There are a few sports whose athletes need little convincing about the importance vision plays on their performance. Baseball is one of those sports. Ice Hockey is the other. Hockey is a sport that relies heavily on every visual skill I can possibly enhance and train.
We often focus heavily on goalies, but every player on the ice must have impeccable visual motor reaction speed and accuracy, seamless anticipatory timing, wide peripheral awareness and precise spatial localization. Unlike Baseball, Ice Hockey has one of the higher incidences in concussion due to collision between your athletes and other athletes, the ice and even the puck. If there was ever a sport that you should be working with to improve not only performance, but safety, it’s Hockey.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate FITLIGHT® into Hockey Vision Training:
1. Basic Eye Hand Coordination. We’ve all done a type of saccadic board drill in our office. Never underestimate the added benefit you have by actually working with your athlete in their own environment and in their own gear. In this example, we have set up our own mobile assessment grid that we break down and set up on location. This player is a defenseman, not a goalie. This drill is applicable to pulling flying pucks out of the air and can be done with gloves only or using a stick.
- Loading Drill 1- Eye Hand Coordination with a cognitive component. We have 4 lights that come on at once. Our defensemen must deactivate the lights in the same order every time (Red, Yellow, Green, Blue) The lights will always flash in a different pattern. After he triggers 4 lights he moves to the next quadrant and deactivates the lights in the same order again. This is adding that middle processing and decision-making element on top of just a visual motor response. I want my athletes to be able to stay cognitively alert, not just practice on autopilot.
2. This dynamic drill is using a branded device (My Enemy) similar to many others that are commonly used to improve stick-handling via a puck pass-through. We like it because it has colors on the top of each section to be incorporated with drills. We added the FITLIGHT® to give more variability to the drill. We have our athlete deactivating the lights in the same order (R.Y,G.B). He must push/pull the puck between the section of the next color, which allows the stick to trigger my FITLIGHT® that is set for non-contact deactivation. This is incorporating visual processing with visual motor integration.
3. All of our practice leads up to my final drill. In this set up, we have FITLIGHT® set up on our grid that will light up, signaling for which color to pass through on the My Enemy. He would pass back and forth on the same color as many times as he could until the next color light popped up on the grid. We are looking to build peripheral awareness by having our defensemen keep his head up, searching for the next color, while using his spatial awareness to help him perform the stick handling drill below. If this gets too easy, they get a low contrast white puck thrown into the equation. This drill is everything I want in a sports vision training drill. I want my drills to:
- Work on specific visual skills that I know are important for my athlete
- Incorporate well into what they could already be doing during a normal training session
- Not just train vision alone, but incorporate other skills to maximize overall gain and likelihood my athlete will continue to use this drill.
FITLIGHT® allows me to get my athlete out of my training room and onto the ice. This particular training session also involved his private coach assisting with our drills alongside my vision trainer. You must incorporate as a piece of the training/Sports Performance team. No matter how fast and agile my defensemen may be on the ice, if he isn’t maximizing his visual performance, he’s just one deke away from allowing the game losing shot to pass right by him. It’s my job to keep that from happening.