Lessons Learned From The Eye Guys, a guest post from DC Sports Training’s Jeff Moyer

MoyerAgility in sports is typically a response to what is seen. Agility is a rapid, whole-body change of direction or speed in response to a stimulus. That stimulus can be an opponent, a teammate, a ball, or a position on the field. Agility is a distinct quality underpinned by physical qualities such as deceleration (eccentric strength), starting strength, explosive strength, proper change of direction technique, as well as sensory qualities such as anticipation, pattern recognition, visual processing time and decision-making. Visual information is the dominant sensory system when performing practically any perceptual motor task. Athletes at a higher level of sport tend to be superior in agility tasks that require dynamic visual acuity & visual processing reacting to a stimulus. Research has demonstrated that higher-performing athletes can be distinguished by their sensory abilities (anticipation, decision-making time, decision-making accuracy) when they have been tested with sport-specific cues. These sub-qualities are trainable on their own (3-D Depth Perception, focus, eye teaming, eye-hand coordination, light sensitivity, visual memory, visual processing) and/or agility as a whole is a trainable quality.

There is a notion of 20/20 vision is perfect, however it is a poor basis of the quality of an athletes vision as simply means that a person can identify the majority of black letters on a white background at 20 feet of the specific size of 8.75mm. in height that is set up at eye level. The use of black letters on a white background is called a high contrast test, however a person’s visual acuity drops when they are presented with low contrast tests (different lighting, color letters, shadows, ect.) We know that this is not at all how sports work visually. Try reading your favorite book (Harry Potter) while doing squat jumps with half of the book on the floor and the other on the table…a bit harder to read. An eye doctor is primarily responsible and concerned about ruling out significant visual problems related to high contrast testing and a wide variety of eye diseases.

Like most physical qualities of the body, visual skills are multifaceted: Static & dynamic visual acuity, Peripheral vision, contrast sensitivity, depth perception, binocularity, fusion – convergence (eye teaming), ocular mobility, processing speed, spatial awareness/planning, visual integration, visual perception and working memory are all important pieces to the puzzle for an athlete. I am a firm believer that sensory system develop is a CRITICAL piece to an athletes sport performance and one that must also be worked on and developed. Strength & conditioning coaches often sole focus on the neuromuscular system for athletic development, but neglect the fact that there are 14 muscles of the eyes (7 muscles per eye), that can also be trained to improve sport performance.

Case Study:
I have been working with this one male tennis athlete for close to three years now (from sophomore in high school to now a sophomore in college). He now is playing D-I tennis, and since I have known him his backhand has been the bane of his tennis playing. His backhand has been an on-going work in progress. Many hours of practice, many slow-motion video analysis sessions, many days and weeks of technical development on his backhand, we’ve tried just about everything.

I must admit that I am lucky enough to have friends that are freaking smart. People that are experts in their field. Dr. Bill Harrison (Doctor of Optometry) and his son Ryan Harrison, with a degree in Exercise Physiology, with their company Slow The Game Down, just so happen to be people I am fortunate enough to correspond with. One afternoon Ryan Harrison was in town and came to visit me at my gym. In his brief visit, Ryan quickly met my college tennis athlete and was able to perform a quick visual assessment on him with the use of an Eye Trac. In a matter of a few minutes Ryan evaluated the binocularity of my tennis player and was able to determine that he was only able to get about 20% power out of his right eye as opposed to his left, and that his depth perception was not very good, particularly with his right eye. Without knowing a thing about this athlete other than he played tennis, based on his quick assessment, Ryan asked him if he had trouble on the court dealing with off speed shots to his backhand because mechanically he was always a bit in front of the shot and would pull them. In amazement, the athlete confirmed that this was completely true and something that he has been struggling with for years. All based off of a little tool called the STGD Eye Trac. This “mechanical issue” that he has been having with his backhand for years wasn’t due to his technique per-say, but his ability to perceive the ball that was causing the technical issue of being early and pulling his shot.

Slow the Game Down:
Viewing an object with one eye is called monocular vision, while viewing an object with two eyes is called binocular vision. Convergence is how well the eyes are used together to turn inward to sustain convergence on an object, which are important in sports to aid in timing and eye-body coordination. This is especially important for small, fast moving object sports (tennis, softball, baseball, hockey, lacrosse). Each of your eyes have a different visual line of sight due them being spaced out (on either side of your nose). Your eyes are like two camera’s filming the world and it’s how well these cameras can converge on and at different angles to an object that they create a single stereoscopic perception.

