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 describe the general visual demands placed on a basketball player during a game.

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 basketball, the visual demand is split with emphasis on central attention.  A basketball player must be aware of their surroundings on both offense and defense; as is the nature of a team sport.  When deciding to make a pass, or more importantly to shoot, the visual attention quickly becomes central.  The need for selective visual attention is easily seen during free throw shooting.  The ability to focus on the basket while blocking out the distractions behind the backboard is very beneficial.
  • Duration: The visual demands of a sport can either be short duration or sustained.  Basketball provides a sustained visual demand throughout the game with short duration, high visual demand actions (such as shooting) throughout.  An athlete with poor visual endurance may perform better in the early parts of games as compared to the final quarter.  This can make closing out a game very difficult.
  • Directional Localization: This skill is used when determining the direction and speed of a moving object.  Basketball presents a high demand on directional localization as passes and rebounds must be identified and localized to create success.
  • Dynamic-Reactive: A sport that requires contains a dynamic-reactive component requires an athlete to quickly respond to a moving object.  Basketball requires a very quick reaction on both offense and defense.  Whether blocking a shot, creating a turnover, or rebounding the ball, a player must be able to quickly react to a changing visual stimuli.
  • Athlete Movement: An athlete can either be in motion or relatively stable during competition.  Basketball players are constantly in motioin.  Even during a jump shot their body must leave the ground and is in motion while shooting the ball.  This puts an extremely high demand on the 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 (basketball) is large, however the target (basket) is a relatively small area.  This means that visual demands are at their highest when shooting the ball, as there is the smallest room for error.
  • Visual Distance: This is the distance of the target which is providing the visual demand during competition. The visual distance during a basketball game is highly variable.  From layups to full court passes, a basketball must be able to use the eyes efficiently at all distances.
  • Visual Space Range: This is the range over which visual information must be attended to.  For most of the game this range spans the width of the court.  When shooting, this range narrows significantly as the player is focusing on the basket and any defenders that are coming in to block the shot.
  • Gaze Angle: This refers to the direction you must look during a given activity. Basketball players must look in all directions while playing, but the most important gaze angle is upgaze as the basket is located above eye level.  Efficient eye skills in upgaze is important when shooting or rebounding.
  • 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 basketball as the surrounding crowd can cause confusion or distraction when trying to play.

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