Sports Vision

Because of Dr. Scott Krauchunas’ research interests in baseball outfielder tracking, he is venturing into the realm of Enhanced Vision Training (EVT). To excel at any sport it is crucial to train by strengthening muscles, improving speed, quickness, and power. The ultimate goal of training is simply to respond as quickly as possible, without thought. One area that is drastically underestimated is the role vision plays in sports. Granted, vision is indirectly trained during practice but for the most part vision is ignored. The area of sports vision is a growing area with many professional sports organizations contracting to optometrists for the sole purpose of training athletes to improve their visual system. A vast majority of behavior is initiated and guided by vision. If the visual system is slow to respond the behavior will be late and slow.

Dr. Krauchunas recently had the honor of training with Dr. Don Teig who is currently the vision trainer for the New York Yankees and works closely with Derek Jeter. Dr. Teig has developed the art of sports vision training and has been involved with teams including the New York Yankees, New York Knicks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Utah Jazz, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa By Buccineers, NHL Officials, Men’s PGA, Men’s Senior Tour, Scott Sharp Indy Car Racing Team, Men’s and Women’s Professional Tennis Tour, the US Olympic Ski Team, the 2012 US Summer Olympic Team and others. As part of Dr. Krauchunas’ training, he has received the specific training protocols that Dr. Teig is currently using to train the Yankees.

Vision is much more than seeing clearly; it is about processing information as quickly, accurately, and as easily as possible. Enhanced Vision Training (EVT) is a process to train the brain to utilize all the information from the eyes. Athletes spend hours in the gym getting stronger; hours on the field running drills to get faster; running plays to perfection but there is no thought given to specifically train vision. Eye-hand coordination, visualizing the play/routine, ‘seeing the ball,’ etc., are all phrases describing the importance of vision in sports and life yet we do not train the visual system. Take baseball for example: A major league fastball crosses home plate in 0.4 seconds. A major league hitter can swing the bat through the strike zone in 0.2 seconds. That leaves only 0.2 seconds to decide whether the pitch will be a ball or a strike, whether to swing or take, and where the ball will be in the 2x2x2 foot cube called the strike zone as it crosses home plate and lands in the catcher’s glove! Then, the 2.5 inch diameter bat needs to come in contact with the 2.5 inch ball in such a way to ensure the proper trajectory to launch the ball over the Green Monster! It is truly amazing that players are even able to make contact with the ball let alone are able to hit 50 homeruns a season. Derek Jeter has been trained to look for and see the ‘R’ of Rowlings that is printed on the baseball as it crosses home plate. That is just hitting the baseball; the physical mechanics for any sport is daunting, yet athletes of all ages are able to accomplish the task with relative ease and it all starts with vision, not just seeing but vision.

Vision is not just seeing 20/20; it is something more. What allows Tom Brady to ‘see’ defenses instantly and to select the right play? How was it that Hank Aaron was able to read the label on a spinning record (you know that thing you read about on Wikipedia)? How was it that Tim Thomas was able to anticipate a 100 mph slap shot from 15 feet away on the weak side? How was it that Larry Bird ‘knew’ where all of his teammates were to make the behind the back, no look pass? What separates the elite athletes from the average athletes? It is likely the development and refinement of the visual system that makes the difference. If the visual system is slow then so is the behavior. A finely tuned visual system allows the body to follow faster and more efficiently. They all have 20/20 sight just like you and me but their visual system is so much more finely tuned and precise. The good news is that all of these skills are trainable!

The EVT is a process that has as its first step to obtain the maximum visual acuity and determine baseline ocular health. Optimizing acuity can be achieved via many different avenues including prescription spectacles (Rec Speks), Contact Lenses, and CRT. The second step of EVT is to actually train the eyes and the brain to work as efficiently and effectively as possible. Just like general training, sports vision training requires practice, strengthening, and coordination with the whole body. As the individual progresses through the training the visual tasks are made more demanding and complicated and peripheral awareness is trained. The final step of training is visualization training. Every stage of EVT is designed to improve acuity, focusing skills, muscle coordination, reaction time, and peripheral awareness which will improve overall performance and get you into the ‘zone’.