specific limbs.
- Depth Perception: quickly and accurately judging the distance and speed of something
- Reaction Time: the rate at which you can perceive a visual event and react to stimulus
- Contrast Sensitivity: the ability to distinguish between an object and the background
- Balance: ability to stay upright and in control of body movement
As you can see, there are a lot of visual skills that apply to many different sports – and they are all essential and affect each one differently. Learning your strengths and weaknesses in each of these areas can prove to make a massive difference in how you train.
How Can Sports Vision Training Help Athletes?
Much research and science have gone into proving that sports vision training is necessary to lead to peak performance. In fact, over 80% of what a person learns in their life comes from using our visual system. Of course, that percentage raises even higher when talking about sports specifically.
As we mentioned earlier, sports vision tests can indicate where an athlete’s strengths and weaknesses lie in terms of the above categories and skills. There are several tests involved in determining visual needs.
One test often used by experts if the Snellen Eye Chart. Even if you’re not an athlete, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with this test. The Snellen Eye Chart is what professionals use during an appointment with your eye doctor that determines your vision abilities.
From 20 feet away, individuals are asked to identify letters on the chart. If you can identify down to the fourth line, you are said to have 20/20 vision. Anything below that is better and better.
This test is generally used to determine whether an individual needs glasses or contacts or not.
From there, other tests can determine more specific needs to help nail down a training regime. Contrast sensitivity tests help identify your ability to distinguish an object from its background. A standard test in this category can involve having an athlete point out the orientation of parallel gray stripes placed against backgrounds that change to match the shades.
Eye Tracking Devices are used to assess how well you can track moving objects. This test uses computer systems that have your eye follow various motions on a screen.
Many times, experts like to determine how your eyes perform in conjunction together. To figure this out, they will use an Ocular Alignment Test. This test involves covering one eye to see how the other eye responds and then uncovering both eyes to compare.
Doctors can also use the Hirschberg test, where they analyze how light reflects off the cornea. This test can highlight alignment issues through specific points on the cornea and where reflections happen.
Depth perception is another critical aspect of sports vision therapy that determines your ability to see in 3D. During one of these tests, an athlete might participate in the Howard-Dolman Apparatus test. This test involves a box-like system with an interior light which is placed at eye level.
There are two black, vertical rods that an individual will manipulate using a system of strings and pulleys. An examiner delivers instruction on where to move the rods and assesses your ability to do so.
Needless to say, testing all of these areas of your vision and more can help professional trainers determine what areas need to most work according to the demands of your sport. For example, a tennis player needs to have high levels of hand-eye coordination. If a player lacks in this area, a trainer will likely focus on exercises that enhance this trait.
Examples of Sports Vision Training Exercises
Sports vision training exercises widely depend on the sport of focus at hand, and which aspect of your vision you’re trying to train. The most popular vision training for athletes exercises focuses on aspects of vision, such as your focus flexibility, peripheral awareness, and dynamic visual acuity. Here are a few examples of popular sports vision training exercises.
Focus flexibility deals with your ability to adjust your focus from objects that are far away to ones that are near. Exercising this area of your eyesight is easy to do on your own.
To practice this, simply start by focusing on an object close to you, and then switch your focus to an object behind the first one in the same line of sight. Perhaps you have a cup sitting on the table in front of you and a clock on the wall in the background.
Go back and forth between focusing on the cup and the clock. This exercise is also an excellent tip to implement in your workday, primarily if you work on a computer. Not only will it help with your focus flexibility, but it can relieve strain caused by the extended screen time.
Your peripheral awareness can be super important when it comes to sports. An athlete’s ability to perceive actions around him without turning his head can significantly improve his game.
One way that you can improve your peripheral awareness at home and without any special sports vision software is by taking time to specifically observe a moving scene with your head turned to one side. Try turning on the television and watch the scene with the right side of your head to the screen. Do the same with your left side.
Simply practicing this exercise can help improve your peripheral awareness and improve your vision as it relates to sports.
Dynamic Visual Acuity
Dynamic Visual Acuity is extremely important in fast-paced sports like basketball, tennis, and hockey. An athlete in these sports needs to be able to see objects clearly while they are moving quickly, like the ball or the puck.
It’s important to exercise this area, even if you have 20/20 vision or better. The game changes once things start to move.
One at-home exercise that the American Optometric Association recommends is to use a record player. Cut out various letters of different sizes from a magazine and place them on the turntable. Stand arm’s length away and identify the numbers as they spin in circles. You should practice this at different revolutions per minute.
As you become better at this test, you can start using smaller and smaller letters to increase difficulty.
If you don’t have a record player handy, you can still train this skill by practicing with a partner. Get a set of flashcards, and write a word on each one. Start big and use the entire flashcard to write your word. Then, make the words progressively smaller and more difficult to read. Have your partner briefly show you each flashcard, and identify each word as quickly as possible before your partner takes away the card.
Depth perception is vital to several sports, as well. Football players need it to judge where the ball is going to land. A baseball player needs to be able to hit the ball as is crosses the plate. A swimmer has to be able to tell when to flip-turn at the wall during a race.
A great way to exercise this trait at home is to take a pen and its cap and practice putting it on. Hold the pen and cap away from you at arm’s length and try it that way. Another exercise that allows you to practice this skill involves holding a drinking straw at arm’s length away from you, and trying to drop a pebble, BB, or balled up piece of paper through the straw with your free hand.
Sports Vision Training Software
As we mentioned earlier, there are various different sports vision training software programs in use today that also help develop your vision by using sports vision training equipment and sports vision therapy. While many vision training programs are being created, you need to have the proper hardware in order for them to get the job done.
The Edge from Reflexion is a great example of synergy between sports vision training software and hardware. This sports vision training equipment allows you to easily and accurately train many aspects of your vision, including peripheral vision and hand-eye coordination. With Reflexion, you’ll also be able to train other skills critical to sports performance, including memory, reaction time, and decision making, all done our the Edge hardware.
Reflexion provides meaningful feedback in real-time, and you’ll be able to use that data to refine your training routine further as you make progress. You can learn more about this powerful sports vision training solution right here.
Visual training for athletes has proven to be crucial when it comes to achieving peak performance on the field, the court, or the pool. With technology growing and developing more and more every day, it’s becoming easier for trainers to identify specific needs of athletes and build a personalized program to help them reach their goals.
Visual training involves specific sports vision therapy with all kinds of different sports vision training equipment, software, and exercises. No regime will be the same, but they all operate on the important fact that vision is essential to athletic greatness.
Whether you are trying to train yourself in your home for your own benefit or you’re a professional working with a qualified coach and trainer, you need to remember that your visual performance is just as important as your physical performance.
Don’t spend all of your time in the gym lifting weights while ignoring the cognitive exercises that could really take your game to the next level.
You can start taking some solid steps and leaps toward improving your cognitive and physical well-being by checking out Reflexion Edge. Reflexion Edge helps athletes record statistics, identify cognitive strengths and weaknesses, and gives proven tips and exercises to improve.
Dedicated to helping you move forward, this innovative team tackles performance and health head-on as one, delivering the cutting edge of cognitive training and tracking technology.
Jump in today to learn how your brain and performance are connected using data-driven and speed-focused technology.