Sports place a high demand on your visual system. Peak performance requires clarity of vision, efficient eye teaming and focusing skills, and superior visual processing abilities. While clear vision is beneficial in all sports, the specific demands a particular sport places on your visual system during competition is rather unique to that sport. For example, some sports require you to contact a moving object with your hand, foot, or piece of equipment while others require that you strike a stationary object. The Sport-Specific Athlete Vision Profile presented below depicts the relative demands placed on your visual system when playing baseball. Keep in mind that the visual demands may vary between the different positions on a team or between offense and defense, but this diagram is meant to be specific to the act of batting, a skill that every baseball player needs to perfect.
Below is a description of the 12 aspects of the Sport-Specific Athlete Vision Profile:
- Visual Attention: Visual attention can either be central, peripheral, or divided. For batting, the visual demand is central. Nearly 100% of a batter's attention is dedicated to the ball as it is being pitched.
- Duration: The visual demands of a sport can either be short duration or sustained. Batting is a short duration of very high visual demand, however playing 9 innings places a sustained demand on the visual system. An athlete with poor visual endurance may perform better in the earlier innings of games as compared to the later innings.
- Directional Localization: This skill is used when determining the direction and speed of a moving object. Baseball presents an extremely high demand on directional localization as the pitch must be identified and ball localized to create a hit.
- Dynamic-Reactive: A sport that requires contains a dynamic-reactive component requires an athlete to quickly respond to a moving object. It goes without saying that hitting a baseball requires a very quick reaction by the batter to hit the ball.
- Athlete Movement: An athlete can either be in motion or relatively stable during competition. Although a batter moves through their swing, they are relatively stationary leading up to the pitch. For this reason, the visual demands of hitting a pitch considers the athlete to be stationary.
- Target Demand: The target during competition can either be static (stationary) or dynamic (in motion). Dynamic targets present vision information in a constantly changing manner, requiring the athlete to process changes in visual information in a fluid manner.
- Target Size: The target (baseball) is small, especially considering the small area on a bat that will produce a successful hit. This requires very fine tuned interpretation of visual information.
- Visual Distance: This is the distance of the target which is providing the visual demand during competition. The baseball starts as far as 60 feet and 6 inches away from the batter, requiring incredibly clear distance vision. The distance is quickly shortened as the ball is pitched and requires the ball to be viewed again at a much closer distance.
- Visual Space Range: This is the range over which visual information must be attended to. For batting this range is from 60 feet 6 inches to the end of the bat.
- Gaze Angle: This refers to the direction you must look during a given activity. Depending on the stance of the batter, the pitch is generally viewing in primary gaze (straight ahead) to slightly to one side (depending on right or left handed batting stance). The demand in the vertical direction is shifted into inferior gaze as the ball strikes the bat below eye level.
- Boundaries: The visual boundaries of a sport refers to the visual area that an athlete must attend to while competing. In many cases the visual boundaries coincide with the boundaries of the playing surface. During the act of hitting the visual boundaries are restricted to a narrow area between the batter's boxes (a little wider than home plate).
- Contrast / Figure-Ground: Contrast sensitivity, or the ability to distinguish between different shades of the same color is very important during competition. Figure-ground, or the ability to identify an object of importance from background clutter, is also important. These demands are very high during batting as the player is looking for the baseball while ignoring the distractions of the other team, field, and crowd behind the ball. Additionally, any attempt to view the seams on the baseball require an even higher demand on contrast sensitivity.