Vision training has been around for years. For example, in baseball we have used smaller balls to train our eyes to be able to see a bigger ball with greater detail, and in basketball we've shot on smaller rims, using the same thought process.
Recently, the vision performance industry has made great strides, and vision training has become more mainstream in private facilities as well as high schools, colleges and professional teams. At our facility in Western Pennsylvania, we have made significant progress in the past year, adding another dimension to our overall training experience, and now we do a lot of visual/reaction training pre- or post-workout.
Here are three examples of what we do for our athletes.
1. Robo-Pong Machine
This device has helped our athletes in different ways. To be able to catch small colored ping pong balls as they are shot out of a machine is a skill that definitely needs to be trained, but I truly believe it positively translates to athletes' on-field performance. The No. 1 rule of vision training is that you must devote your complete and undivided attention. You have to be able to block out all outside interference and truly focus on the task at hand. Working with the Robo-Pong trainer forces athletes to focus. We can alternate hands, we can have them catch certain colors, we can throw curve balls, sliders, rise balls and sinkers at them at slow or high frequencies, and it really challenges their eyes to stay focused for an extended period of time.
2. Focus Loop (A colored ring with different colored balls attached to it)
This training tool is extremely challenging to athletes, and it's a lot of fun. It forces athletes again to block out all outside distractions and catch the correct part of the ring. It's a great way to stimulate competition before training and to test the athletes' focus after a tough workout.
3. Brock Strings
This is a basic visual exercise that's extremely inexpensive and very rewarding. Place the end of the string at the tip of your nose, gaze at the first bead and relax your eyes so that you see an "X" shape of two strings meeting at the colored bead. Once you see the X, move on to the next bead, and so on. This challenges the binocularity of your eyes and develops the ability to focus on a target with both eyes. It can also be used to strengthen the small muscles of the eyes, which are fatigued after long periods of extended focus.
Like any other type of training, vision drills need to be done weekly if not daily and always progressed to more difficult variations to really improve your vision.
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