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 basketball. 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 encompass the visual demands of the various skill positions.
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 football, visual attention is divided with an emphasis on central vision. An awareness of your surroundings is necessary during football, but focus is dedicated to the football when catching.
- Duration: The visual demands of a sport can either be short duration or sustained. Football requires sustained visual attention through the four quarters but has moments of very high intensity, short duration, visual attention. These moments occur during each play that a player is involved in.
- Directional Localization: This skill is used when determining the direction and speed of a moving object. During football, both the ball and the other team create directional localization demands. Awareness of the flight path of the ball allows one to make a catch while an awareness of the speed and direction of the players on the other team allows one to either make or avoid tackles.
- 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 football is all about split second decision making on both offense and defense.
- Athlete Movement: An athlete can either be in motion or relatively stable during competition. In nearly all cases, football players are in motion when attempting visual tasks such as catching a pass, making a pass, intercepting the ball, or making a block.
- 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 (football) is relatively large however the visual demands are quite high, which 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 visual distance during football is highly variable. For many of the players the most important distance is within a few feet (when running the ball, blocking, or running short routes), but for other plays the visual distance can be as much as 100 yards.
- Gaze Angle: This refers to the direction you must look during a given activity. Football requires athletes to look in nearly all directions. One unique aspect of football is that it requires players to turn their heads significantly while catching (over the shoulder throws). This means that players must be able to use both monocular and binocular cues to depth while playing.
- 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.
- 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.