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Articles

Accommodation Drill

Why do it: Improves eye focus far and near.

How to do it:

  • Stand 20 feet away from 36-point letter wall chart; hold nine-point letter chart about six inches from eyes
  • Position hand-held chart slightly below wall chart in line of sight
  • Call out first letter on wall chart, then rapidly refocus to call out first letter of hand-held chart
  • Progress through both charts as quickly as possible

Sets/Duration: 2×60 seconds, 1-2x per week

 

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Eye-Hand Speed Drill

Why do it: Develops hand-eye coordination and improves ability to make split-second decisions.

How to do it:

  • Assume athletic stance holding irregularly-shaped rubber reaction ball
  • Bounce ball off hard surface and catch
  • Change speed or distance to adjust difficulty
  • Can be performed alone or with a partner

Sets/Reps: 4×8-12 with 1- to 2-minute rest between sets, 1-2x per week

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Saccadic Drill

Why do it: Enhances eye stamina and focus, which pilots need to complete precision maneuvers and athletes need for games.

How to do it:

  • Assume sport-specific stance in front of two different letter charts located 10 feet apart
  • Call out first letter on left chart, then rapidly move eyes to read first letter on right chart
  • Progress down both charts as quickly as possible

Sets/Duration: 2×60 seconds, 1-2x per weekimg

 

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Contrast Sensitivity Challenge (Hockey)

Improve dynamic visual acuity,
contrast sensitivity and focused attention
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Equipment:
Paint or purchase a puck, ball or object that is similar to the color of the background it is used on; for example, use a white puck for ice hockey or use a green ball for field hockey.
Procedure:
Practice regular drills in low contrast conditions by substituting, for example, a normal black puck with a white puck.

Build up to 10 minutes of practice with similarly colored object.

3 Air Force Exercises to Improve Your Vision

Athletes at the Air Force Academy have been performing cadet vision training exercises for more than a decade, with impressive results. The first year the baseball team used vision training, they led the nation in batting average. Since then, Air Force athletes have achieved better than 20/20 vision and improved vision drill scores by 200 to 300 percent. Get your own results with these three vision drills.

 

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Dynamic visual ACUITY

Improves dynamic visual acuity; that is, visual focus while in movement

EQUIPMENT/SET-UP:

Standard vision chart and a mini-trampoline, mattress or skipping rope

DURATION:

Three sets | Thirty seconds per set

DESCRIPTION:

Post the vision chart on the far wall at a distance of about 20 feet.

The athlete jumps up and down on a mini-trampoline or a mattress, or skips rope and reads the letters on the chart from top to bottom.

Switch the chart to counter memorization of the chart.

 

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PERIPHERAL basketball

Improves peripheral awareness and field vision

EQUIPMENT/SET-UP:

Several basketballs

DURATION:

Three sets | Three minutes per set

DESCRIPTION:

5-minute drill to develop post play and peripheral visual skills in basketball players

Pair up players with one passer and one receiver.

Receiver must, at all times, look directly into the eyes of the passer and not at the ball.

Receiver must track ball using peripheral vision only.

Step 1: Passer throws ball to receiver’s out-stretched hand, alternating between right and left.

Step 2: Passer throws bounce pass to receiver’s side, alternating between right and left, and forcing the reciver to move a few steps to the side.

Step 3: Passer throws the ball high, just beyond receiver’s line of vision to receiver’s out-stretched hand, alternating between right and left.

Do this drill for 5 minutes every day to develop your peripheral visualskills.

 

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Tracking baseball

NUMBERED BALL DRILL  
Using numbered balls to improve contrast sensitivity in a dynamic
visual environment; that is, the ability to distinguish detail on a high velocity object

 Equipment  balls with numbers

 Duration

Three sets/ three minutes per set

 Description

Tray to recognize the numbers that are on the ball , or colours when they are pitched to you, don’t worry about the hitting

 

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USAFA BASEBALL STUDY

Study links athletic performance to vision training sessions
January 2001 | US Air Force Academy, Human Performance Lab

  • Top two team leaders in fielding percentage attended the most vision training sessions.
  • Team’s home run leader, RBI leader, and batting average leader spent significant time in vision training.
  • 40% of fielding errors were committed by three players who did not attend any vision training sessions.
    • Team batting average increased from .319 to .360.
    • Team slugging percentage increased from .487 to 623.
    • Team home runs increased 237% from 32 to 76.

