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Sports Vision and Basketball

As basketball is a sport of almost constant motion, for the players and the ball, well developed dynamic acuity is just as significant as good static acuity.

The following is a comprehensive outline of the most important dynamic visual skills for basketball.

Focusing and Tracking

Players must be able to change focus instantaneously as the ball comes toward them or is thrown away from them. Quick, accurate saccades (or eye movements) are needed to rapidly survey the locations and movements of the other nine players and the ball in relationship to the basket, boundary lines, etc.

Anticipation Timing

It is of crucial importance for a player to make the right move at the right time. Therefore, perfect timing is essential. A player has to be aware of the subtle visual cues that will help him to anticipate exactly when to catch a pass, when to go for a rebound, when to intercept a pass, etc.

Concentration

Maintaining a high level of concentration in a fast paced, action filled game is essential in order to deliver a great performance. A slight lapse in concentration can lead to turnovers, or missing easy lay-ups and free throws. It could also result in losing the game, or series or even worse, the championship. The team that can establish an intense level of concentration and maintain it for forty-eight minutes is the one that will go further than the rest.

Depth Perception

Having accurate depth perception is vital for such skills as shooting (especially from the three point range); passing, specifically to players on the other side of the court on a breakaway; and for evaluating the defensive positions of opponents. Good depth perception can minimize passes or shots that are too long, that fall short of the rim, or are not high enough.

Knowing where you are, relative to other objects (spatial localization) is also very important in basketball because the traffic patterns on the court can become very congested and because it's such a fast moving sport, with both the athletes and targets (especially in passing the ball) in constant motion. Obviously the baskets are stationary, but the player is usually shooting at this target while he/she is moving.

Eye-Hand Coordination

This is a basic skill that has to be perfected in a basketball player, since their whole game revolves around shooting, passing and catching the ball. Poor eye-hand coordination can lead to missed baskets, uncaught passes, fumbles and turnovers.

Peripheral Vision/Awareness

This is an essential skill for a basketball player on both defense and offense. The offensive player has to look directly at his opponent's eyes while being peripherally aware of the basketball he's dribbling, an open man to pass to, other defensive players trying to steal the ball from him, etc. The defensive man must concentrate centrally on the offensive man he's guarding, while being peripherally aware of screens (picks), his position on the court in relationship to his man and the basket, how much time is on the shot clock, where the ball is on the court, etc.

Speed and Span of Recognition

It is vital for a player to recognize the opportunity for certain play development as quickly as possible. The players only have fractions of a second to get a shot off, to make a pinpoint pass in traffic situations, to block a shot or to recognize a certain offensive or defensive set up.

Visual Reaction Time

Since basketball is such a fast moving sport, the players have to be able to react to any situation that arises as quickly as possible. If their reactions are automatic, it will help in plays such as interceptions and rebounds.

Typical Symptoms That May Be Related to Poor Dynamic Visual Skills:

  • Difficulty judging the height or the distance of the basket.
  • Trouble passing the ball accurately.
  • Maintaining an awareness of where you are on the court in relation to teammates and opponents.
  • Poor accuracy on free-throws.
  • Inconsistent play from game to game, or even shift to shift.
  • Trouble judging where the ball is in the air.
  • Poor eye-hand coordination.
  • Early fatigue is still a problem in spite of increased physical conditioning.
  • Slow to react to play development.
  • Problems with multi-tasking. Must come to a stop physically in order to process play development and make a reaction decision.

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