Sport Vision Training
Considerations for Implementing “Sport Vision Training” Programs
The value of a few milliseconds can be seen in almost every sport. Making earlier cue detection and appropriate action responses the bar to entry at the elite level. With the advances of deception training, trick plays and things like pitch design, a growing premium is being placed on improving decision-making and anticipation skills. So, the question becomes “How do we develop decision-making and anticipation skills?” Enter “Sport Vision Training”
SVT protocols have shown that expert athletes perform better on testing protocols than athletes of lower skill.
Because experts are better at these SVT tasks, the thought process is that by training athletes to perform SVT tasks better, faster, more accurate, they might be better, faster, and more accurate in their sport.
The way various SVT companies are grading performance is by retesting the task that the athletes are practicing.
These companies also provide reasonable justifications for utilizing their systems:
Athlete enjoyment & investment in training activities
Faster RT in training tasks should equate to faster RT in competition
Low-friction training addition
Multiple sport applications
Here’s why we need to carefully examine SVT programs:
We get better at the things we consistently do. “Practice makes permanent”
Getting positive feedback from an athlete who would quote “enjoy the training style” is not a great metric for determining the effectiveness, validity or transferability of that training program regarding anticipation in competition.
Giving an athlete a score pre and post training which later shows improvement in those same tasks does not validate any transfer effect of that training, nor does it mean that the athlete will be responding better/more accurately in competition.
Getting better at a skill which experienced athletes are better at than sub-experienced athletes is not a valid justification for training that skill.
Pressing buttons, waving a hand over a light, catching and throwing objects of different colors/shapes/sizes, and multiple object tracking, are not actually sport-task specific and do not generally differentiate high-performance in a sport-specific task.
Multiple sport applications is very likely not specific enough to have impactful anticipation alterations for every sport.
These types of skills (executive function and neuromuscular activation) are underlying functions of the brain that all levels of sport performance are predicated on being efficient or sufficient.
So, what are our options??
What are the purposes for integrating a new system?
How often and when will this be used?
Does this new addition add friction or added time to training?
Does this new way of training add value to or replicate the desired performance outcomes?
What neuro/physio-system changes are taking place?
What is the process for validating and justifying the use of that training addition?
Are there transfer effects? If so, how are we measuring them and are they desirable?
Let’s wrap this up
These subject areas aren’t talked about enough. Partly because most training interventions and analysis methods are experimental, innovative, inherently expensive to conduct, hard to do well, and if successful – a major competitive advantage, not a recipe for transparency. This is why we’re just starting to see MLB clubhouses, like the Rays, using state-of-the-art hologram technology from W.I.N Reality, Mizzou Baseball and SlowTheGameDown using video cue recognition for batters, Florida State University Volleyball using similar systems for opponent cue and object recognition, and the Phillies Minor League director of hitting has started using eye-tracking technology with athletes at Driveline Baseball. This is not a fad, or fake news. This is the next evolution in athlete performance enhancement. It will combine the visual behavior and bio-mechanic data of athletes in all sports to drive performance enhancement strategies. From future insights we’re going to see a lot of innovations aimed at augmenting visual behavior, anticipation, and decision-making skills. Most importantly it will be data-driven & transferable, and it’s just getting started. My hope is that by bringing up this topic we can start asking some better questions, get more practical training systems in front of more programs, and top of the list; provide the best possible learning environment for our athletes. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ryan at Fuller Hitting for extending an invitation to write for their blog, the University of Florida for a world class education, the progressive staff with Florida State University volleyball for our first look at athlete visual behavior and training systems integration, the athletes, coaches and professionals we work with to continue developing and innovating for this space, and my parents for giving us a home base at the start of this journey. If you have any questions, requests for supporting literature, or collaboration ideas, we would love to hear from you. Please send an email through our company website or DM on Instagram. Mike Mann, MSc CEO and Director of Innovation & Applied Research Python Optics – Applied Sport Neuroscience Web: www.pythonoptics.com IG: @pythonoptics