Source: US Air Force Academy, Human Performance Lab

 

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Proving Sports Vision Benefits

Weight training model.
Coach Wile explains that sports vision, as a training tool, is perhaps at the stage where weight training was 25 years ago. It is impossible to scientifically draw a direct link between weight training and enhanced athletic performance in a non-weight lifting competition; though it is a common belief that one exists. Today, weight training is used to enhance performance in most sports and there is little debate as to the benefits of resistance training with respect to athletics.

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Likewise, it is impossible to draw a direct link between sports vision training and enhanced athletic performance. Nonetheless, it would make sense that training the visual system, and working the muscles associated with eye movements and eye-hand reflexes would enhance performance in sports that rely on visual input.

Skeptics remain.
Over the past few years, there has been an increased use and acceptance of sports vision training. However, not everyone is a proponent, perhaps as not all people were proponents of weight training 25 years ago.

Some researchers claim that any improved performance achieved after sports vision training is simply a result of test familiarity. Coach Wile agrees that exercises may be learned, but says familiarity with a certain piece of equipment can only account for improvement during the first few tests or practice cycles. “Long-term improvements should be attributed to changes in the body, whether mental or physical,” he says.

If I were asked, ‘Can you prove that an athlete is quicker on the field because of eye training?’, says Wile, I would respond by asking, ‘Can you prove to me that an athlete is better on the field because he can bench press 100 pounds more?’ It’s common sense that applies. I have trained thousands of athletes at the Academy, says Wile, I can show you that the fastest individuals on the SVT and AcuVision boards, and the hardest workers in the lab, are historically the athletes that are our premier performers in the athletic arena.

Two of the Academy’s best athletes in the past four years-quarterback Chance Harridge and basketball guard Antoine Hood-still hold the record for the fastest one minute stints on the SVT boards, says Wile. It’s an incredible sight when a star freshman athlete comes into our lab and does his or her first test on one of these boards and realizes how their hand speed cannot come close to an athlete who has been performing this exercise for four years.

In addition, our experience shows that if an individual performs vision training, their visual systems will continue to improve with practice, similar to other types of training.

Conclusion

As athletes tap out their potential in other aspects of their performance, like speed, power or strength, what will they turn to next to increase their performance? The trend seems to indicate that they will turn to vision training. Increasingly, it appears that the individual who can process more visual information in a shorter period and make the proper response will have an advantage in competition.

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Foundations of the Program

Coach Wile, who has worked with professional athletes, world class athletes, Olympians, as well as intercollegiate athletes, says the USAFA’s sports vision program consists of training in four main areas which are the foundations of the program. They are:

  • Binocular vision
  • Depth perception or stereopsis
  • Dynamic sports vision
  • Eye fatigue

Binocular vision.
During our initial screening process, we identify each athlete’s dominant eye, explains Wile. We stress the importance of trying to use both eyes to their maximum capability or binocular vision. Many athletes suppress so much information with one or the other eye that it inhibits their maximum performance.

Binocular exercises include stations with a rotator scanner for fixation, speed and accuracy of pursuit with saccadic eye movements and the ability to diverge as well as converge. Our sports vision training stations work both the intra-ocular muscles of the eye, as well as the extra-ocular muscles of the eye, says Wile. Just as weight trainers work the large muscle groups of the upper and lower body, we work the muscles of the eyes.

Depth perception.
Depth perception or stereopsis-that is, knowing exactly where an object is in space as it approaches-is critical for pilots as well as athletes. Quite often, a cadet with depth perception problems is using only one eye, says Wile. This makes it much more difficult, for example, to hit a baseball, or block a shot in hockey or soccer.

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Dynamic sports vision.
The dynamic sports vision aspect of the program trains cadets to see and react to a moving object while they themselves are moving. We do eye exercises while the large muscle groups of our body are also working, explains Wile. While an athlete is working on the rotator scanner, the Accuvision boards or the SVT boards, he or she is also balancing on a balance beam or a Bosu-ball or bouncing on a trampoline.

Athletes also train in a dynamic and distracting environment, says Wile. At the same time as athletes work on the AcuVision or SVT boards, for example, other athletes are calling out sequences of letters, working on the prism flips or the plus-minus flips, as well as the letters on the near/far charts and saccadic eye charts. And we crank the stereo loud at the same time. When the time comes to perform, all of these distractions are common to our athletes, but can be a nuisance to those athletes that cannot block them out.

