Friday, October 27, 2017

The Athlete and Various Types of Vision

“Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”  - 
Muhammad Ali
In the context of mental conditioning and sports psychology, I have often discussed and written about and coached athletes about vision.  I want to spend some time identifying the various types of vision that I have found important to peak performance.

1.  Visual Acuity:  Let's be real.  You must start here, of course.  Most, if not all sports, require excellent visual acuity, or clarity of vision.  Physically, athletes must be able to see and also have excellent hand/eye coordination.  This ability allows a baseball player to hit a fastball, the quarterback to "thread the needle" when passing the football, or a ice hockey player to find his teammate for an assisted goal.  Think:  Ted Williams, Henry Aaron, Drew Brees, Wayne Gretzky.

2.  Mental Clarity:  Great athletes also have the gift of vision that refers to the concept of mental clarity.  As with any type of goal, the more specific and clear the goal is, the more likely it is to be worked on and achieved.   The clarity of the goal requires a high degree of specificity, "measurability," attainability, realism, timeliness and relevance.   These characteristics of clarity are often referred to as SMART goals.

3.  Long-Range - Seeing The Big Picture:  This type of vision refers to the ability to conjure up a long-range vision of yourself and your abilities.   It is what you strive for.  If you can't see it in your mind's eye, you won't be able to achieve it.  Some people call this the dream, the ultimate challenge or the end game.   Think Muhammad Ali, of course.

4.  Short-Range:  Desired goals/objectives:  this type of vision seems fairly obvious.  It is the big picture broken down into chunks.  However, I want to emphasize that it is an important part of any preparation that an athlete attempts.   Any time spent in serious preparation must be tied to a set of smaller goals.  This type of vision is associated with either developmental or performance goals.

Developmental goals are those that help determine practice or rehearsal activities.  Performance goals are those that are associated with game or match performance activities.

5.  Peripheral:  this type of vision involves the awareness of your surroundings, teammates, opponents.  It is the opposite of tunnel vision.  This type of vision sees the whole field or court in real time.  It goes beyond self-involvement.   With this type of vision, the athlete is oriented in the moment, he/she is fully present and totally engaged.   Think Leo Messi.

6.  Intelligent (Sport-Specific):  This type of vision requires the full understanding of the game itself, and an awareness of the need to identify, study and mastery various components of the game. With this type of vision, the athlete is able to conceptualize and have a mental model for their role and function as a teammate and the role and function of others.  This is the type of vision that turns data into information, awareness into action.  Think:  Peyton Manning or Tim Duncan.

7.  Anticipatory:   This type of vision provides the ability to predict and see the court, the field, or the ice beyond the present or real time.   It involves the skill of recognition.  This ability is what Wayne Gretzky, the Hall of Fame professional hockey player called Fast Forwarding.  The faster the recognition, the better the performance.

8.  Intuitive:  This type of vision requires a belief in the importance of tapping into consciousness, including the unconscious, preconscious and subconscious.   It involves the ability to be psychologically-minded.  This aspect of performance suggests that we have the ability to access seemingly inaccessible thoughts, skills, competencies, and abilities.  This belief allows great athletes to obtain mentally and emotionally what they need to achieve and be successful especially when they need to be.

9.  Instinctual:  The type of vision allows us the self-knowledge and awareness to access and use what is "pre-wired" into us whether it be genetic, biological, evolutionary, or developmental.  It helps us to access what we have inside of us.  It allows us to use the gifts that we have been given.  It taps into our athletic DNA,  Great athletes can quickly identify patterns that they have seen before.  It is an athletic sense of recognition.  

10.  Neural - Muscle Memory:  This type of vision is critical and complementary to instinct.  We can best utilize, develop and leverage our instinct by building our muscle memory.  By understanding the importance of deliberate practice and rehearsal we can leverage and unlock what is programmed within us.    This ability allows the athlete to recall and execute quickly and immediately perform what is required because it has been deeply encoded and learned fully.   Think:  Steph Curry.

11.  Centering - Quieting the Cognitive Mind:  This type of vision requires the development of mindfulness and the practice of sports-oriented meditation.  Great athletes are able to reduce or eliminate chatter as they perform. Great athletes understand the need for removing cognitive barriers to performance.  Quieting the chatter positions the athlete for success by establishing the requirements of being present and in the moment.  Think Michael Phelps.  

Can you see the importance of each of types of vision?   Can you think of other examples of these types of vision?  Can you think of other athletes that utilize each type of vision?   Let me know what you think about these ideas. I look forward to your comments.

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