Australia is a sport-loving nation, with some of the world’s most successful teams despite our relatively small population. When we think of Australian athletes, we typically think of speed, strength and decision making as vital to their abilities, but how does vision come into play?
Strong visual skills are imperative to an athlete’s ability to play their sport well. Athletes are required to quickly process information and require eye strength to help them do so.
What is really cool is that eye skills and strength can be improved over time. Whether it’s trying some eye exercises or visiting your ophthalmologist in Malvern, Glenelg, Newtown or wherever your club is located, here are some tips for improving your eye strength for sport.
What visual skills are important for sport?
There are a range of eye skills athletes use when playing their sport. These include:
Colour vision: Players have to be able to easily distinguish the difference between teammates and opposition - this is done through colour vision strength.
Depth perception: Athletes need to be able to easily judge the difference between other players and objects.
Visual acuity: Athletes need to be able to see fast moving objects to react to them when taking a catch, mark etc.
Eye tracking: Athletes need to be able to quickly track and react to fast-paced objects with their eyes so that they don’t have to do it with their bodies as much.
Hand-eye coordination: An athlete has to be able quickly adjust their feet, hands and body based on what they see.
Peripheral vision: Athletes have to be able to see what’s happening on the side of their vision and not just what lies ahead of them.
Concentration: An athlete requires strong, clear vision to focus on what’s happening in the match and not be distracted by other things occurring around them.
Reaction time: If an athlete can quickly respond and process information, they will be faster to act on what is happening, making them a sharper player.
Visual information & memory: Athletes have to be able to keep vast amounts of visual information in their heads throughout a match. Being able to see well ensures that they can take in more visual memories.
How to train your vision skills in your own time
Athletes can work on their vision skills at home. You can undertake a range of vision-enhancing skills like holding a pen at arm’s length and repeatedly placing the cap on it to work on depth perception. You might also want to hold a tiny pebble at arm’s length and drop it into a drinking straw - this will help you with gauging where objects will be going as well as alignment.
To improve your peripheral awareness, try turning your head to the side while watching television or using the computer as focusing on something close and then far away is great for improving vision flexibility. To practise vision acuity, cut out letters or numbers from a magazine and stick them to a turntable. See which letters you can easily identify at which speeds.
It’s where it all starts!
Vision is vital to excelling at one’s sport. You need to be able to see well to judge when something might be coming your way, whether it’s a ball, an opposition player or even a glove! Luckily, there are a range of exercises we can do to ensure that our eye health and vision are strong and ready to back us up come matchday.