The STGD Eye Trac is not a MRI or a CT Scan, but is a means for observing and assessing eye teaming, which includes measuring binocularity and convergence. The STGD Eye Trac assesses two issues: one, are both eyes and the brain working together to process information. The tendency of the brain is to save energy (for survival), so it is going to suppress any information that may not be coming to it clearly. (Central System & peripheral system). In order to preserve energy for survival, the brain will suppress information that it thinks it doesn’t need. The second issue is about projection. This has to do with how the eyes and brain project objects with accuracy. For example, a baseball player may project the ball to be closer and higher than it actually is, so he may swing early and on top of the ball. A golfer may constantly short put the ball because they project the hole to be 10-20% closer than it actually is.

According to Dr. Bill Harrison, most athletes use both eyes for peripheral vision (the Magno system is intact on both sides of the brain), however with central vision, most athletes uses one eye (the Parvo System is not intact on both sides of the brain). If an athlete’s actions involve timing their physical actions to the speed of the ball, then binocular Parvo (central vision) gives them the necessary information. Two players may look at the same pitch, one may see it closer, one may see if further. One may see it higher, one might see it lower. These are particularly important in sports that involve fast moving objects (baseball, softball, hockey, tennis, lacrosse). An athlete might very well only see part of what they are looking at. (straight line rather than a Y or X with the string). This is all an indicator that the brain is not receiving proper information from the eyes.

Ryan and Dr. Harrison have accumulated thousands of hours of practice using this tool among many other and performing visual assessments with thousands of athletes. Even though I have been using and studying the sensory & visual systems for a short while, before I come to any conclusions with anything, I try to consult with Dr. Harrison to make sure I am correct or not.

Insert Sensory / Visual training:
Understanding what you see is a missed opportunity by many athlete’s and coaches. What we have been able to do since Ryan had brought these problems to my tennis athlete was work on his binocularity using the EYE TRAC string in various conditions: low lighting, balancing, various movements and at various heights of the string.

We have also made it a point to work on his 3-D depth perception with the use of Dr. Harrison’s 3D Depth Perception and Visual Tracker, also in various conditions: low lighting, different heights, different distances away, while walking, while jumping. (Perhaps I will write about 3D Depth Perception in another article) All of these exercises were added into his normal physical preparation program between sets and exercises that usually took just around 50 minutes total for the workout.

Consistency and focus of attention are the most important aspects to using these tools for improvement. He was asked to use these visual tools several times a day in small chunks of time (10-20mins) when he could. He was also able to bring home an Eye Trac and some of the 3D cards that Dr. Harrison sells to have in his wallet and use when bored.

Quantifiable Results:
Results with visual and sensory training aren’t necessarily quantifiable such as an increase 40-yard speed, or vertical jump. It is more of a qualifiable result based on communication with the athlete and watching them perform. With the STGD Eye Trac along with all of the other of Dr. Harrison’s visual and sensory products, we have been using following his training recommendations and my baseball and tennis athletes all say that they can see the ball better and their issues (pulling the forehand / backhand, swinging early or late in baseball/softball) are feeling better. On average, my baseball and softball player’s batting averages have increase .200! In 5 straight tournaments my softball players have been hitting over an .800 batting average. My tennis athletes are able to be more patient and hit their spots. Even our basketball players say that they are able to stay with their opponents better as well as improve their foul shooting by 10%. These are good enough results for me to believe that this method of assessment and the training works and to recommend others invest some time in researching and evaluating ocular training to see if and where it could fit into the training of their athletes.

[1] Strength and Conditioning: Biological Principles and Practical Applications.  Marco Cardinelli, Robert Newton, Kazunori Nosaka (2011-06-24)

[1] Expert-novice differences in anticipatory skill of rugby league players http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2013-06050-001/


The 2015 Seminar saw the return of many past presenters, and the first we will discuss is Dr. Ben Peterson’s talk “Using Data to Improve Metabolic Specificity and Conditioning for Team Sport Athletes”. Ben went through a review of his 2013 talk, Effect of Aerobic Capacity on Repeated Sprint Performance, and added his recent finding through his work with Catapult connecting that presentation to all the data he gets to see on a daily basis to improve the practitioner’s ability to individualize based on sport, team system, and player tendencies. There’s a couple huge points we need to hit before we go into how this fits into how we train athletes:

