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 soccer. 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 soccer 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 soccer, the visual demand is split with peripheral being an important aspect of playing a sport with your feet. The ball is typically in your peripheral vision while you split your attention to use your central vision to survey the field.
- Duration: The visual demands of a sport can either be short duration or sustained. Soccer requires a sustained visual attention. 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. Soccer presents a high demand on directional localization as the ball moves constantly during the game.
- Dynamic-Reactive: A sport that requires contains a dynamic-reactive component requires an athlete to quickly respond to a moving object. Soccer requires a very quick reaction by every player to react to the moving ball.
- Athlete Movement: An athlete can either be in motion or relatively stable during competition. Soccer players are almost constantly in motion, requiring a very fine tuned visual system. Furthermore, they come into contact with a moving ball while in motion, which requires even more visual attention.
- 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 (soccer ball) is rather large, however the contact area between your foot and the ball is quite small to produce the appropriate pass or shot. 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 soccer but most importantly at the distance to your feet.
- 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 ball is often on the ground.
- 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 soccer as players must quickly locate the ball.