Sunday, June 2, 2013

Eye-Brain Preparation

We have all heard of eye-hand coordination, which to me relates to when one’s eyes are (through the brain) sending an adequate signal to the hands to perform the task at hand more accurately, with the most appropriate sense of direction and velocity.

I was reminded of this again by a tweet by Rick Salas @tennistennis.

One could probably paint this picture in at least a dozen different ways, but to sum all, I guess this is when the two, the eyes and the hands, are working harmoniously, with most efficiency and effectiveness.

Obviously all this information (visually) we are taking in is being interpreted by the brain and passed on to the body, yet we are not snakes slivering along the tennis court with most all our senses at high alert, waiting to pounce on the ball, as if a snake could – road kill.

We are basically working with one sense, sight, while hearing may come into play, but that was usually a fraction of, to a second or two ago, when our opponent struck the ball. We cannot sense the pace, spin and direction of the ball, by smell, taste or touch (more on this). We weren’t given these abilities. Okay, so we aren’t victims of road (court) kill either – weigh the benefits.

So what are we dealing with? A lot…muy grande.

Someone who has better eye-hand coordination may have an advantage over most any other competitor in most any ball or object striking sport, but those who have good spatial recognition and can interpret the body motions of others have an advantage as well.

So, where does this come from? Well, from a variety of sources - if anyone could ever catalogue this, I would be more than ecstatic. A person may be more naturally inclined, gifted (not a big fan of this one), more visually/mentally focused or very intuitive. If your son or daughter has a knack for killing flies with a dish towel at your next barbecue, don’t assume they are going to win the next slam. Of course, this may foretell other great things.

Other than the occasional natural athlete, I rarely see anyone pick up a tennis racket and show the fluidity in their strokes and timing in their preparation that compares with someone with on-court experience. Most anytime time I hear someone use natural athlete it is about someone who plays two or more sports quite well or picks up on the touch, feel, mechanics and movement of a game quite quickly. If anyone in tennis came close to this it was Rod Laver.

In regard to Rick Salas’ tweet, I don’t know that how fast the eyes move (I see Rick’s point entirely) is as critical as to when all comes together through experience (time on court), focus (not simply sight) and the communication between the eyes and the brain once the ball is struck by the opponent. It is difficult for eye-hand coordination to overcome poor preparation due to the brain not interpreting what is coming next, sooner or soonest…and where.

One would not hand the car keys to an inexperienced teenage driver simply because they have good eye-sight. This takes some time, touch and experience and awareness of the driving (road) environment.

In regard to the sense of touch which I mentioned earlier, once one gains more experience with the touch of the ball and the various ways the ball can be affected by the racket, they should begin to recognize those same or similar motions in their opponents.

In regard to tennis, the dimensions of the court, being the road, don’t change. Weather conditions and surface conditions may change or vary, but the court doesn’t. After time, most players should begin to see and feel the court, their opponents becoming a dynamic foreground they see in their peripheral vision. Too many players focus on where their opponents are instead of homing in on that all important fuzzy yellow ball, where they wish to send it and how and when they should strike it.

In light of this, once you begin to have an awareness of your opponents positioning, you will better be able to play the game of keep away or exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses. Keep away is much more effective and wins points more easily. If you want to continue to hit to your opponent, ask for a warm up session instead. Nah, go for the point.

So, although eye-hand coordination is important, if the eyes aren’t directed by the player, telling the brain to tell the body how to prepare, almost instantaneously, the eye-hand coordination may be of little consequence.

Forget the snake and maximize the senses you have and take control of your shot. Once your opponent hits a good shot it no longer belongs to him or her, it belongs to you…and your brain. Own it.

ETalent Prestige Tennis

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