Sports are played at a fast pace. A pitched baseball can reach you in about four-tenths of a second, and a tennis serve can travel at upwards of 120 mph. To hit a ball or return a serve, your eyes must be able to accurately track the object. You can then quickly react and get into position to execute the proper sports skill.
It’s possible to dramatically improve your visual tracking skills with training drills. The drills enable you to follow an object smoothly through its entire path. They also reduce eye fatigue, so your visual performance doesn’t fade throughout the duration of a game.
Below, I list out an easy-to-perform drill to help take your visual tracking to the next level.
• Attach a 10- to 15-inch string to a doorknob and hold it to your nose so string is tight
• Focus your eyes on the string until you see two strings
• Slowly walk eyes from nose to distant end of string
• Slowly walk eyes back from distant end of string to nose
When performing the exercise, you should see two strings, which is caused by an optical illusion. The strings will initially appear as a V, but will change to an X as you move your eyes farther along the string. Imagine your eyes are following a bug crawling on the string.Your eyes may not be able to focus on the strings crossing. If you look at the end of the line, but the string is crossed closer to your body, you need to relax your eyes. To accomplish this, become aware of your periphery—notice the floors, walls and ceiling out of the “corners” of your eyes. If this does not work, try looking past the wall or doorknob to relax your eyes [diverge]. Eventually your eyes will learn to point accurately. If you see the strings crossing closer to the end of the line, beyond where you are looking, you need to “tighten” up your eyes [converge], or look closer to bring the “X” closer.As your eyes move down the string, you may notice they jump from spot to spot instead of running smoothly down the string. This is a natural reflex, but this “jumping” is what you’re looking to eliminate over time.
If you see one string turn off and on, you are suppressing. To eliminate this, try flicking the string a couple of times. If this does not work, tap the side of your head between your eye and your temple on the side that is suppressing. It will usually be your non-dominant eye [more on eye dominance here]. For example, if you see only one string and it goes to the right, your right eye is on, and your left eye is suppressing; tap the left side of your head.This drill will work your visual tracking skills and help you become a more successful athlete.