Eye fatigue.
The fourth aspect of the USAFA’s sports vision program is eye conditioning. The eye muscles fatigue just as any other muscle of the body, says Wile. We work the eyes hard, to the point that many athletes have a headache after the first three or four sessions. We try to increase the stamina of the eye muscles to enable the athlete to persevere when their eyes are tired.

The unique environment at the Air Force Academy has many athletes logging over 20 semester hours worth of credits. In addition, they have mandatory training which begins at 6:00 am each morning and activities that often keep them busy late into the night. This places a great deal of stress on the eyes, and is a significant factor that can be overlooked in an athlete’s performance, says Wile.

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Vision Difference

State-of-the-art sports vision lab helps US Air Force Academy cadets perform at their best

by Keith Henderson

Possibly the most advanced sports vision training facility in the world today is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the United States Air Force Academy’s Human Performance Laboratory. The lab is headed up by Major Brandon Doan (Dr.), assistant athletic director for sports medicine.

Coach Al Wile-with the assistance of Dr. Thomas Wilson (OD) of Colorado Springs-started the USAFA’s sports vision program back in 1994 with the aim of filling a void in the Academy’s training program and helping its athletes take their skills to the next level. We don’t have the big ‘blue chip’ athletes coming in here, says Wile, so anything we can do to enhance their performance; we try to get it done.

Over the past decade, Coach Wile and his staff have helped thousands of cadets realize their dreams both in the Air Force and on the athletic playing field. “We had a group of individuals last year that failed the pilot qualification tests because of depth perception problems, Wile explains. We ran them through the sports vision program and they became qualified. That’s pretty rewarding when you’re able to do that kind of stuff.

 

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OBJECTIVES OF SPORTS VISION TRAINING

For purposes of development of an athlete’s visual system, there are three important objectives sought from most sports vision training programs:

  1. Improvement of eye muscle control and endurance
  2. Enhancement of peripheral and spatial awareness
  3. Increase in visual and brain processing speed

 

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MOST IMPORTANT VISUAL SKILLS:

Before an athlete can process input to initiate an action, their eyes must first quickly and accurately capture information. This is a skill that can be improved through training.

Therefore, the first step to having a sound visual system involves the ability of the eyes to work together to quickly transmit high quality detailed data for processing.

Knowing what to look for is a sport IQ skill. And how quickly that information is processed is a brain skill. Strong visual skills, however, will enhance an athlete’s ability to interpret and understand the visual information that is available.

Based on the survey below of practical vision training programs offered by some of the leading international sports vision specialists, we summarize the most important visual skills for elite athletic performance as follows:

Visual Alignment: This allows for good binocular vision and depth perception skills. It requires the eyes to work together efficiently; to move, align, and focus as a team.

Visual Flexibility: Improves eye muscle endurance, concentration, saccadic movement, as well as pursuit and tracking skills.

Visual Acuity: Dynamic visual acuity skills allow the athlete to maintain focus while in movement, improve tracking skills, and enhance visual coordination.

Visual Recognition: Momentary vision skills allow the athlete to quickly recognize patterns, read plays and process flashes of information.

 

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Sport Vision Training

neglected.

Sport Vision Training is one of the fastest rising specialty areas. Once thought of as an intangible quality of outstanding athletes, we now know that this area of performance, like all others, is virtually completely trainable.

In sport about 80% of all information is obtained via vision and in order to make split second decisions and then act or react accordingly the better the information an athlete is inputting the better their performance.

But its not what you might first think. Yes, its important to have great vision but according to a study done at the Universityof Oxford the difference between casual and high performance athletes varies little in what they see but more in how quickly they react to what they see. A concept called brain speed.

The reaction times for elite athletes are about 200 milliseconds where the casual athlete is around 800 milliseconds …a massive difference. And one that we can all improve on if you know how.

When we talk about sport vision training we talk about skills like field of vision, peripheral awareness, anticipation, reaction time, focus and concentration among others. They are all trainable qualities just like strength and speed and power but may be more important in the hierarchy of athlete development because if you don’t provide yourself with accurate information and are slow to process and react to that information all of the strength, speed and power will be a fraction of a second late.

