“Keep your eye on the ball!” “Focus on the finish line!” “Don’t lose sight of the green!” If there’s one thing that seems to be a key to success in sports, it’s vision. But did you know you can improve your performance by improving some aspects of your vision? It’s easy to recognize problems, and even easier to solve them. The following are some aspects of vision which can be the difference between victory and defeat, and some exercises to improve performance.
Dynamic Visual Acuity
Dynamic visual acuity is your ability to see objects when they are moving fast. This is important in sports like hockey, racquetball, and tennis. To improve dynamic visual acuity, cut out letters, stick them to a record turntable, and try to identify the letters at different speeds.
Visual concentration is your ability to ignore distractions happening around you. Your eyes naturally react to movement in the field of vision from spectators, other participants or the playing environment. To improve your visual concentration, have a friend stand nearby and wave their hands erratically while you practice.
Eye tracking is following an object with your eyes without much head motion. It is important with any sport that involves a fast-moving ball. Good eye tracking will improve balance and reaction time. You can improve your eye tracking by watching the flight of a ball while keeping a book balanced on your head.
Eye-hand-body coordination is how your muscles and limbs react to the information gathered by your eyes. It affects timing and body control. To improve your eye-hand-body coordination, jump up and down on an old mattress while a friend tosses you a tennis ball from a variety of angles. Catch the ball and toss it back.
Visual memory is the ability to process and remember a fast moving, complex picture of people and things. It is very important in basketball, hockey, and soccer, where the game quickly moves up the field. Visual memory helps you know where your teammates and opponents are positioned. To improve visual memory, look at a magazine page for a second, then turn the page. Try to reconstruct the images you just saw. When you have mastered the exercise, allow 5 seconds between seeing the image and reconstructing it.
Peripheral vision is the ability to see what is not directly in front of you, out of the corner of your eye. This allows you to see your teammate to your left or right while focusing on the goal in front of you. To make your peripheral vision more useful, try watching television with your head turned to one side or the other.
Visual Reaction Time
Visual reaction time is what allows a batter to hit the ball or a tennis player to return a serve. It is the speed with which your brain interprets and reacts. To improve your visual reaction time, stand with your back to a friend. Have them toss a ball to you and yell, “Now!” When you hear the yell, turn around and try to catch the ball. By repeating this exercise, you can teach your brain to react more quickly.
Focus flexibility allows a quarterback to quickly focus on his receivers even though they are at varying distances. To improve focus flexibility, post a magazine page on a wall about 15 feet away at eye level in front of you. Hold a similar page in your hand out in front of you, so that it is slightly to one side of your view of the page on the wall. Focus on an object or words on the page on the wall. Then quickly switch focus to the page in your hand. By switching focus back and forth, you will improve your focus flexibility.
Depth perception lets you judge distance. This is especially important in basketball, golf, and other sports involving distance to the goal. To improve depth perception, have a friend point a straw at you, parallel to the ground, with the straw about two feet away from you. Practice quickly inserting a toothpick into the straw.