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Sports Vision

How to Improve Your Sports-Related Visual Skills

sport protective eyewear 640x350When you think of the skills necessary to succeed at sports, speed, strength, agility, and endurance probably come to mind.

But have you considered how much we depend on visual skills to play sports? It’s no surprise that coaches tell their players to “Keep your eye on the ball” and “Look the ball into your glove.”

That’s because the visual system is the primary guide for the rest of the body to execute the physical actions needed in sports and every other aspect of life.

Some Visual Skills to Work On

Visual skills are a crucial component of a wide range of sports. Take tennis. You have to closely watch the ball from the second an opponent hits it to calculate the ball’s flight. That allows you to calculate where to plant your feet, how much to twist your torso, and where to position your arm in order to deliver the best counter strike.

Here are 5 visual skills used in sports, and tips for how you can improve them:

Dynamic visual acuity: being attentive to details in moving objects. As the baseball flies toward you, watch its spin to discern whether the pitch is a curveball (which dips down toward home plate) or a slider (which darts to the side and down).

Hand-eye coordination: the information seen and processed by the eyes and brain guides the movement of the hands. When a basketball teammate snaps a no-look pass your way, your hand-eye coordination is vital to see the ball’s approach and get your hands in position to catch it.

Eye tracking: the eyes moving together to follow an object. Watch a basketball from the second you release your jump shot until it drops through the hoop.

Peripheral vision: noticing objects at the edge of your visual field while looking straight ahead. To practice anticipating an opponent sneaking in to steal the basketball you’re dribbling, take notice during a simple walk on a city street. Is another pedestrian coming alongside you on the right? On the left?

Focus flexibility: adjusting focus between nearby and farther-away objects. This is key when playing table tennis and focusing on both the ball bouncing toward you and your opponent’s position across the net. Practice by strongly bouncing a tennis ball against a wall eight feet away, being alert to the precise spots each time the bounced ball hits the ground and the wall.

Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric provides sports-vision training, a customized program to help you process visual information and respond faster. We will conduct a vision evaluation, assess your visual skills, and design exercises to strengthen the visual skills you rely on. In follow-up appointments, Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes will monitor your progress.

Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric works on sports-vision techniques with athletes in Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, Elk Grove, and throughout California .

 

6 Ways to Improve Athletic Performance

6 Ways to Improve Athletic Performance v2Did you know that portly baseball legend Babe Ruth gobbled hot dogs before games or his night-owl habits? (A teammate once quipped, “I didn’t room with Babe. I roomed with his luggage.”)

Oh, how sports training has evolved! Today’s top athletes view excess pounds and sleep-deprived nights as threatening to their future performance, not to mention their next hefty contract.

To keep body and soul in peak condition, elite athletes employ personal trainers, chefs, sports psychologists, and other specialists. At stadiums and arenas, teams similarly support their players with the best that sports training offers. Hi-tech devices let athletes monitor body fat, heart rate, and fatigue up to the minute.

Even if you’re not an elite athlete, you can implement the following tips to supercharge athletic performance. Whether you’re trying out for the high school rowing team, competing in a Sunday softball league, or training for a 5K charity run, the following will be sure to take your game to the next level.