It is a science and you need to know what you are doing but some of the drills used to improve sport vision as well as brain speed are very simple. The use of marked balls for tracking, number grids for eye movement, letter charts for depth perception. It has gotten to the point that there are specialty labs set up to deal only with improving vision and brain speed performance. Its something that will benefit you well beyond sport.

 

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Does vision training works?

Strength. Power. Speed. Agility. In the world of sport performance and athletic development you need these as the trainable pillars of development. But, as we learn and understand more about sport science and what it takes to achieve Human Maximum Performance there are several other areas of development that are greatly neglected.

 

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Seeing The World Through Tony Parker’s Eyes

By Dan Peterson

After the San Antonio Spurs clinched their trip to the NBA Finals on Monday night, Tim Duncan was asked to describe the contributions of his point guard, Tony Parker. “Every year he just gets better and better and better,” he commented to the press. “I told him I’m just riding his coattails.” High praise indeed from a four-time NBA champion and 14-time All-Star.

Duncan’s remarks add to the growing opinion that Parker is the best postseason point guard in NBA history. Whether its his scoring touch, 37 points in Game 4 against Memphis, or his vision on the court, a career best 18 assists in Game 2, Parker has the ability to see what is available in front of him to help his team. This specialized court vision is rare and originates from a specialized area of the brain, according to new research.

As you watch the video below of Parker’s amazing performance in Game 2, notice the angles and speed with which he has to not only see teammates but then get the ball out his hands. Vision, reaction, decision and action all happen in a split second.

“Behind what seems to be automatic is a lot of sophisticated machinery in our brain,” said Miguel Eckstein, professor in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. “A great part of our brain is dedicated to vision.”

Eckstein’s research group recently explored how humans are able to pick out certain objects in a crowded scene (say, for example, Tim Duncan under the basket). They flashed (250 ms) 640 indoor and outdoor scenes on a screen for volunteer test observers, then asked them to find a certain object in the scene (i.e. a clock in a bedroom scene or a surfer in a beach scene). In half of the images, the target object was not there. While they searched the images for the targets, the volunteers’ eye movements were tracked as well as their brain’s electrical activity through the use of a functional MRI machine.

While the volunteers successfully found the target objects 80% of the time that they were in the scene, they were not aware that some of the scenes did not contain the object. By watching where they focused their gaze to find the object, the researchers discovered that the brain uses logical, contextual clues. If searching for a surfer, they would look on the water, not the beach; if searching for a truck in a street scene, they fixated on the street, not the sidewalk. In the image below, the yellow-orange dots show where the person fixed their gaze to find the target object (click for a larger image).

While this seems obvious to us, it is this contextual form of visual searching that computer algorithms still cannot accomplish due to the enormous amount of real world knowledge that we take for granted.

“So, if you’re looking for a computer mouse on a cluttered desk, a machine would be looking for things shaped like a mouse. It might find it, but it might see other objects of similar shape, and classify that as a mouse,” Eckstein said.

The fMRI images showed that an area of the brain called the lateral occipital complex (LOC) is most active during the test subjects’ scene search. It is this group of neurons that provides clues to us of the most likely place to look for certain objects. In the same way, by knowing the Spurs offense and through years of drills and practice, Parker’s LOC can suggest the most logical places to search for teammates and the difference between them and opponents.

The research appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.

“A large component of becoming an expert searcher is exploiting contextual relationships to search,” commented Eckstein. “Thus, understanding the neural basis of contextual guidance might allow us to gain a better understanding about what brain areas are critical to gain search expertise.”

Training an athlete’s visual search skill is critical to success on the court or field. Repetition through tools like the Axon football or baseball training apps will provide the LOC with the rich database of contextual scenes needed to spot an open receiver, a blitzing linebacker or a curveball.

 

WHAT ARE VISUAL SKILLS?

Visual skills are one of the four pillars that make up an athlete’s so-called “intangible” skills set.

These intangible skills, which we refer to globally as sports vision skills, are all in the head and include:

  • field vision and peripheral awareness
    • mental toughness and visualization
    • reaction time and anticipation
    • attention, focus and concentration
    • balance, speed and agility
    • game strategy and creativity

Training and conditioning their visual skills enables athletes to quickly and accurately recognize and process visual information. It is the first step in getting the body to make the proper response in competition.

STEP I: Eye Exam. The first step in improving an athlete’s visual skills is to ensure that their eyesight is good. Sight refers to how well you can read the eye chart. Vision, on the other hand, is how well your eyes inform your brain. In other words, the quality of your vision depends on the quality of your sight.

