What comes first in an athletes slow decline into a slump; negative self talk, self induced pressure or perhaps a change in his visual habits and focus targets?
Put another way, does your loss of confidence and loss of emotional control stem from a temporary change in your visual search strategies?
We must first understand and acknowledge that the human eyes are the only external part of the brain so the debate about whether the athletes problem is visual or mental is pointless. In 20 plus years of working with college and professional athletes that live and perform in the visual world, I believe the long term fix and underlying source of the performance problems should first be addressed in the visual world.
Let's further examine how the eyes are truly the windows to the soul and gatekeeper to the brain:
Why do we feel so relaxed and calm sitting on a beach or walking through the woods?
Why is the first complaint you hear hitters share when they are slumping or " mentally lost" is that the ball looks smaller and faster!
Why does first step quickness on defense have nothing to do with agility but is more a function of how quickly the brain processes information recieved from the eyes.
Traditional sports psychology starts with the back of the head. Visual psychology starts with the part of the brain that all athletes live and die with; their visual skills.
So the next time you are trying to help athletes find clarity, build routines and control the process, think outside the box and address the visual world first. An adjustment visually may go a long way to cleaning up the junk found in the back of the brain.
Let's share some observations from high level athletes related to their visual habits:
"When I look at nothing I see everything"
"The key to being on time at the plate is to be on time and in front of the balls path out of the pitchers release"
"When I take the time to relax my eyes it sets me up for a smooth effortless swing"
"When I'm going good I can create hitting lanes to steer the ball into"
"I want to see the pitch I want the hit in my minds eye first, not see it and hit it".
Athletes are visual learners and perform in the " see it, hit it or do it world".
"I have clarity of thought when I have non- judgmental seeing"
"I can see the whole field so easily when my gaze and scan paths are consistent"
Visual psychology combines traditional performance tools with visual tools and strategies the best of the best use and the average player stumbles into at times.