One player in the 2009 Super Bowl was given a major advantage over others while still a child. The 25 year-old wider receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald, has a grandfather and aunt who are optometrists in Chicago.
Training the eyes is not a new idea; improve-it-yourself vision books have been around for years. Today’s specially educated “behavioral optometrists” employ tests to evaluate our visual skills such as tracking, focus change and depth perception. Training programs try to improve those skills to reduce side effects of visual stress (such as headaches and poor coordination) and help conditions from astigmatism and amblyopia (“lazy eye”) to near- and farsightedness.
Using a wide variety of instrumentation and techniques, athletes are trained in how these pathways work and how to tap into them to help them reach “The Zone”, a state of poised confidence in knowing they are visually and physically connected with the athletic event and not distracted by irrelevant stimuli (visual and auditory noise). Many athletes report being “in the zone”, but don’t know how they got there.
Brett Basanez, a senior at Northwestern University, swears by a workout routine that, for a star quarterback, is pretty unathletic. Twice a week, he puts on 3-D glasses, settles down in front of a computer and punches at the keyboard to move arrows and dots across the screen.
Take a good look at Larry Fitzgerald, the superlative wide received for the Arizona Cardinals. His eyes aren’t on the ball as he catches it; they’re well above and beyond the ball.
Keith Smithson is a Doctor of Optometry in Northern Virginia who specializes in Sports Vision. He happens to be the team optometrist for the Washington Nationals, a team that happens to have the consensus number one prospect in the nation according to Baseball America, Bryce Harper.
Nike SPARQ Sensory Training is featured in the January 9, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated. The strobe glasses can be ordered through Bernell, and their site has downloads of some nice video.