About Sports Vision Training

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WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM VISION TRAINING?

People who suffer from a multitude of issues can benefit from vision training. Examples of conditions that vision training can help include people with concentration and attention difficulties (ADD – Attention Defecit Disorder or ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), visual difficulties that are stress induced, and those who wish to excel in sports.

I HAVE 20/20 VISION – ISN’T THAT ENOUGH?

Well, it’s a good start, but 20/20 is a static measurement and it simply means that you can see the Optometrist’s chart clearly under controlled conditions where you’re viewing a 2-dimensional chart, in good light, and both you and the chart are stationary. But to play a dynamic sport well requires well developed dynamic acuity which involves visual skills like depth perception, peripheral awareness, and the ability to track rapidly moving objects as they move toward or away from you, while you are also in motion. It’s like the difference between watching your favorite movie in ‘stereo’, or ‘surround sound’.

CAN PERIPHERAL VISION REALLY BE IMPROVED?

There is a difference between ‘peripheral vision’ and ‘peripheral awareness’. Peripheral vision cannot be changed. What you’re born with is what you’ve got, and barring injury or disease, it’s what you will die with. On the other hand, peripheral awareness can be greatly enhanced by using retinal stimulation.

Retinal stimulation involves having the athlete maintain their focus directly in front of them while simultaneously reacting to a target that is rapidly moving in their peripheral field. At first, objects in the periphery may seem very murky and indistinct, but with training the athlete will quickly become more aware of them and as a result, react faster to peripheral action without losing their focus on the key target or objective. This improvement in peripheral awareness translates directly to improved athletic performance.

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HOW DOES STRESS MOST OFTEN AFFECT AN ATHLETE’S GAME, ESPECIALLY THOSE ‘ALL-IMPORTANT’ GAMES?

Stress causes loss of concentration and peripheral tunnelling; two problems that go hand in hand most of the time. As important as it is to maintain a high level of focus on your key target or objective, it’s equally important that you don’t allow yourself to become so focused that you start to tunnel, because when that happens you not only lose awareness of peripheral action, you also become oblivious to verbal cues.

HOW CAN YOU BE SO SURE THAT THIS WILL WORK FOR ME?

We have scientific proof that the training program works. The initial studies were conducted using a Special Forces team, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of the results for you and your particular game, because the program is applicable to any activity that requires instantaneous recognition and reaction. The skills that have been identified as essential to effective performance in military and police tactical units are basically identical to those that are essential to consistently effective performance in every dynamic sport, including yours.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT? HOW MUCH WILL I IMPROVE?

It will vary from athlete to athlete based on initial skill levels and the amount of time and effort put into the training sessions, but over a 6 month period you should see about a 20% hike in almost every skill level.

The improvement doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort, just like weight training. The first thing that will improve is your peripheral awareness and your ability to stay focused. Generally that will happen after about 4–6 weeks. Within 8–10 weeks you will notice improvement in the speed and accuracy of your physical responses. At this point you will also start to notice more consistency in your performance from game to game. Peak performance levels should be reached in about 4–6 months, at which point we concentrate on maintaining that level.

While you are actively training there will be improvement, or maintenance, depending on your schedule. But just as in weight training, if you stop, it doesn’t take long before you start to lose what you have gained. Dynamic Edge Sports Vision training is the same. It will require dedication and persistence.

WHAT ABOUT A GUY LIKE WAYNE GRETZKY? CAN YOU REALLY IMPROVE GUYS WHO ARE ALREADY AT THE NHL LEVEL?

Absolutely! Although Gretzky was the greatest player of all time, he did have weaknesses. Not many of them, but there were a few. He had great balance, which gave him exceptional lateral movement and the ability to change direction, but he didn’t have the speed or the acceleration of a Messier or a Kurri. His greatest strength was probably his ability to read the play and anticipate where it was going. However, he was never particularly successful on breakaways, frequently because he was thinking too much about his options rather than reacting instinctively (Okay, his puck handling skills weren’t too shabby either.) The point is that, even the best of the best have measurable differences in their strengths and weaknesses, and we can help them to improve and play at their peak performance levels more often, especially late in the game when stress and fatigue become major factors.

IF SPORTS VISION TRAINING WORKS, WHY ISN’T EVERYONE USING IT ALREADY?

Believe it or not, the concept has been around since the mid 70’s! An Optometrist from New Jersey by the name of Revien was working with minor league athletes and then with the New York Islanders in ’81. Their goalie, Billy Smith, made the comment that ‘Dr Revien’s name should have been engraved on the Stanley Cup right along with the other team coaches and trainers’. That’s a pretty strong endorsement!

