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 hockey. 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 describe the visual demands of hockey in general.
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 hockey, the visual demand is split with peripheral being an important aspect of hitting the puck with the stick.
- Duration: The visual demands of a sport can either be short duration or sustained. Hockey provides a short duration of very high visual demand during a shift on the ice, however playing 3 periods places a sustained demand on the visual system. An athlete with poor visual endurance may perform better in the earlier periods of games as compared to the later periods.
- Directional Localization: This skill is used when determining the direction and speed of a moving object. Hockey presents an extremely high demand on directional localization as the puck moves rapidly during the game.
- Dynamic-Reactive: A sport that requires contains a dynamic-reactive component requires an athlete to quickly respond to a moving object. Hockey requires a very quick reaction by every player to react to the moving puck.
- Athlete Movement: An athlete can either be in motion or relatively stable during competition. Hockey players are almost constantly in motion, requiring a very fine tuned visual system.
- 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 (hockey puck) is small, especially considering the small area on a stick 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. This distance is highly variable during hockey but most importantly at the length of a hockey stick.
- Gaze Angle: This refers to the direction you must look during a given activity. The demand in the vertical direction is shifted into inferior gaze as the puck strikes the stick 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.
- 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 hockey as players must quickly locate the puck.