1) He asks “Is Repeated Sprint Ability a good definition for team-sport metabolism?” It’s probably not because linear sprinting has a very different metabolic demand than cutting, jumping, cod, and sport movements. He then goes on to give his own definition that he says “is wordy, long, terrible, and doesn’t fit in a nice box in a text book,” but to be frank, I really like it. The problem with defining this and what makes it hard is you’re attempting to put a bunch of stuff that happens in many different sports, using different systems, by different athletes, in one “box”. Therefore, it’s always sport, system, and athlete specific, so a true definition is difficult to set.

Ben 12) Dr. Peterson’s research (along with may others) has shown that increasing O2 is important, but what can we do to piggy back that? He discusses metabolic efficiency and mechanical efficiency and how they are the two determining factors in performance. That’s where we start with how this connects directly with other principles we follow here.

Now let’s talk about the greatest similarity. When you break everything down that Ben talks about he is trying to use this GPP phase as the ground base of making the game “more aerobic”. Now, he’ll hate me for using that terminology, but will understand what I’m saying. We are trying to make as much of the work done in competition be performed before we get into the area of maximal work capacity. So in other words, we are trying to increase the intensity of work being done to get there, and/or increase the duration that we can stay there, right? Now, how do we do that? I believe that answer to that is improve techniques utilized in the sporting exercise because this fits right in with Ben’s GPP model.

Titled the PSCP GPP Model, it follows many of the principles we utilize here when dealing with our energy system work to piggy-back what we are doing in the weight room. It takes care of the metabolic efficiency and actually follows very similar (not exact but pretty damn close) to what we do already. We are looking to build what we call the “mids and lows,” that I discussed on a podcast with Keir Wenham-Flatt, in the early stages of development. He uses 4 different “methods” to improve it. I’m going to touch upon 3 of them:

Ben 21) Metabolic Push-Can we “push” the line out increasing both the time and intensity required to “cross over” to the maximal work capacity work. This is a bunch of lower intensity work that Dr. Peterson gives some really awesome and specific examples of how to implement. This has been and probably always will be, our starting point for all conditioning programs/GPP.

Ben 32) Metabolic climb-What work can we do to “climb up the O2 line”? Meaning, what work can we do in our GPP to increase the work being done before we “cross over” to accumulating a higher level of metabolites. Again he gives a great description of this programming that matches very closely to what we use in our GPP with our athletes.

Ben 43) Metabolic Pull-How can we get this intersection to move way to the right to increase the intensity and volume of work that we can preform prior to crossing the line? Ben’s prescription for this is what we have done in the later stages of our training, and it is really effective.

Let’s keep these methods in mind and look at the rest of a program. What is something you can do that will help in assisting this final goal of making the game more “aerobic”? We believe that these three specific things work in great coordination with he PCSP Model to help make the athlete more efficient and improve their ability to not just repeat outputs, but to increase the outputs that they are repeating. These three are:

1) General sporting technique work- Improve how the kids cut, accelerate, change direction. As we know improving technique will improve speed of movement and efficiency of movement. So if they move faster and more efficiently then we have “pushed” that line out more, right?
2) Specialized Exercises-See the reasoning above, but this is something that so many people sleep on, in my opinion. Teach them exercises that carry over to things that we can affect. How do they cut? How do they accelerate? The lunges that Dr. Yessis has talked about repeatedly would be an amazing addition here.
3) Extensive jumps used to teach elasticity-again we are looking at efficiency right? So why not teach the body to me more elastic so that you “bounce” better? If you can spring better you SHOULD cut better and accelerate better because you are utilizing the SSC at a higher level of efficiency.

So there you have it. Three easy additions from Dr. Peterson’s programming that we use here that should fit like a glove to help improve performance in your early GPP model to build a larger base for greater improvement later down the line.

The 2015 Seminar Schedule

2015 Seminar Presentation Schedule


In this edition of the Central Virginia Sport Performance Podcast University of Kentucky’s High Performance Coach discusses monitoring, student athlete education, longer term athlete development, and his topic for The Seminar. Erik is truly the trail blazer in The USA when it comes to the high performance model starting the program at FSU before heading to UK. His knowledge and focus is trumped only by the fact that he’s one of the nicest guys in the game as well. We are truly excited to have Erik here in July.

