Keep your eye on the ball
The old adage, “Keep your eye on the ball” is truer than you think. Almost all sports rely on good vision. However, many athletes fail to master the necessary eye movements to maximize their ability to see and react. If you have ever watched slow motion footage of Roger Federer hitting a tennis ball, you will notice how his eyes remain fixed on the point where his racquet hits the ball, even after contact. He does this even though he cannot actually see the contact because it happens faster than his eyes and brain can process the information.
The reason is self-induced blindness. When we move our eyes quickly from one point of focus to another, our brain shuts down our vision until the target is acquired. This is to keep us from seeing a blurry image. It is simple and easy to demonstrate self-induced blindness. Hold your arms out wide with your index fingers pointing up. Now focus on one finger and then quickly move your gaze to the other finger. What you will notice is that you don’t see anything in between. This is self-induced blindness and it happens all the time in sports. Our brains do this to make our daily lives easier and so we don’t see the world as a blur. However, in sports this natural occurrence can impede our performance.
Hitting the sweet spot
Elite athletes train their eye movements to limit this blindness. It is a skill that must be trained, because it doesn’t come naturally. We tend to watch a moving object most of the way, judging its trajectory, but then we move our eyes and head prematurely. We don’t follow the ball all the way to the point of impact. In tennis or baseball amateurs move their eyes to the place they want the ball to go instead of keeping them focused on the impact. This creates self-induced blindness and takes away a players ability to make last second adjustments for clean contact. It’s the difference between hitting the ball in the sweet spot or off-center.
Strengthening Peripheral Vision
The Qball is ideal for training proper eye movement. Its erratic bounce must be watched closely, as no 2 bounces are the same. By practicing bouncing and catching the Qball an athlete can train themself to keep their eyes focused on the hand catching the Qball for an extended period of time, and tracking its subsequent bounce using peripheral vision. The exercises that strengthen peripheral vision give an athlete the skill and confidence they need to be comfortable doing this when it matters most. Elite athletes are better because they do things differently than most and this is one of their secret weapons.