  1. Eat sensibly: Athletes should generally consume up to 3,000 calories a day in food and beverages. Consume wisely, and research experts’ nutritional tips, which often suggest a diet high in protein, vegetables, and legumes, while keeping your sugar and alcohol intake low.
  2. Get enough sleep:  Adequate sleep energizes us physically and emotionally for sports and the rest of the day ahead. On the flip side, sleep deprivation saps energy, raises the level of stress hormones, and lowers the production of glycogen, which stores carbohydrates — all of which adversely affect athletic competition.
  3. Warm up: Whether you run 25 miles a week or bicycle across your city, make sure to prepare your muscles for the rigors ahead. This gets the blood pumping, loosens the joints, and focuses the brain. So the next time you attend a professional baseball game, watch what players do even before batting practice: they stretch, sprint and do arm circles, among other exercises.
  4. Think positively: The great baseball catcher and accidental linguist, Yogi Berra, once said, “Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.” Yogi was onto something. Sports psychologists preach a positive attitude to set goals, strive for excellence, maintain motivation, and develop resilience in the face of challenges. Try it and see for yourself!
  5. Repeat: A lost Manhattan pedestrian once asked, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” A wise guy on the street answered: “practice, practice, practice." Same with getting to Madison Square Garden. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s dunks and Steph Curry’s jump shots don’t magically happen in games. They practiced their basketball techniques and skills for thousands of sweat-filled hours on empty basketball courts. Do the same and diligently practice your skills if you want to get really good at sports — or anything else for that matter.
  6. Improve vision skills: Good vision and visual skills are what give an athlete that extra edge. Think they function similarly while poring over a spread-sheet budget as when racing downfield to prevent a flag-football opponent from reaching the end zone? Hardly. Sports vision training, tailored to a sport’s demands, prepares the brain to quickly process what the eyes see so the body responds faster to a moving target. Has the outside hitter shifted ever so slightly? With sports-vision training, you’ll recognize his or her move and better anticipate a spike attempt at your next volleyball game.

The takeaway? Work hard and play hard. Do not underestimate the importance of checking your visual skills for any deficits which may be keeping you from succeeding on the court, rink or track.

Typical examinations generally don’t cover the visual skills called upon in sports, but Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes will evaluate yours. If needed, Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes will tailor a treatment program to improve your visual skills, whether it's to help keep your eyes focused on the ball, improve tracking and depth perception to successfully complete a pass or to improve peripheral vision awareness, strong eye-tracking, and visual concentration skills.

Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric is a sports vision training optometric practice that offers evidence-based sports vision training to enhance an athlete's vision abilities to take their game to the next level. We help athletes of all ages from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, Elk Grove, and throughout California .

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Come see us to develop your visual skills for sports.

How Can I Putt Like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus?

man playing golfGolf is a very visual sport, so if your visual skills are subpar, it will hurt your golf game. Sports vision training — individually prescribed exercises that develop specific visual skills and processing in athletes — can improve your game. Such training can be done off the course to hone putting, which is one of the most demanding strokes.

Putting, hitting a golf ball with a light stroke, requires intense concentration, calm under pressure, and a superb ability to read the greens: to understand how the closely-cropped grass near the hole will accelerate or slow, divert or escort a softly struck golf ball. Putting also demands knowing how far the ball must travel and precisely where on the club the ball should be tapped (the “sweet spot”).

Unfortunately, even golfers with 20/20 vision won’t succeed if their eyes don’t work in unison, or if they have poor eye-hand-body coordination. That’s where sports vision training comes into play.

Becoming a Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus is a tall order, but whether you’re a professional or an amateur golfer, sports vision training can make you a better golfer.

Improve Putting By Training Your Visual Skills

First and foremost, Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes of Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric will test your visual skills using a functional eye exam. This will include evaluating your hand-eye coordination, eye tracking, eye teaming (how the eyes work together), peripheral vision and ability to discern contrasts between colors. Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes will then prescribe a tailored program for your needs that will include in-office and at-home exercises in order to strengthen each skill.

How Can Sports Vision Training Improve Your Putting?

Customized sports vision training can help golfers:

  • Analyze the ball’s location in relation to the hole
  • Position the club so that its sweet spot lines up with the ball
  • Conceive a strategy for hitting the ball to account for the distance, the greens, even the wind
  • Convert that strategy into action with the club that delivers the ball into the hole

On a practical level, once golfers line up on the green to putt, they engage in a prolonged routine that’s almost never seen elsewhere on the course. Because they need to keep focusing on a close-by object and then shift their focus to the targeted destination, they repeatedly look back and forth between the ball at their feet and the hole.

This is known as focus flexibility, a technique that can be practiced at home by focusing on the floor tile near your toe, then on a dog-food dish (or other objects) located 15 feet away, then back on the tile, and so on. To practice depth perception, move from spot to spot and estimate each distance from the closest tile to the dog-food dish. To improve peripheral vision, focus on the tile while simultaneously attempting (and without changing the position of your head) to see the dog-food dish.

