All athletes recognize the significant role that vision, and visual skills have on their performance. The adage, “If you can’t see the ball, you can’t hit it” is true. Visual skill development should be a part of every athlete’s training regime. The athlete uses their eyes to gather information. This information is then processed in the brain. The superior athlete needs to be able to block out clutter, fatigue, stress, and inaccurate information in milliseconds in order to adjust and make an accurate motor movement in response to this information. This is the superhighway of athletic performance.
The tennis athlete has to be sure that they are getting accurate visual information, which will lead them to strike the ball with confidence. It should be obvious, at this point that these visual skills and abilities have a special impact on tennis from the weekend player to the tour athlete. These visual skills can be enhanced and trained in order to improve performance.
Here are some of the visual skills and abilities that are important in tennis:
- Eye Alignment—for accurate fixation on the ball
- Eye Flexibility—in order to shift where you are looking from far to near when returning a serve or ground stroke
- Court Awareness—your position in relation to sidelines, baseline, service line and to opponents/partner/court
- Visual Recognition—the speed at which you can process visual information, recognize angles, the pace of the ball and your opponent’s position
- Depth Perception—required in order to accurately determine where the ball is in free space; it also influences judgment of the ball’s position
- Tracking of the ball and quick reaction to its direction traveling
- Processing visual information which influences on-court decisions
- Discerning the speed and direction of the ball, particularly when playing volleys, baseline drives, returns of serves and overheads
Tennis players who are seeking an edge or who are failing to reach their potential or playing inconsistently should add vision training to their fitness regimen since it’s obvious that those tennis players who possess superior visual skills have the potential to become superior tennis players. With vision training, it just may get a whole lot easier to keep your eye on the ball.