According to the American Optometric Association, “periodic eye and vision examinations are an important part of preventive health care. Early diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision problems are important for maintaining good vision and eye health.”

The AOA recommends annual eye examinations after 18 years of age and an exam every two years for athletes under 18 years of age.

STEP II: Eye Correction. In there is a problem with an athlete’s eyesight, the next step is correction. Usually, corrective measures for an athlete would include prescription eyewear, corrective contact lenses, or laser surgery.

STEP III: Eye Exercises. Training the visual system means working the muscles associated with eye movements and eye-body reflexes in order to enhance performance in sports that rely on visual input.

For ease of comprehension, visual skills can be loosely categorized into two groups; visual motor skills, which are generally the ability to move and adjust the eyes, and visual perceptual skills which refer more to the ability to process visual information.

 

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Adjusting To The Speed Of Football At The Next Level

By Dan Peterson

As football players move up from youth leagues to high school to college and, ultimately, the NFL, there is often a sharp learning curve to adapt to the next level. They struggle with the speed of the game and the need to “slow the game down” to make better on-field decisions. Even for elite players, with all of their physical talent, training the brain to react instinctively to game situations takes hours of preparation and repetition. Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winning behavioral psychologist, describes this education as moving from System Two to System One thinking, which applies to more in life than just football.

 

When Robert Griffin III was slowed down by his knee injuries last season and during his off-season surgery recovery, he was forced to spend his training time on his mental game and pattern recognition skills. “I was talking to the guys about it toward the end of last year, being slowed down kind of slowed the game down for me, because I had to slow down, and it made me have to get through all of my reads,” Griffin told the Washington Post, “For me, the biggest part was mastering the offense first, so I can continue to beat teams with my mind and get guys in the right position.”

Mike Shanahan, Redskins’ head coach, agrees, “When you come in your first year, you’re just trying to learn the terminology of the system and everything’s coming at you a thousand miles an hour,” Shanahan said. “So in the second year, it does slow down a little bit, and people do feel more comfortable. If you keep on studying the game, you keep getting better and better.”

Imagine a young quarterback breaking the huddle with a specific offensive play called. From repeated practices and playbook study, he knows what the formation is, what each player is supposed to do and what should happen after the ball is snapped. This type of a planned, intentional thought process is described by Kahneman as “System Two” or slow thinking, in his bestselling book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” As the young quarterback scans the defense in front of him, he begins to look for cues; the location of the safeties, the possibility of a blitz, etc. Kahneman likens this to doing a complicated multiplication problem or following directions to a new restaurant.

Once the ball is in his hands, his world moves much faster. He no longer has time for deliberate thought but has to react instantly to the ever-changing scene in front of him. Who is open? Did the blitz come? Did receivers run the right routes? While he would like to stop the play for a few seconds to analyze his options, the approaching defensive end forces a snap decision. This automatic, reactive thinking is what Kahneman calls “System One” or fast thinking. Just like when we hit the brakes on our car to avoid a car or instantly recognize a familiar face, our brain triggers an instant response without conscious effort.

The goal of film study and practice drills is to get through the learning curve and move as many decisions as possible from System Two to System One. When scrambling out of the pocket, a quarterback needs to rely on his vision and brain for quick, accurate choices. It’s the same on the other side of the ball as a linebacker or safety anticipates the play based on subtle cues he sees right after the snap.

For an inexperienced player, his untrained System One thinking can sometimes fool him. Kahneman lists many different tricks or biases that our brain plays on us. When we pick a choice that seems correct, we might just be falling for the “availability bias” or just choosing the first option that comes to mind. This is where creative coaches can wreak havoc by designing disguised formations and movements. Seeing a linebacker up on the line pre-snap might fool a QB into looking for a blitz only to have him drop back into coverage.

Confidence and emotions also play a big part in rational decision making. Players and coaches will often choose to avoid a loss rather than try for a big gain. In the “loss aversion bias”, the pain of a possible interception can prevent a QB from trying to make a difficult throw that could result in a big gain.

Even Griffin hinted that he gave into this bias last season as he was still learning. “You try not to second-guess,” he said, “but the touchdown-to-interception ratio was pretty good, so yeah, were there some throws that you look back and today, ‘could I have made them?’ Yeah, I probably could have made them. But that’s why you play the game, and the more you play the game, the better you get. You can always get better. You never rest on what you did last year.”

