The term “vision” used in the context of sports refers to much more than seeing 20/20. Just as the physical condition of an athlete can impact performance, so too can the condition of the visual system. Coaches commonly use phrases, such as, “court awareness”, “keep the eyes on the ball”, and “focus” etc. These are all terms describing how the athlete uses the visual sense to make his next move.
The primary purpose of vision in sports is to direct action; the eyes tell the athlete where the target is, where and when to reach out, catch, hit, pass or shoot. During the simple act of catching, the player must know where ball is, where it’s going and when it will arrive: all information gained through the visual sense. No matter how good his hands are or how fast his feet are, the player with impaired vision will not play to his potential.
Fortunately these skills described above, and many others, can be learned and developed through proper visual therapy and training. Specifically, the primary visual skills targeted for athletes in vision therapy are below:
The ability to keep the eyes on the ball no matter how fast it might be travelling. This skill helps the athlete anticipate where the ball will go and help him time when it will get there.
The ability to judge how far away a target is. This skill is governed by well the eyes work with one another. For example, if both eyes are misaligned, the player can wrongly judge the location of the target and consequently, mistime his next move.
The ability to quickly and accurately switch focus from one distance to another.
This involves awareness of the surroundings – movements of other players, boundary markers on the field, goal positions – all while looking directly at something else.
Dynamic Visual Acuity:
The ability maintain a clear view of moving objects. This is directly related to eye tracking, and eye focusing described above.