Visual Skills

Throughout the course of an athletic task, the athlete must utilize many motor and sensory skills. Vision is the link between motor and sensory systems. Vision is a learned skill and because of this it can be trained. Listed below are some the visual skills that an athlete can enhance to achieve maximum performance potential.

List of Specific Visual Skills

  1. Static Visual Acuity – ensure that the athlete has the best corrected visual acuity. (athlete must see clearly)
  2. Dynamic Visual Acuity – ability to maintain visual clarity when the athlete and/or the object of regard are in motion.
  3. Contrast Sensitivity – ability to quickly identify and track objects against various backgrounds. Many sports have varying lighting levels. (ski racer on course with fog)
  4. Eye Tracking – Ocular motility and range of movement of the eyes. Includes pursuits, saccades. Athlete must be able to quickly and accurately locate landmarks and follow the object of regard (ie baseball pitch)
  5. Binocularity – eye teaming, eye alignment (using both eyes at the same time and having both eyes pointing at the same place in space)
  6. Depth Perception – Processing depth cues, ability to see in 3D (boxing, outfielder judging fly balls)
  7. Vergence Facility/Range – eye convergence and divergence (converging the eyes as the tennis ball approaches the racquet)
  8. Accommodation – eye focusing, speed of focusing, and shifting focusing far to near and near to far. A rapid change in eye focusing allows for more accurate eye tracking.
  9. Visual Fixation – ability to maintain fixation long enough to assess situation then act on it.
  10. Visual Attention – is affected by the ability to manage stress. Proper breath control and stress management are vital to maintaining good visual attention (being in the zone when everything “slows down”)
  11. Angles of Gaze – Visual information coming in from non-traditional points of gaze (volleyball, looking up)
  12. Gaze Stabilization – ability to keep objects clear when in motion
  13. Color Perception – ability to discern different colors (flags in racing)
  14. Ocular Dominance (hand dominance, foot dominance, ear dominance)
  15. Visual Reaction Time and Response Timing
    1. Reaction Time – Ability to quickly respond to a visual cue
    2. Anticipation Timing – Predictive visual information about the “where” and “when” behavior of critical factors in sports (incoming baseball)
    3. Timing and Rhythm – Ability to coordinate the body fluidly in response to space and time cues. (X Games)
  16. Eye-Hand-Foot-Body Coordination – Ability to interpret visual input and then to successfully coordinate hand, foot and associated body movements.
    1. Bilateral Coordination – using two sides of the body simultaneously and in synchronization
  17. Balance and Proprioception (Static/Dynamic)– Knowing where the body is in space and keeping the body balanced despite dynamic factors (tumbling vs golf)
  18. Peripheral Awareness – utilizing the full extent of your visual field and being aware of your surroundings, movement of other athletes or objects around you, and changes on the court or field.
  19. Central/Peripheral Visual Processing – The ability to process simultaneously central and peripheral information while filtering irrelevant stimuli and attending to relevant stimuli (no look pass in basketball)
  20. Withstanding Eye Fatigue Without Decreased Performance – Ex. Race Car Drivers - Vision provides 90%+ of input for driving. Racing a car is very demanding physically and can cause the visual system to break down especially towards the end of a race.
  21. Glare Recovery Speed – the ability to quickly adapt from various changes in lighting (ie moving into and out of a shaded portion of a racetrack)
  22. Vision in Dim Illumination – ability to see in dim illumination (ie beach volleyball match at dusk)
  23. Visual Information Processing
    1. Visual Discrimination – ability to judge finely detailed information and make valid visual judgements based on contrast sensitivity, color/shade identification, texture, shape, and size. (skeet shooting, reading a green in golf)
    2. Visual Closure - ability to perceive a whole image when only parts of the image are seen. (ie. quarterback reading the defense, he does not have time to fixate on each defensive player and must quickly determine the overall defensive scheme)
    3. Visual Figure Ground - ability to pick out details while filtering out irrelevant information and confusing backgrounds (ie catching a football with the fans in the stadium as the background)
    4. Visual Memory – ability to remember details (ie different venues and race courses (ie how did a motocross rider ride a certain course the last time he visited that track). He must be able to change that memory if the course changes or the weather conditions are different (rain line in auto racing). There must be long-term and short-term visual memory skills.
    5. Visual Sequential Memory – ability to remember the order of visual stimuli (ie remembering the turns on a bobsled course)
    6. Visual Spatial Relations – the athlete’s ability to perceive appropriate positioning of themselves in relation to other people or objects within their environment (ie lining up correctly in football)
    7. Speed of Visual Processing – How quickly visual information needs to be processed (hockey vs. archery)
    8. Speed and Span of Recognition – Speed of identification (which player is on my team)
  24. Visual Localization
    1. Visual Spatial Localization – ability to act on changes in environment and know where you are relative to other objects (ex. accident on race course)
    2. Visual Directional Localization – Predictable vs unpredictable motion patterns (track and field vs putting)
    3. Visual Distance Calculation – Accommodative (eye focusing) demands based on the distance between the athlete and the visual target
    4. Visual Boundaries – Size of playing field or space surrounding athlete. (volleyball court, knowing if a serve is in or out, gymnastics floor routine)
  25. Visualization – Ability to mentally see, manipulate, practice and perfect flawless details of skill execution (picturing yourself jump serving in volleyball before you serve the ball)