How to Become an Offensive Threat with Your EYES!
You’re standing in the box and a 85+ mph fastball is running through the strike zone. As soon as that ball is released from the pitcher’s hand, here are a few fun facts:
- It takes approximately 0.4 seconds for that pitch to reach home plate
- The swing takes approximately 0.2 seconds. It takes 0.03 seconds to process that information that a ball is coming towards you, and the remaining 0.17 seconds is you deciding whether to swing or not
- You have 0.2 seconds to see the ball
- What happens if you can’t pick up the ball?
During my time at the University of Tampa, I became OBSESSED with this paper I’m about to share with you guys. It showed me a world of vision training, and introduced me to the Dynavision, and ultimately me leading my own study.
The University of Cincinnati published a study that was solely based on vision training. The results are pretty fascinating.
They used the following vision training methods: Dynavision, Tachistoscope (T-Scope), Brock String, Eyeport, Rotary, Strobe Glasses, Saccades, and Near-Far Training.
There are many different ways to training our vision. In this particular study, the University of Cincinnati baseball team performed vision training 3x/week in the Pre-Season (6 weeks prior to start), and continued to perform vision training 2x/week during the In-Season to enhance recovery.
Some of these methods are pretttttty expensive to purchase on your own to get your eyes moving quicker, so I’ll provide a DIY (do-it-yourself) for each method
The Dynavision is a massive board with light buttons aiming to improve simple reaction time and decision making.
A typical Dynavision protocol has athletes going through a test for 1-minute intervals. Anything beyond that could induce CNS fatigue and bit of brain overload.
This device is pretty cool because you can manipulate your own tests. When I created my own vision protocol using the Dynavision board, I could manipulate the following variables:
- amount of lights shown in one session
- ratio of green lights (GO response) to red lights (NO response)
- the speed of the lights shown
- the quadrant of the lights shown
The Dynavision board records simple reaction time. For example, the baseball players that participated in my study performed a Go-No go task, in which they were asked to only hit the green lights and exclude from hitting the red lights, similar to swinging at a strike and withholding from a ball.
Simple reaction time was measured as the time it took from the light being presented to the light being successfully hit on the board.
Since Dynavision boards are very expensive, here are 2 ways I utilize the same methods in the training room:
The T-Scope is usually seen on the Dynavision. It aims to train the brain in recognizing images faster, which is important in baseball hitting.
The same Dynavision protocols can be used while using the T-Scope. The only addition would be shouting the numbers on the screen while performing the Go-No go task on the Dynavision board. Since this increases the intensity of the drill, the amount of time should be decreased to less than one minute.
The video above can be used for both the Dynavision and T-Scope.
The Brock String is an 8-foot long string with 5/6 different colored balls attached to the string. This method is mainly used as a near-far vision tool.
The athlete places the end of the string in front of the nose at eye level. When staring at the closest ball, it should be CLEAR vision and not blurry. When we stare at one object with another object in the distance (the other colored balls), we can see our divergent/convergent vision working.
With the Brock String, we are conditioning the eyes with their “fine adjustment” lens.
Start with only focusing at 3 balls. Quickly adjust your focus from the nearest ball to the furthest ball, and make your way down the string performing this drill for one minute.
Once you are able to adjust your eyes with ease, start progressing to adding more balls onto the string.
The Eyeport is an automated version of the Brock String that has a series of different colored lights.
The athlete tracks each colored light, similar to the brock string, for an interval of one minute. Since this is an expensive device, you can still create your own Brock String, or purchase one online for very cheap! (Click here)
The rotary is a vision device similar to a spinning wheel. There are numbers and letters attached to the wheel, and there are 2 ways of performing this drill.
The first variation is by using a laser pointer (if you have one). Start by spinning the wheel at a slow speed. The coach will shout either a number or a letter, and the athlete must pinpoint that variable with the laser pointer as quick as possible.
The second variation is without a laser pointer. Spin the wheel at a slow speed. The coach will then suddenly stop the spin of the wheel and shout either a number or a letter, and the athlete must pinpoint that variable with their eyes as quick as possible.
Strobe Glasses, made popular by Nike, are LED glasses that intermittently block vision. The intermittence of the flashes can be set from easy to hard. The higher the frequency of flashes, the easier the task becomes.
We have used these glasses in a research study in the past. We used professional baseball players in our study.
We would throw tennis balls at our baseball players and would record the amount of successful catches while using the strobe glasses.
With the intermittent flashes of the glasses, the brain was forced to create a visual map of the flight path of the ball coming towards them.
Since these are expensive pieces of equipment, here’s how you can manipulate the same training effect:
- Find 2 people that can help out and have them hold a PVC pipe
- Their job is to move the PVC pipe up and down at different speeds (without hitting the ball)
- successfully catch the ball!
You could also try to perform the same drill of someone tossing the tennis ball to you, but go from a far distance, and intermittently close your eyes to get a similar training effect.
Saccades are rapid movement of both of the eyes from one object to another. Saccades are usually performed with randomized letters and numbers written down on a card and then placed on a wall.
There is a far chart (the chart on the wall) and a near chart (the athlete holds).
The task is to rapidly shift your focus from the far object to the near object going in either horizontal order or vertical order.
This drill can be performed in multiple positions, such as forward facing and lateral facing, to stimulate the hitting position as well as an outfielder/infielder looking over their head.
Saccades are very easy to create and can be used immediately!
When performing the saccades drill, the athlete is also working on their near-far vision.
When standing in the box, the athlete must focus from far to near: from ball release to the strike zone.
A near-far drill can be utilized either with some tennis balls or a deck of cards. The latter variation is much more difficult to perform since the cards can move randomly in space. We want our EYES to direct the movement before our hands move.
After 6 weeks of performing vision training 3x/week in the pre-season, here were the following results from the study:
- Team Batting Average increased from 0.251 to 0.285
- Slugging percentage increased from 0.372 to 0.404
- On-Base Percentage increased by 0.034 points
- Strikeouts decreased by 8.6%
One limitation in this study is that we cannot assume that this vision training was a direct cause in the increase of offensive performance. However, what we can mention is that these increases were certainly mediated by the vision training performed 3x/week.
This brings me back to the very opening of this post. It takes 0.4 seconds for a pitch to cross home plate. It takes 0.2 seconds to process the pitch and decide whether to swing or not.
You have 0.2 seconds to see the ball. What if you can’t pick it up right away?
Try performing a blend of these drills and you’ll notice that your decision making will be a lot smoother at the plate.
Seeing the bigger picture,
Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS
Clark, J.F., Ellis, J.K., Bench, J., Khoury, J., and Graman, P. (2012). High performance vision training improves batting statistics for University of Cincinnati baseball players. PLoS ONE 7(1).