While young players don’t need to know the intricate details of Kahneman’s prospect theory, they may listen to their heroes, like RG3, encouraging them to put in the long hours of practice and studying to make the game slow down.

 

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The Vision Of Cristiano Ronaldo

By Dan Peterson

Last year, the Spanish newspaper Marca revealed the nicknames that Real Madrid players have given each other inside the Santiago Bernabéu locker room. While some names poked fun at a player’s appearance (“Nemo” for Mesut Özil’s bulging eyes), superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was simply known as “la máquina”, Spanish for “the machine.” With his humanoid robot physique and his superior speed and quickness, Ronaldo seems to be programmed for goal scoring.
Indeed, sponsor Castrol has developed a self-proclaimed documentary, “Ronaldo – Tested To The Limit”, to attempt to explain the Portuguese player’s body strength, mental ability, technique and skill. The most interesting of the four segments, mental ability, helps us realize that without the command center of the brain, the machine-like body parts are useless.

While physical attributes such as strength, speed, agility and power are necessary for athletic greatness, sport skill begins with evaluating the playing environment, taking in cues and making decisions through sensory input and perception. Vision supplies 80-90% of the information athletes use to plan their motor skill movement.

Surrounded by sports scientists and testing equipment at a Madrid soundstage, Ronaldo was asked to perform two experiments that showcase his visual perception skills of gaze control and spatial awareness.

First, his challenge was to keep the ball away from an opponent for at least 5 seconds in a 1v1 drill. While his opponent was a former Division One player, Andy Ansah, there was no doubt Ronaldo would succeed in keeping possession. The insight came from both players wearing eye tracker equipment that can later show the gaze or saccadic movements of their eyes. Elite athletes have more sophisticated patterns of cues that they watch for and focus on to beat their opponents versus novice players that gaze at many focal points.

Professor Joan Vickers at the University of Calgary is best known for her pioneering work in athlete eye tracking and working with coaches and players to develop strategies and logic of what they should be looking at during competition. For example, hockey or soccer goalies should focus on the shooter’s hips or body angle rather than the puck or ball.
Through the eye tracking video, Ronaldo’s opponent, Ansah, looked mostly at the ball and the feet but his eyes darted in a less defined pattern. Ronaldo, on the other hand, clearly had a strategy of watching Ansah’s hips and space around Ansah that he could exploit. His command of the ball at his feet allowed him to only occasionally check its position. This superior spatial awareness allows great players to watch their opponent and react to the slightest hints of their next movement.thlete eye tracking and working with coaches and players to develop strategies and logic of what they should be looking at during competition. For example, hockey or soccer goalies should focus on the shooter’s hips or body angle rather than the puck or ball.

Another aspect of visual perception in many sports is to track a moving object. An outfielder racing to catch a fly ball, a tennis player returning a 100 mph serve, or a soccer striker taking a one-time shot of a well-crossed ball all require a sophisticated, yet mostly subconscious, skill to intercept the object’s path and act on it.

To show that most of this task is calculated in the brain rather than simply with the eyes, Ronaldo was asked to do something he is paid very well to do, finish off a crossed ball into the goal. However, to make it more interesting, during the ball’s flight to Ronaldo, the lights were turned off inside the arena forcing the player to calculate the final flight trajectory of the ball and make contact with it in the dark.

 

Just as a baseball hitter only gets about ¼ of a second to decide to swing at a 90 mph pitch (and can rarely “see” the ball all the way across the plate), an athlete often relies on his brain to complete the 3D scenario and rapidly predict the path of the flying object.

As seen in the video, the first two crosses are “easily” finished off by Ronaldo when he is allowed to see about half the ball’s flight towards him. The real expertise is shown when the room goes dark immediately after Ansah kicks the ball. The only cues available to Ronaldo are angles and movement of Ansah’s hips and legs to predict where the ball will end up. Not only did he meet the ball but added a bit of Portuguese style by using his shoulder to finish the goal.

There has been some debate over the years on how exactly humans track moving objects. Several studies and theories have looked at the movement of baseball outfielders as they follow a fly ball off the bat. The late Seville Chapman, a physicist at Stanford, developed the Optical Acceleration Cancellation (OAC) theory that argues a fielder must keep moving to keep the rising ball at a certain angle to him. If he moves forward too much, the ball will rise too fast and land behind him. If he mistakenly moves backward, the ball’s angular flight will drop below 45 degrees and land in front of him. By keeping a constant angle to the ball through its flight, the fielder will end up where the ball does.