Visual Skills + Imagining Great Outcomes = Visualization

Sports vision training also involves a technique known as visualization, which is applicable to sports and to all areas of life. It involves closing your eyes and envisioning yourself taking each step necessary to execute a perfect putt. When you line up a putt in real life, those images will come to mind, ready to be applied step by step to attain success: sinking the putt.

 

Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes will develop a customized sports vision training plan to improve your putting and overall golf performance. Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric assists people just like you, from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, Elk Grove and throughout California .

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Why Vision Training Is Vital for Your Swing 

action athlete athletic ball 279004 (1)It is no secret that hitting a baseball out of the park is considered one of the most difficult challenges in sports. Batters in MLB have less than half a second to meet a 90 mph fastball with the bat’s sweet spot. This means there is virtually no other specific action in any sport that is as demanding to a player’s visual system. What remains a mystery is why so few coaches and managers ask their teams to utilize vision training, which will enhance their performance on the diamond.

The impact of sports vision training is still greatly underestimated. Many athletes, parents, and coaches believe vision is an innate skill and are unaware of the many ways to improve it, and, in turn, enhance a player’s overall athletic performance.

Recognize That Pitch!

There are many kinds of pitches, each with a self-explanatory name: the fastball is extremely fast, a curveball makes a downward curve, and a knuckleball – well, only a true baseball fan understands what that is.

For the batter, naming the pitch is not enough to hit the ball. He only has a fraction of a second to identify what’s coming at him and react accordingly. Keeping his eyes on the ball and assessing direction, speed, and motion is highly demanding for a player’s entire neuro-visual system.

5 Essential Visual Skills for Keeping Eyes on the Ball

  • Speed of focus – The ball is racing towards you at a speed of 70 to over 100 miles per hour. As the ball moves, the eyes must constantly refocus.
  • Eye teaming – The eyes must be perfectly synchronized to keep track of the ball in flight.
  • Depth perception and peripheral vision – Both are critical in assessing the distance, direction, and speed of the fast-moving baseball.
  • Convergence – To follow the ball as it flies towards you, a perfect convergence of both eyes is needed.
  • Visual processing speed – The speed at which all this visual information can be processed inside the brain is critical.

Why Vision Training Is Crucial for Your Swing? generic from EyeCarePro on Vimeo.

Sports Vision Training as Part of the Regular Baseball Training Schedule

Training to increase strength, accuracy, endurance, and speed is a given in sports. In the same way that players can develop their physical and motor skills, they can improve eye alignment, depth perception, and any of the visual skills listed above through regular sports vision training. It can be an integral part of baseball training for every player.

Sports Vision Trainer Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes will create a customized training program for your players based on a sports vision exam that evaluates each player’s visual skills with a specific focus on baseball requirements. The players will each receive individualized training sessions at Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric as well as additional exercises to carry out at home. A training program for your whole team can also be provided.

It’s still early in the season. Start helping each player boost their visual skills and performance. Take your baseball team to the next level. Contact Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes at Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric today.

We train athletes from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, Elk Grove, and throughout California .

Sink That Buzzer Beater With Sports Vision Training

basketballIt’s that time of the year again! With March Madness around the corner, the world of college basketball is getting ready for “The big dance”. Who wouldn’t want their team to sink that buzzer-beater at the championship game and take the tournament? Just as Kris Jenkins did three years ago when he hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer that earned his team the championship title.

The annual NCAA tournament has every college basketball player’s adrenalin running extra high. It is the highlight of the season, not only for the teams but also for fans and families.

The Role of Vision in Basketball

Did you ever stop to consider the importance of excellent vision in sinking such an unforgettable shot? When we say vision, we are referring to the visual skills relevant to basketball, which are different from visual acuity, also known as 20/20 sight. Visual acuity of 20/20 only means an athlete can see clearly, but to sink a 3-pointer demands exceptional neuro-visual processing skills involving eyes, nerves, and brain.

