An overview of important vision skills for Hockey and how Sports Vision Training can improve performance.
In terms of speed, hockey is among the fastest sports in the world, at the professional level the puck can reach speeds of 100 miles/hr. Sports vision training can help players maintain visual awareness of their opponents and teammates as they move around (11 other players), anticipate actions, and make or block shots.
Hockey forwards are the offensive players on a team, responsible for keeping the play on the enemy side of the ring, and, of course, for scoring goals. There are a number of vision skills which are vital for a great forward.
Important vision skills for forwards include:
Visual Reaction Time: As we’ve already mentioned, hockey is a very fast-paced sport, and decisions and actions must be taken quickly. Visual reaction time is the vision skill which allows a player to rapidly process and react to new visual input. Whether to react to the puck flying toward him, or to an opposing player approaching to try and take the puck from him, increased visual reaction time will greatly increase a hockey forward’s performance.
Hand-Eye Coordination: Unsurprisingly, hand-eye coordination is a key skill for hockey players, especially for forwards who have to handle the puck for extended periods of time. Improved coordination improves a player’s ability to make the perfect shot or block.
Accommodation and Convergence: Accommodation is the vision skill which lets an athlete keep an object in focus and change focus quickly when the game requires it. Convergence is the ability of the eyes to effectively work together while tracking things like the puck, the player currently in control of the puck, and other players moving into position for a pass or a block. Improved accommodation can provide forwards with the edge they need to take their game to the next level.
Defensemen have to constantly be on the move and ready to react to movements by the opposing offense.
Important vision skills for defensemen include:
Peripheral Vision/Peripheral Awareness: Hockey is a fast paced sport which involves many players, both friend and foe, moving across the ice. It’s extremely important to be able to tell where those other players are, even while a player remains focused on the puck. Improving a defenseman’s peripheral vision and awareness will make him better able to keep track of what’s going on, to make sure he’s in the right place at the right time, and to intercept incoming opponents.
Accommodation and Convergence: Accommodation is the vision skill which lets an athlete keep an object in focus and change focus quickly when the game requires it. Convergence is the ability of the eyes to effectively work together while tracking things like the puck, the player currently in control of the puck, and other players moving into position for a pass or a block. For defensemen, who have to follow the rapid movements of both players and the puck, improved accommodation can be the difference between just missing a key play and making a game-changing move.
Anticipation Timing: Hockey is a sport where a lot can happen in a short time, and the ability to react quickly to changes in the game or the flight of the puck. All too often, misplays take place not because an action was wrong, but because the timing was off. For example, if a defenseman moves to block a shot or intercept an opponent a moment too late may give the other team an opening to try and score. Improving anticipation timing will increase a defenseman’s ability to make plays at the right time, and improve his overall performance.
Goalies have a single job, but it is an extremely important one, as they are the last line of defense. Elite goalies need high levels of a range of vision skills to ensure peak performance.
Important vision skills for goalies include:
Eye tracking and movement precision: The puck has to be the primary focus of a goalie, and it moves extremely rapidly across the rink as opposing players approach. Improved eye tracking gives the goalie a better chance to ensure he is positioned properly to intercept enemy attempts at scoring.
Concentration: Amid all the fast moving action, concentration on a player’s immediate task is also very important. Lapses in concentration can lead to not reaching the puck in time, or not getting into proper position when block an attempt at scoring. A goalie can train to improve his ability to concentrate despite distractions and fatigue, and that in turn will improve his overall performance in-game.
Accommodation and Convergence: Accommodation is the vision skill which lets an athlete keep an object in focus and change focus quickly when the game requires it. Convergence is the ability of the eyes to effectively work together while tracking things like the puck, the player currently in control of the puck, and other players moving into position for a pass and an attempt at scoring. Improved accommodation is particularly important for goalies, as his eyes will be able to better adjust on the fly.
Dr. Heather McBryar leads the sports vision program at Amplify EyeCare Chattanooga, providing sport specific neuro-visual training to hockey players from beginners to elite. As part of the Sports Vision program, a sports vision doctor can prescribe a wide variety of training and activities that help boost every hockey player’s performance.
Dr. Heather McBryar is a Fellow of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), a candidate for Fellowship in the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association (NORA), and a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry (ABO). She has lectured extensively on the topics of neuro-optometric rehabilitation and low vision.