Subconsciously, Ronaldo may be using the OAC theory to start moving towards the ball based on its early trajectory, then computes the rest of the flight in the dark. The advanced skill of predicting the path of the ball instantly after the kick puts Ronaldo into a world class category.

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How often should I workout?

I am asked this question numerous times a week and I answer it the same way each time, “How well are you recovering?”

For the average high school athlete who is in-season, 2 days a week are spent resistance training and 6 days a week are spent playing their sport, plus any extra activities done during PE or recreationally.

Adult athletes at 360-athlete train 3-4 days with a combination of weights, isokinetics exercises, and metabolic conditioning, plus any recreational activities (jogging, tennis, golf, basketball, etc).

High school athletes average 8+ workouts a week and Adults 5+. The Bulgarian Method for Olympic Lifters allows athletes to build up to training multiple times per day, 6 days a week, and with heavy weight. The body can handle high workloads, but as the Bulgarian trainers understood recovery was crucial. A majority of the high school and adult athletes have a hard time recovering between workouts and therefore constantly struggle in a negative energy balance. Here are 3 simple tips to help with recovery.

  1. Hydrate

It’s recommended for males 14-18 years old to drink 14 cups/day, females ages 14-18 is 10 cups/day, and adults should get 11-16 cups/day of water. Dehydration can lead to dramatic decrease in physical work capacity by up to 48%. Activities in the heat can increase the level of dehydration.

Before

-Before exercise drink 17 – 20 fl oz two to three hours before exercise

During

-Drink 7 -10 fl oz every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise

After

-Drink 8 fl oz 30 minutes after exercise

-For every pound of body weight lost during exercise consume 1 pint of water.

-For activities less than 60 minutes water should be main hydrating source after that a sports drink has been shown to be beneficial.

  1. Sleep

General recommendation for athletes is 7-9 hours of sleep with 80-90% of that at night. Adolescent athletes and elite athletes who train 4 -6 hours a day may need 10 -12 hours of sleep. A study on the Stanford Men’s Basketball team had 11 players try to achieve 10 hours of sleep each night for a 5 – 7 week period. Players not only noted feeling more alert, but also decreased sprint time, increased free throw shooting by 9%, and increased 3pt shooting by 9.2%. Your body needs sleep to repair from workouts!

General sleep hygiene strategies
Maintain a regular schedule of going to bed and waking up
If you cannot sleep within 15 min, get out of bed and try performing a mundane task
Eliminate the bedroom clock
Avoid coffee, alcohol, and nicotine in the hours before bed
Avoid watching television, eating, working, or reading in bed
Be conscious of food and fluid intake before bedtime
Nap appropriately (30 min and not late in the afternoon)
Maintain a room temperature comfortable for sleeping (~64F)

Table from Bird: Sleep, Recovery, and Athletic Performance: A Brief Review and Recommendations

  1. Nutrition

This is a huge topic and recommendations are very different person to person. If you are working out regularly, you need to consume food. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats! Keep in mind that vegetables and fruit fall under the carb category, not only grains.

Male athletes between 14 – 19 years old need 3000-6000 cal/day and female athletes 14 – 19 years old need 2200-4000 cal/day.

Carbohydrates should consume 55 – 60 % of daily calories, with endurance athletes completing over 90 min of training consuming 6-10 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. Ex. a 200 lb athlete is 90.9 kg. 90.9 x 6=545 and 90.9 x 10 = 909. A 200 lb endurance athlete should consume 545-909 grams of carbs per day.

Protein recommendation is between 1-2 g/kg of body weight/day. More protein is needed for athlete’s that complete more resistance training.

Fat is used as an energy source and is essential for bodily functions. 20-25% of total calories should come from fats and of that consuming no more than 10% saturated, 10% polyunsaturated or 10% monounsaturated, and total no more than 30% of calories.

Calories can be scaled down based on age and overall activity level for adults. The first step is realizing what your current nutrition is like. One way to accomplish that is by using Myfitnesspal, an app that serves as a food diary to show the breakdown of Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat, as well as provide recommendations for total calories based on your goals.