Elite athletic performance requires elite visual skills.

To Beat the Buzzer, Players Need Excellent Visual Skills

Let’s look at a few critical visual skills required to net that last-second 3-point shot:

Target assessment. There is no room for error when shooting at the basket, which is a small target relative to the ball. This requires accuracy in assessing the size, distance, and precise location of the basket. A player who wants to master the 3-pointer needs excellent depth perception and visual tracking abilities.

Accurate localization. To shoot like Steph Curry or Damian Lillard, a player must position himself correctly in relation to static objects, such as the basket and the 3-point line. The shooter must also be aware of the defenders’ movements on the floor. This requires accurate localization skills and peripheral vision.

Visual reaction speed. Whether creating a turnover, grabbing a rebound, or taking the last shot, the visual input the player receives must be processed instantaneously. This allows him or her to respond fast enough to beat both, their opponent and the buzzer.

Hand-eye-body coordination. Basketball players are constantly in motion; coordination of movements of eyes, hands, and feet must be synchronized simultaneously to sink any shot on the crowded court.

Visual Boundaries and Peripheral Vision. Establishing precise visual boundaries that enclose the area in which the player must focus his or her attention during the game—in this case, the basketball court— is critical. The athlete must also be able to disregard whatever is located outside these boundaries, such as the audience and advertising signs. One of the reasons teams tend to do better in their home court is that familiar surroundings do not draw the athlete’s visual attention and cause distraction. Excellent control over peripheral vision helps sustain clear visual boundaries.

Visual Attention. A player must be able to maintain a high level of visual attention throughout the entire game. To beat the buzzer, he or she must remain visually alert until the very last second.

Sink That Buzzer Beater With Sports Vision Training from EyeCarePro on Vimeo.

Training Visual Skills

Top athletic performance requires elite visual skills. By training an athlete’s basketball-specific visual skills, Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes can help improve the overall performance on the court

At Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric we will evaluate your vision skills and determine which to improve for optimal basketball performance. For a functional vision evaluation and to receive your personalized sports vision training program, contact Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes today.

Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric trains athletes of all ages from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, Elk Grove, and throughout California .



The Vision Skills Needed for Quarterbacks to Succeed 

man holding football and football uniform in black 140039Here’s a question for you: what do you believe to be the most important skill required for a quarterback to succeed? A good quarterback needs a strong throwing arm, quick feet, strong cognitive skills, and leadership qualities —surely everyone could agree on that. But is that enough to truly excel at the sport?

Quarterbacks tend to intensively train their physical strength without realizing that enhancing their visual and cognitive skills could render their exercise drills more effective. Acute peripheral vision and exceptional reaction time, among other visual skills, are critical to quarterback’s success. Sports vision training lays the cornerstone for these skills and helps players be the athletes they know can be. Contact Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes to see how sports vision training can help your child or players improve their game.

Quarterbacks Need Above-Average Vision Skills to Succeed

It goes without saying that a good quarterback needs to have a strong throwing arm. But a strong arm alone does not guarantee success. The quarterback needs to evaluate distance and other players’ speeds accurately, which is where visual skills come in.

Quarterbacks need to be aware of everyone and everything around them and understand the precise location and path of movement of every player. At the same time, they need to follow the ball.

Which Visual Skills Can Sports Vision Training Improve?

In a pass play, the quarterback gets the ball and draws back. Being at the back of the action, he has only a split second to choose among up to five receivers he could throw the ball to. Why only a split second? Because there are anywhere from 3 – 11 rivaling defense players trying to run the quarterback into the ground or get him to make the wrong decision.

Given this scenario, which visual skills are needed for a quarterback to succeed?

Eye Focusing Skills

Following a quick-moving object — i.e. the wide receiver —requires sustained focusing power control and an ability for the eyes to shift quickly and accurately.

Depth Perception

By increasing and stabilizing binocular depth perception, quarterbacks can improve their spatial judgment. If the receiver is farther than you assessed, your pass will not reach him. Is he closer than you thought? He may have to stretch, jump, or run for it.

