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Athletes who are seeking an edge, should add vision training to their fitness regimen.

The Eyes Have It

by: Barry L Seiller, MD; Kathleen Puchalski, RN; and Bryan Shelton, USPTA
Tennis Life Magazine (8/1/2004)


Most tennis coaches recognize the significant role that vision and visual skills have on their players' performance. Many coaches and trainers have searched for a method to improve players' visual skills and abilities, knowing that "if you can't see the ball you can't hit it." Just how important are your eyes in playing sports, and how can you improve your visual skills? Let's take a look.

The following characteristics separate a good athlete from a great one:

Physical abilities (strength and size)

Psychological makeup and motivation

Mechanics Conditioning Visual skills, abilities and


Most athletes are fairly similar in size, speed and conditioning, and all have learned the basic techniques and mental toughness strategies. What frequently setathletes apart is their visual skills,abilities and confidence.

Visual Skills, Abilitiesand Confidence

Chances are that every athletecan improve in one or more visualskill areas, which include visualacuity, visual recognition skills,depth perception, tracking orfocusing abilities and vision (oreyesight) itself. These skills areinterrelated, and when lumpedtogether, refine hand-eye-bodycoordination and help players truly"see the court."

Clearly, the quality of athletes'visual skills has a significant impact on their performance. TheVisual Fitness Institute in VernonHills, Illinois, has demonstratedthat visual skills, like all physicalskills, can be taught, trained,practiced and perfected. Thisdoesn't mean just 20/20 vision,which is essential, but also howathletes use the Informationreceived from the eyes. Remember:The eyes lead the body.

The following skills are the visualabilities that tennis demands: Tracking of the ball and quick

reaction to the direction it's

traveling Processing visual information,

which influences on-court

decisions Discerning the speed and

direction of the ball,particularly when playingvolleys, baseline drives, returnsof serve and overheads Now, here are some interrelatedvisual skills and abilities that areimportant in tennis:

Visual acuity—good vision isthe cornerstone off all thevisual abilities and the easiestto correct with contact lenses,or now, laser surgery. If visualacuity is reduced, all the othervisual skills and abilities willbe weakened.

Eye alignment—for accuratefixation on the ball.

Eye flexibility—in order to shiftwhere you are looking from farto near when returning a serveor ground stroke.

Court awareness—yourposition in relation to sidelines,baseline, service line and toopponents/partner/court.

Visual recognition—the speedat which you can process visualinformation, recognize angles,pace of the ball and youropponent's position.

•• Depth perception—required inorder to accurately determinewhere the ball is in free space;it also influences judgment ofthe ball's position.

Eye hand coordination andreaction time



A complete tennis training program should include the following components, the last of which this article focuses on.

Nutrition Weight training Aerobic training Sports psychology Actual skills practice Vision training

Vision Training

Vision training is an exercise program designed to improve accuracy and efficiency of the eye movements utilized by athletes. Visual Fitness Institute has one of the few programs available for training athletes' eyes.

VFI's testing protocol measures and records an athlete's visual motor skills. If appropriate,VFI then designs a personalized vision training program for the individual. VFI has developed programs for the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Black Hawks to assist the teams in scouting talent and improving the skills of their minor league players.


tennis players also will benefit from such training.

Athletes who are seeking an edge, failing to reach their potential or playing inconsistently should add vision training to their fitness regimen, since it has been determined that those athletes who possess superior visual skills have the potential to be superior athletes. And with vision training, it just may get a whole lot easier to keep your eye on the ball.

More information about vision training can be found at

Dr. Barry L. Seiller is an ophthalmologist and the founder/director of VFI. In 1992 he was chosen as only one of three eye doctors that staffed the first Olympic Vision Center in Albertville, France. He is the Director of Visual Performance for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, and holds a similar position with the U.S. Luge, Bobsled and Skeleton teams.

Kathleen Puchalski, RN, is the Visual

Performance Specialist at VFI and for

15 years has provided visual

performance services to enhance

athletic performance for elite high

school, collegiate, Olympic and

professional athletes in various sports.

Bryan Shelton, currently the Head Women's Tennis Coach at Georgia Tech, played on the ATP Tour for nine years and reached a career-high No. 55 in the world in singles. He won two ATP singles titles at the Hall of Fame Championships and two ATP doubles titles with Farancisco Montana and Patrick Rafter. He also was a USTA National Coach for Player Development.



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