By Coach Hoy, MS, CSCS, SCCC, PES, TPI1
If you’ve been around sports long enough, you’ve most likely come across some videos, commercials,, articles, or interviews of elite athletes doing some sort of dynamic vision training. While it is not new, our understanding of what it is and how it works is getting more advanced, and the benefits have been proven and realized at every level. I believe it was LSU football (wide receivers) that was using vision training tactics in high stress situations in their practices last year leading up to winning the National Championship. USA Hockey and MLB players frequently use dynamic vision training programs, and students at the US Air Force Academy have access to one of the best vision training labs in the world. The bottom line is that it works.
So what exactly is dynamic vision training?
Let’s start by defining dynamic vision. Dynamic Vision is, in simplest terms, the ability to see things while you are in motion (moving the body and/or the eyes).
Dynamic vision is specific to sports since there is action and movement in all sports.
In contrast, static vision is simply what you are able to see while you are not moving (without moving the body or the eyes).
Most eye exams are done to determine one’s static vision, with an end result of some sort of quantified score (20/20, 20/10, 20/7, etc.). While static vision is important, it can easily be corrected with laser eye surgery or prescribed corrective optical solutions (contact lenses or glasses).
Static vision is correctable, but not trainable. Dynamic vision is trainable.
All research suggests that an athlete corrects his/her static vision to the best it can be to help with sports performance.
All research also suggests that an athlete should train specifically to improve his/her dynamic vision. While there is much to say and much to do about specific sports vision training, I’d like to start by giving you the 7 types of dynamic vision. These types were taken from the book “SportsVision: Training for Better Performance, by Thomas A. Wilson and Jeff Falkel, 2004, Human Kinetics, pages 26-30).
- Focusing—the ability of the eyes to clearly focus on objects quickly, and at varying distances (ex. Focusing back and forth on objects near and far as quickly as possible, such as in focusing on the goalies and the defensemen in front of the net while deciding on the best shot).
- Tracking—the ability of the eyes to quickly and accurately jump from point to point in space (such as a wide receiver tracking the release of the ball from the quarterback’s hand into his hands, and the wide receiver tracking the location of his defender).
- Vergence—the ability to accurately cross and uncross the eyes, which allows the athlete to maintain a single vision from near to far and from far to near (such as seeing a ball as it comes near and as it goes away—if the eyes do not accurately cross or uncross, the athlete may see 2 balls as it comes near, making it difficult to judge its path).
- Sequencing—the ability to organize visual information in a given order (such as organizing instructions, plays, and events during the game).
- Eye-Hand Coordination—the ability to coordinate between the eyes and the hands (such as in basketball, volleyball, and baseball); as a side note, it is important for the athlete to have excellent eye-foot coordination as well in order to get into proper position to best utilize his/her eye-hand coordination—eye –foot coordination is also trainable.
- Visualization—the ability to “see” an image or scene in the mind’s eye (such as visualizing the golf holes before teeing off, or visualizing the downhill ski course before taking off); there are 2 other visual perceptual skills that form the process of seeing something, remembering what was seen, seeing it in the mind’s eye, recognizing the significant part of what was seen, and then acting on it.
- Directionality—the ability to quickly and accurately perceive left and right and to project left and right out into space (such as making left and right decisions quickly under the stress of the game); by improving directionality, and athlete will also improve his/her balance and field awareness.
Training for these 7 visual skills will help improve your sports performance. Similar to traditional performance training, it is recommended that fundamental exercises for these skills be mastered before adding any type of resistance or loading. Progressive overload principles also apply (need to progressively load the exercises as you improve).
Athletes that perform the best in their sport(s) have the highest levels of dynamic vision.
If you have questions about how to specifically train for any of these areas, or have experience training for dynamic vision, I highly recommend checking out the book, Sports Vision. I have used many of the drills and exercises in the books with my athletes, and like that they are easy to use and inexpensive. There are also additional websites and authorities on dynamic vision training, and some companies even make specialized glasses for training.
Would be great to hear from you if you have personal experience using specific dynamic vision training tools or equipment in your training. Keep up the great work.