Bird, Stephen P. “Sleep, Recovery, and Athletic Performance: A Brief Review and Recommendations.” Strength and Conditioning Journal 35.5 (2013): 43-47. Web.

Casa, Douglas J., Lawrence E. Armstrong, Scott J. Montain, Brent Rich, and Jennifer A. Stone. “NationalAthleticTrainers’Association PositionStatement: Fluid Replacement for Athletes.” Journal of Athletic Training 35.2 (2000): 212-24. Web.

Cummiskey, Joseph, Konstantinos Natsis, Efthymia Papathanasiou, and Fabio Pigozzi. “Sleep and Athletic Peformance.” European Journal of Sports Medicine 1.1 (2013): 13-22. Web.

“How Hydration Affects Performance.” ACE Fitness. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <https://www.acefitness.org/blog/5397/how-hydration-affects-performance/>.

Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 01 May 2015. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/workout>.

“Olympic Weightlifting Resource – Bulgarian Training Methodology.” Olympic Weightlifting Resource – Bulgarian Training Methodology. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2015. <http://www.owresource.com/training/bulgarian.php>.

Wein, Debra. “Nutritional Considerations for the Adolescent Athlete.” Nsca’s Performance Training Journal 10.6 (2011): 17-18. Web. <www.nsca-lift.org>.

Myth: The key to running faster is moving your limbs faster. QUICKER STEPS & FASTER ARMS = GREATER SPEED.

The limiting factor in acceleration and top speed is usually not how fast an athlete can drive their knee or cycle their arms, but rather how much FORCE they can apply to the ground in the appropriate direction and within the appropriate time.

For example, when we coach an athlete to improve their acceleration phase they are surprised to learn that in acceleration, the ground is your friend. You need to apply as much force as possible, as long as possible in order to accelerate at the greatest rate. The change in velocity is related to the force applied in the opposite direction multiplied times the amount of time that force is applied to the ground. As soon as the athlete removes their drive leg foot from the ground, they are no longer accelerating until the swing leg foot makes contact with the ground on the next step. Maintaining ground contact through an explosive, forceful and complete triple extension push will yield the greatest increase in velocity. The knee drive will set up their next powerful, triple extension push.

Athletes should be coached in the acceleration phase to MAXIMIZE their push and therefore their ground contact time yielding a greater increase in velocity. Most athletes are not as fast as they can be because they are unwilling to be patient.

As a business that specializes in speed development, it is not uncommon for us to have people come to us saying, “I need to get fast, and I need to get fast right now!” This, to some degree, is a reflection of our instant access culture that is speedily speeding up the speed of speed.

You see, when we think about speed development, we must consider Aesop’s Fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare.” The paradox that trips most people up is that speed is gained slowly. The hare was fast, but his attention span was even faster. He couldn’t stay focused on the objective, and so didn’t achieve it. The tortoise wasn’t fast, but kept his eye on the goal, and just kept plodding towards it and ultimately won the race. With the speed and ease with which technology gets us what we want, i.e. hot food, the latest news, directions from here to anywhere, downloading Aesop’s Fables, etc., we get conditioned to expect that progress should come quickly–no, rather instantly.

We believe that if we can just find the right program, gadget, or gizmo then we will achieve what we want instantly! The problem is, the body isn’t designed that way. Our muscles are much stronger and more powerful than what we can actually exert against any form of resistance. If we were able to tap into all of our strength, we would rip our tendons out, or tear ligaments, or fracture our bones. As we exert ourselves against resistance, i.e. weights, hills, bodyweight, etc., the stress causes our bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and muscles to strengthen in concert. If my strength and power grow faster than the supporting structures, I will have injury.

So our bodies were designed with a protection mechanism that helps protect us from injury. We can have instant gains, and we can have significant gains, but we cannot have instant, significant gains. The gains come, similarly to the tortoise, one step at a time. We take one small step forward athletically every time we train as hard (and smart) as we can. And, Like the Hare, every time we wander off the path to that goal, we have to have to spend a certain number of steps just getting back to the path. Our athletic career, in a way, is the accumulation of the consistent days we give all we have. We must have faith that each and every opportunity to get better, no matter how small, is incalculably significant in the achievement of what we want most. And we must never sacrifice what we want most for what we want now! Too many dreams are thrown away for the urgent insistence of insignificant pleasures or comforts. Not many people are willing to work as hard as it takes for as long as it takes to realize the significant gains in speed, strength, power, or any athletic measure.

 

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