Article from Pickleball Fire Magazine - January 2022
Pickleball players tend to spend a lot of time on the physical aspect of the game. But have you considered improving your vision skills so you can know where your opponent's shot is going a split second faster? A player's vision can be trained just like any other skill, according to Lukas McKnight from Vizual Edge. He said,
"I think we all know how important it is if, when we misread our opponents shot, we're less likely to hit a good shot in return. So if we can be quicker about recognizing where the ball is going, how it's spinning, and ultimately where it's going to end, we can improve our games."
Vizual Edge originally developed its training program for major league baseball players. Lukas used the technology as a screening tool when working as a scout and member of the front office for the Chicago Cubs. Vizual Edge later expanded into hockey and Pickleball when Lukas joined the company over a year ago.
While the early technology required athletes to perform their training in an ophthalmologist's office, it is now working on any wifi-enabled device like a computer, tablet, or smartphone. The only other equipment you need is red and blue glasses that take your screen and make it three-dimensional. Before starting the training, athletes take a brief entrance exam which lasts about 10 minutes to determine where they have a deficit in recognizing and tracking objects. It allows the vision training to be tailored to each individual's needs. Then you train your vision skills three times a week for 15 minutes at a time. Similar to a weight training program, the longer you stick with it, the better you will see.
The vision training works on improving two aspects of eye-hand coordination. The first is called divergence, which is how well you track objects in the distance. Examples of this are returning a serve or a baseline rally. The second is convergence and how well you can track things as they get close to you. So much of Pickleball is an exercise in how well you can switch from divergence to convergence.
"I've seen it in my own game. I did some training when I was18-9 years old… For the last six months or seven months, I've been doing it again myself. I have really seen a benefit on the Pickleball court, especially with being able to win hand battles, reading spin a little bit better, and just generally having fewer miss-hits."
Lukas believes the most important thing about vision training for the average Pickleball player is having fewer mishits, which improves your quality of contact. It means fewer balls will go into the net since you learn to hit your paddle's center or sweet spot more frequently.
While Vizual Edge started to help professional athletes, it can help players of all levels. Those with a limited athletic background will benefit more from the vision training since they have a lower baseline. Lukas said,
"While we have worked with some top pros, I've immediately seen some rec players gravitate to us, use the product, see the value in it, helping to improve their own games. And then tell their friends to where it's spread, so it's almost like we've gone a grassroots sort of way with Pickleball to where the rec players really liked what we have."
Follow Vizual Edge on Twitter @VizualEdge