Sports Vision Training
In the world of baseball, teams, coaches and athletes are continually looking for innovative ways to improve performance. Baseball is unlike any other sport in that it requires physical abilities like strength, speed, agility and power, but it is also a game that requires a high level of skill and accuracy. A single mistake in the field, on the mound or in the batter's box can change the outcome of a game. The abilities of the players across the league, by comparison, are very close. The players and teams who make the fewest mistakes prevail in the end.
Baseball is a game of consistency!
In the need to excel in the sport of baseball, it goes without saying that sport specific skill development is a priority. Repetition is a key in our game. But if all we do is play the game and practice our skills, in the end we limit playing potential.
Along with skill development, we need to address flexibility, strength, speed, agility and power. And then, there are sports intangibles! These are the not so obvious traits that often separate the great players from the rest of the field. Sports intangibles include things like game intelligence, timing, reaction speed, anticipation, aggressiveness, etc., and they are all as trainable as any other skill. Sport vision training for baseball is becoming a very important part of preparing for the game as more and more players work on this aspect of their game.
Sports Vision for Baseball
According to visual experts there are five areas of visual performance that baseball players must consider:
- Focus: This is the ability to accurately judge distances and quickly focus from near and far points of interest.
- Tracking: This is the ability to follow moving objects - an absolute must in baseball.
- Visual Coordination: Eye-hand coordination and eye-foot coordination. In order to get in the best position to field a ball, make the throw, time the hit in the batter's box or read the play in the field, the information you get from your eyes must be understood as quickly as possible so you can make the correct movement response.
- Depth Perception: The ability to accurately judge distances and react accordingly.
- Peripheral Awareness: Whether in the field, running the bases, holding runners, at bat or catching a ball against the wall, being aware of your surroundings while performing a skill is very important and something that should be trained on a regular basis.
Hitters in baseball face one of sport's most difficult tasks! A pitch moving at 80-100 mph takes less than half a second to reach home plate. Add on movement to the pitch and hitting the ball is an almost impossible task.
On average the professional baseball player will lose sight of the ball 6-8 feet before it reaches home plate. From there the hitter has to guess/ anticipate where the ball will be when it crosses the plate. Hitters who train their ability to track high speed objects track the ball longer giving them a distinct advantage at the plate. The longer you can track the ball the better your chance of making contact. It is well documented that successful hitters are able to see the ball longer and some claim to see the ball right to the point of contact!!
To improve visual skills for hitters there are number of drills you can use:
Smaller Bat or Ball
- Use in regular soft toss drills players have to concentrate harder to make contact
- Use 2-3 different colored golf balls or colored dots on regular baseballs
- Each color can indicate a different task; bunt, take, opposite side…
- The hitters must recognize the color and then perform the appropriate task
- With a black marker write a number on the ball in 4-5 places.
- The number should be about 1 inch high
- As the ball approaches the hitter must call out the number just before or after contact
- You can also designate a task with each number in the same manner as colored balls.
- It has been well documented that tracking over speed balls can help hitters identify and track balls deeper into the hitting zone.
- Balls can travel 75mph to 150mph. The player will not swing at the balls; the task is to track the ball as long as possible.
- Using tennis balls and high speed pitching machines.
- Simply have the hitters assume the proper hitting stance and track the ball as deep as possible.
- You can use numbered balls or colored dots and have the hitters call out the proper number or color.
Fielding, like hitting, requires very concentrated visual skills. These skills can be trained in the field during practice just as with the hitters.
Colored / Numbered Balls
- Draw dots or numbers on the ball, Numbers should be ½ to 1 inch in size.
- As with the hitters players must react to the color on the ball.
- Blue dot, throw to first, number 2 throw home.
- You can change the combinations forcing the player to concentrate on the task
- Close eyes prior to contact.
- Player opens eyes and finds the ball as quickly as possible.
- Using soft balls hit them at your fielders at close range on one or two hops.
- You can have the players in a kneeling position or standing fielding position.
- Using a ball on the ground or stationary object high up (Light Standard).
- Have the player fix their vision on the object while the coach calls out directional commands or have the player complete agility drills or calisthenics.