Eye Exercises for Baseball & Softball
Check out this great training tip to help your players see the ball better:
This is the most overlooked type of training and it can absolutely improve performance with zero additional training time!
Have you ever heard someone say “he just isn’t seeing it well today” or “it doesn’t look like she is picking it up very well”?
Whether it is baseball or softball one of the most important things we have to do to be successful is to simply see the ball…and see it well.
When something is traveling towards us (a pitch for instance) our eyes work together to help us track that object, they also work together to help us see depth. When the eyes rotate towards each other to look at an object that is closer by, it is called convergence. When looking at an object farther away the eyes will rotate away from each other, this is called divergence.
Part of what allows our eyes to work well together is the muscles that you use (pretty much unconsciously) to move your eyes around.
Why is all of this important?
Because you can actually train your eyes to work better together. You can call them eye exercises, or convergence exercises, or even ocular enhancement exercises if you are trying to impress someone. However, all that really matters is that through performing these exercises we have the ability to actually help our eyes perform this all-important “convergence” more efficiently.
Again, the eyes working together is one of the factors that help us see depth….to perform well in baseball or softball, we need to have great depth perception.
When we are tracking a pitch with our eyes, we are performing what is known as a smooth pursuit. Think of this as the eyes working together to track something along a continuous line. It allows us to closely follow a moving object.
Our eyes will also perform something known as a saccade, this is when our eyes jump from one fixed point to another. It is more clearly defined as a rapid movement of the eye between two fixation points.
At times it is also possible for the tracking of a pitch, a fly ball, or something of that nature to be done with a combination of saccades and pursuits.
So what does it all mean?
Basically, I am telling you that practicing saccades and smooth pursuits is a necessary training modality if we are interested in absolutely maximizing our potential.
#1 – Brock String Saccades
You can purchase a “brock string” from an optometrist or online. But it is also pretty easy to make one at home.
To make one just get a string that is about the thickness of your iPod charging cord and cut a piece that is about 12 feet long. Get three different colored beads and put them on the string….easy squeezy lemon peezy!
Now, how do I use this advanced training device I have just fabricated?
Tie one end of the string to a doorknob and space out the three beads. For first timers you usually want to start with the beads about 20cm apart, you can space them out more and more to increase the degree of difficulty.
Now that it is all set up hold the string tight to your nose, making sure the string is tight and tilted slightly down hill.
Then take your focus to the middle bead…you should notice that you now see an “X” formed by the string. The center bead you are focusing on should be the center of that “X.”
Next look at the bead closest to you, and then look at the bead that is the farthest away from you. Then look again at the middle bead.
#2 – Brock string Smooth Pursuits
When you are jumping from bead to bead you are performing a saccade. As I touched on a bit earlier we also want to work on smooth pursuits. We will accomplish this by holding the string to our nose with the same set up as the initial drill; except for this time around we are going to clear the beads.
With the string held up to your nose (tight enough that the string has no sag in it)…bring your focus to the point on the string that is touching your nose, just as if you were going cross-eyed. Now, imagine a spider or an ant walking out away from your nose (down the string). Track that spider or ant with your eyes and slowly walk your eyes down the string.
Try to control your eyes and take at least 10 seconds to walk the eyes all the way out. Then once you hit the end of the string, turn it around and imagine the spider or ant walking back up the string, again tracking your eyes back up the string.
The center of the “X” that the string forms should move along with the imaginary spider or ant.
You can continue to walk it back and fourth and you will feel the muscles around your eyes working.
What is the best way to implement this?
Ever have players taking batting practice with a partner or other teammates? Whenever it is not their time to hit this is a great type of training to have them perform while they are resting or waiting to hit. It is literally time that is very often wasted and now you can actually help you players get better during that time. Stop wasting time and start building champions!