Vision Training: a Mental or Physical Process

Written By Rob Crews

Dallas / Fort Worth Coaches Group

Vision Training A Mental Or Physical Process

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Vision in Sports Performance can fall into a 4-part mental process. That's right I said MENTAL. I know the eyes are muscles and some people want to do eye exercises to make them stronger (if that’s even possible). But the 4-part process is actually mental, not as physical as we would like to believe. We have destroyed so many hitters by making it all about the physical, while minimizing the mental plane -let's not do the same thing with vision. Check out the four-part process:

Part 1 – Capture

The capture process is based on recognition. Without going into every dynamic of recognition (which would be impossible), let's just agree on this, “The more we see something, the easier it is to recognize it.” Do I need strong eye muscles for that? Should I put my eyes through a workout in order to have better recognition? No -not necessarily. I need to simply create files and store those files in my short or long term memory. If I'm a stud, then I will be able to retrieve those files and interpret them faster than the mediocre athletes.

Part 2 – Memorize/File

Memorizing pitches (and how they move) and storing them as files is based on focus and understanding the difference between the “image” and the “object.” The image is my perception of reality and the object is reality. That is why hitters will swing at pitches in the dirt and then say it wasn't low (and to them, it wasn't low). The whole ballpark saw a better version of the “object” and the hitter saw an “image” -his perception of the object. The majority of your better hitters are always gonna come from the parts of the country where they can play more softball, see more pitches, and create-record-store more files. Not do eye exercises. We don't go study math to get better at English. In fact, over 70 percent of the major league baseball draft comes from 5 states. It is not a coincidence that these states are warmer. Kids aren't playing a lot of basketball or other indoor sports in these places. They’re seeing pitches -a lot of pitches.

Part 3 – Recall (google experiential memory)

Recollection is key. Because now that we have created all these files or memories, we now have to bring them back to our present situation. This is a system of cross-referencing what we are seeing in the present at bat with what we have already experienced in past at bats. So I can lay off a rise-ball because I have seen thousands of them since I was 14. B-level travel players probably won't be very good at laying off that pitch. They don't have enough files stored and haven't seen enough good rise balls. This is why Michael Jordan couldn't hit, but I'll bet you he could ace all those frivolous vision drill-exercises, and video-games. But his vision was good enough to shoot turn around jumpers. Jordan had a visual awareness of where the rim was even with his back to the basket. Mostly because of his experience or extensive file storage. Not sure that eye exercise would haves helped Michael Jordan to become a better hitter.

Part 4 – Interpret

Interpreting is about about combining or putting the first 3 parts together. We need to develop those three either together or independently with hitting drills. It is essentially Visual Information Processing -a task every high-level athlete in a reaction sport must do at a certain speed in order to be considered elite. Hitting drills should not only re-enforce proper body movements (physical), but also create visual files similar to the spins and trajectories hitters will see in the game. In the game. Yes -in the game. We need a ball for this. Preferably a ball that looks like the one played with in the game. Same size, shape, and especially color. And it should hopefully be moving. I am not sure computer screens and video game simulators can come close to re-recreating the feeling of eyes-to-brain-to-body mechanics that hitters feel in the game.

In fact, the connection of In fact, the connection of the hitter's back big-toe to the hand and sweet spot of the bat is the key to entire visual process in hitting -especially at a high level. It is a feel. Doctors don’t know what I’m talking about, but hitters do.

By taking the bat and ball out of the “vision” training process, recognition/response is not happening as fast and efficient as it needs to for whatever level you are hitting at. Your athletes are getting good at seeing numbers on tennis balls and there are no numbers on a baseball or a softball (hence, no recognition). And besides, at the highest levels of play, a hitter cannot stare at the ball -he needs to see part of the ball (and part of where its going) in order to be on-time. So I hope you are not teaching hitters to watch the ball throughout its entire flight. Looking for numbers will cause bad tracking habits and actually speed up the pitch. This promotes lateness.

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Rob Crews Rob Crews is based in Southern New York, and is one of the most sought after hitting coaches in the country. He is the Author of the book, Complete Game: The Emotional Dynamics of In-Game Focus.Rob provides consultant services for hitting coaches and develops hitting models for professional, olympic, and amateur softball and baseball programs. He served as the hitting coach for USSSA Pride (NPF) in their 2010 championship season, along with Tim Walton (UF), and Beth Torina (LSU).

As a consultant to companies like SKLZ, AXIS Bats, Bratt Sports, and MicroGate USA, Rob is continually developing comprehensive accelerated training systems that involve modern sports psych, neuromechanics, and visual strategies for efficiency in recognition and tracking.

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