Peripheral Vision

When the quarterback has the ball, all the opponent’s players’ eyes are on him. Most dangerous are those who can see the quarterback, but he can’t see them because they are at the edge of his visual field. Strong peripheral/side vision prepares quarterbacks to see where the defenders are located at any given time.

Visual Reaction Time

This refers to the speed with which the quarterbacks’ brain interprets and reacts to the opponent’s action. His next step depends on how quickly and efficiently his brain integrates the visual input with motor functions.

Gross-Visual Motor

The quarterback has processed all the information and reached a decision while he was moving. This requires excellent coordination between the eyes, hands, legs, and the rest of the body. Now it is time to act. With vision and movement perfectly aligned, the ball will reach the player the quarterback chooses at the exact point in space and time he decides.

What you just read was a second in a football game. Even though it wasn’t a particularly complicated situation, the advantages of superb visual skills are evident.

The Vision Skills Needed for Quarterbacks to Succeed from EyeCarePro on Vimeo.

Enhancing the Performance of a Quarterback

You can train visual skills just like you would any other skill. Optometrists, such as Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes, offer sports vision training to help players achieve their goals and take their game to the next level. A functional eye exam will evaluate visual skills, after which Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes will create a personal vision training plan. The child will typically receive in-office therapy once or twice a week, coupled with home exercises.

At Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric, we help players be the athletes they know they can be. We train players from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, Elk Grove, and throughout California .



How Do I Ski Better? It All Starts With Vision!

winter skiing blog imageYou just jumped off the lift and are ready to hit the slope. As an experienced skier, you look down the slope to identify obstacles, inspect the angles, and evaluate the consistency of the snow. If you want to be successful, you know that you need to plan out your line.

That’s all very nice — in theory. In real-life situations, the slope is not always visible. As you speed down you may suddenly encounter dangerous sections you weren’t previously aware of. Maybe an icy patch that is difficult to spot as contrasts is difficult to discern in the snow.

To Be an Excellent Skier, You Need Excellent Visual Skills

Contrast sensitivity is critical for skiing. A snowy landscape is a composition of white shades, and your safety depends on your ability to differentiate between them.

Let’s look at some other visual skills, which, when improved make you a better skier:

  • Depth awareness. With better awareness of space and distance, you can ski with greater confidence. This allows for higher speed and increased safety.
  • Peripheral vision. You are not alone on the slope, and the actions of others are not always predictable. Good peripheral vision allows you to identify any potential dangers that crop up from the side and avoid them.
  • Gross visual-motor. You can be in complete control of how you move around obstacles when vision and motor skills are perfectly aligned. Visual-motor coordination is fundamental for taking every turn exactly as planned.
  • Visual perception. Perceive and assess all that is going on in your visual field. Spot the next mogul before you feel it in your knees.
  • Reaction time. The speed at which you react depends on how quickly your brain comprehends what the eyes see. With faster reaction time you can ski safely at an increased speed.
  • Focus control. As you speed downhill, what was far away a second ago is suddenly right in front of you. Train your eyes to maintain simultaneous focus and quickly shift focus from near to far.

Sports Vision Training for Serious Skiers

Enhancing your visual skills will make skiing safer and more fun. And as a bonus, these skills will enable you to ski better and faster.

At Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric, we provide functional eye exams to assess your visual skills and detect which ones are preventing you from becoming a champion skier.

How Do I Ski Better? It All Starts With Vision! from EyeCarePro on Vimeo.

What Is Sports Vision Training?

Dr. Randy Fuerst & Dr. Hannah Mikes will put together a personalized training program based on the results of your functional eye exam. Generally, you will attend weekly in-office training sessions followed with daily exercises to be carried out at home. The exercises may involve the use of special computer software to train your eyes, mechanical vision games, or traditional eye exercises.

Increase safety and improve performance on your next skiing vacation. Contact Sports Vision Center at EYEcenter Optometric today to schedule a functional eye exam.

We train athletes from Sacramento, Folsom, Roseville, Elk Grove, and throughout California .



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