But the fact of the matter is that until very recently the concept revolved around the use of balls, beads, and strings. The training had an almost ‘playground’ feel and it’s hard to instill confidence with such a low tech approach, no matter how much it may actually have helped the athletes. If you can’t get them to take the training seriously enough, to do the exercises often enough, it’s not going to work. The other draw back has been that there was a tendency to associate it with ‘therapy’ as opposed to ‘training’. Training is used to improve and advance a player’s game and his or her worth, while therapy had a negative connotation.

WHY ISN’T PRACTICING AND PLAYING THE GAME ENOUGH TO EXERCISE MY EYES?

Why do you work out in the gym right after you get off the ice? Playing and practicing your game are great for developing your sport specific skills, but you also need to lift weights and run to develop endurance, so that you can play at your peak levels.

Exercising your eye muscles and developing your dynamic visual skills is just as important. Just as you do in weight training, you need to overload your eye muscles in order to develop them, so that you will experience less strain and fatigue when it counts. With training, your thought processes will be faster and more organized, even when you are multi-tasking. At your peak levels of performance, it will actually seem as if things are moving in slow motion, because you are functioning faster and more effectively; anticipating better, not committing yourself too soon, just anticipating and reacting instinctively to a stimulus.

The coach of the NHL’s Calgary Flames from 1982 to 1987, Bob (Badger) Johnson, had a poster in the locker room that identified the ’4 Stages of Performance’. They were listed as:

Not AwareNot Performing
AwareNot performing
AwarePerforming
AwarePerforming Instinctively

That should be your goal. To be aware and performing instinctively, and Dynamic Edge Sports Vision Training can help you get there.

VISUAL SKILLS GLOSSARY

SPEED AND SPAN OF RECOGNITION

How much information a player is able to take in at once and how quickly he is able to interpret it. An increase in an athlete’s speed in recognizing a visual stimulus results in a physical response that is much quicker and more accurate.

EYE-HAND COORDINATION

The eyes lead the body, not the other way around. The visual system leads the motor system. Our hands or feet or body respond to the information the eyes have sent to the brain. If this information is incorrect, even to the slightest degree, there is a good chance that we will make a mistake in our physical response. Almost every sport error, or poorly executed play, can be attributed to faulty visual judgment, and it is visual judgment alone that determines eye-hand coordination.

PERIPHERAL AWARENESS

This must not be confused with peripheral vision, which cannot be changed. Peripheral vision is dictated by the skeletal structure and the shape of the retina, so what you’re born with is what you’ve got and barring injury or disease, it’s what you will die with. Peripheral awareness, on the other hand, can be greatly enhanced by using retinal stimulation. Well developed peripheral awareness helps the athlete to see everything at once, to maintain the whole pattern or the flow of the play, even as they move within it.

ANTICIPATION TIMING

The ability to accurately perceive or anticipate what is about to happen, and when. Visual skills training improves your ability to selectively detect important advance physical cues. However, since timing is the key to effective performance, it’s important not to over anticipate and commit yourself too soon. Most efforts fail not because the physical movements were wrong, but because they were made at the wrong time. The ability to anticipate is a major factor in high level competitive activities, and even superior speed, size and reflexes cannot compensate for the insufficient processing of the visual information regarding when to perform.

VISUAL REACTION TIME

The amount of time required to process the visual information and initiate a physical reaction/response.

CONCENTRATION

The ability to maintain a high level of focus on a key targetor objective, in spite of distractions, while also maintaining total awareness of what is happening around you.

FOCUSING AND TRACKING

Focusing flexibility and tracking are two separate skills, but inseparable as they must work together to achieve good, clear vision; for example, keeping your eyes on the ball. This requires both the ability to change focus instantaneously as objects move closer to or further away from you (accommodation), as well as the ability to keep both eyes working in unison as they track rapidly moving objects (convergence/divergence). Studies have shown that if the athlete’s head has to move to aid in eye tracking, his performance is not only less efficient, but balance is thrown off too.

DEPTH PERCEPTION

Both eyes working together to give us the ability to judge the distance, the speed and the revolution of objects in space. Poor eye teaming can cause your eyes to misjudge the precise distance of your target, which in turn will cause your brain to misjudge the correct distance. If you perceive the target closer, you will react too soon. If you perceive it farther, you will react too late.