When you think of the skills necessary to succeed at sports, speed, strength, agility, and endurance probably come to mind.
But have you considered how much we depend on visual skills to play sports? It’s no surprise that coaches tell their players to “Keep your eye on the ball” and “Look the ball into your glove.”
That’s because the visual system is the primary guide for the rest of the body to execute the physical actions needed in sports and every other aspect of life.
Some Visual Skills to Work On
Visual skills are a crucial component of a wide range of sports. Take tennis. You have to closely watch the ball from the second an opponent hits it to calculate the ball’s flight. That allows you to calculate where to plant your feet, how much to twist your torso, and where to position your arm in order to deliver the best counter strike.
Here are 5 visual skills used in sports, and tips for how you can improve them:
Dynamic visual acuity: being attentive to details in moving objects. As the baseball flies toward you, watch its spin to discern whether the pitch is a curveball (which dips down toward home plate) or a slider (which darts to the side and down).
Hand-eye coordination: the information seen and processed by the eyes and brain guides the movement of the hands. When a basketball teammate snaps a no-look pass your way, your hand-eye coordination is vital to see the ball’s approach and get your hands in position to catch it.
Eye tracking: the eyes moving together to follow an object. Watch a basketball from the second you release your jump shot until it drops through the hoop.
Peripheral vision: noticing objects at the edge of your visual field while looking straight ahead. To practice anticipating an opponent sneaking in to steal the basketball you’re dribbling, take notice during a simple walk on a city street. Is another pedestrian coming alongside you on the right? On the left?
Focus flexibility: adjusting focus between nearby and farther-away objects. This is key when playing table tennis and focusing on both the ball bouncing toward you and your opponent’s position across the net. Practice by strongly bouncing a tennis ball against a wall eight feet away, being alert to the precise spots each time the bounced ball hits the ground and the wall.
The Scott Eye Care Sports Vision Center provides sports-vision training, a customized program to help you process visual information and respond faster. We will conduct a vision evaluation, assess your visual skills, and design exercises to strengthen the visual skills you rely on. In follow-up appointments, Chula Lerdvoratavee, OD will monitor your progress.
The Scott Eye Care Sports Vision Center works on sports-vision techniques with athletes in Oswego, Naperville, Aurora, Chicago, and throughout Illinois.