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 tennis.
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 tennis, the visual demand is primarily central.
- Duration: The visual demands of a sport can either be short duration or sustained. Tennis places a sustained demand on the visual system. An athlete with poor visual endurance may perform better in the earlier games as compared to the later sets.
- Directional Localization: This skill is used when determining the direction and speed of a moving object. Tennis presents an extremely high demand on directional localization as the ball 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. Tennis 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. Tennis 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 (tennis ball) is small, especially considering the small area on a racket 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 tennis but most importantly at the length of the court as rallies typically take place from baseline to baseline.
- Gaze Angle: This refers to the direction you must look during a given activity. Tennis has highly variable gaze angle demands.
- 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 tennis as players must quickly locate the ball.