BSMPG Presentation.

I told all in attendance that I would screen shot my talk and post it. Well, it took a little longer than I would have liked to get it up here because I did something wrong with the initial screen shot. Thank you to BSMBSMPG_Logo_Transparent_w_text_and_linePG and Art Horne for having me and allowing me to post this.

This talk is a follow up to the 1st 2 podcasts on our case study/how we train basketball players. In this talk I go over different parts of programming/training that my mentors have had on how I train my athletes, what that has led us to programming and training wise, and the results we see from them. Closing off I touch upon monitoring and how that helps us with our guys as well.  I have posted the 2 previous below as well sense they are referenced in this talk.


In this edition of the Central Virginia Sport Performance Podcast 2015 Presenter and Baylor University’s Director of Applied Performance Andrew Althoff discusses his role as Applied Performance Director.  His unique perspective based on his background and the culture of the department bring to light some key points that anyone look at different measureables can take and apply today.  How he sees the different values in the data, how he interprets it and communicates it to sport coaches is gold in and of it’s self.  He ends with what we can expect at The 2015 Seminar, and it is sure not to disappoint.  I hope you enjoy the discussion as much as we did.  Andrew is one of the best guys in the game.  He’s truthful, open, upfront and honest.  I can’t wait for him to be here in July.


Today I take great pride in introducing our final presenter for The 2015 Seminar, University of Houston’s Cross Country Coach Steve Magness.  Coach Magness is the author of THE book on running, operates an amazing internet educational source (http://www.scienceofrunning.com), and is a PhD candidate.  His extensive background in coaching and research, combined with his desire and fantastic ability to share complex information makes this addition an absolute home run.  I hope you are as excited as we are for the addition.  

If you could, please give our readers a little background information about yourself, what your niche in the world of athletics is, accomplishments, how you got there, education, any products you have available and/or notable publications.
SM 1SM: I’m currently the cross country coach at the University of Houston and coach 10 professional middle and long distance runners training for the Olympic trials. Among my most accomplished athletes, I’ve guided Brian Barraza to a 13th place at the World Junior championships, Sara Hall to top American and a 20th place at the World Cross-Country Championships, Jackie Areson to top 15 places at both the world indoor and outdoor track championships, and 8 other athletes who have qualified for the Olympic trials or US championships in events ranging from 800m to the marathon.

From an academic standpoint, I have a M.S. in Exercise Science from George Mason University and am currently working on my PhD in the same thing from the University of Houston. Additionally, I am a columnist for Running Times magazine, and wrote the book The Science of Running.

JD: Discuss with us the mistakes you see made by strength and conditioning coaches in the United States and around the world, and what you feel should be done differently/how to correct these issues.

SM 2SM: The biggest mistake I see is the application of a program without fully taking into account or understanding the demands of the sport. Since endurance coaches and strength coaches generally come from different perspectives, what I see from both sides is that they see the world through their own biased perspective. Essentially, they try to fit the athletes into their program, instead of fitting the program to the athlete.

JD: What advice would you give a coach to improve knowledge in the lines of continuing education, meaning could you point our readers in a direction to find the scientific and practical information to improve the methods they use to improve performance?

SM: Read as much as you can in as many subjects as you can, while at the same time talking to anyone who is doing smart things in any field. As coaches, we need to develop a BS filter, and that comes about from being exposed to and understanding a wide variety of topics. One of my mentors, famed sprint coach Tom Tellez, always told me that you need to read as much as you can, until it finally clicks one day and you can tell if the person knows what they are talking about or not within the first sentence. The second thing is expose yourself to people who are passionate about what they do and striving for innovation. Even if it’s outside of your sport, there’s so much to learn from other people. You’d be surprised how many concepts translate from one domain to another.

JD: Please discuss your educational process, and how it has brought you to where you are today. What resources did you find most beneficial in pointing you in the direction of how you prepare athletes today?

SM 3SM: I started with a traditional education and still am involved in that area, but much like Nassim Taleb points out in his book Antifragile I think you learn more if it’s from things that you choose to learn about and not in a traditional academic setting. So my process has been, first learn the basics/classics of your sport. Second, learn the history of how the coaching methods got there. It allows you to understand how we got to where we did in terms of training design. Then, branch out. Read and learn from seemingly unrelated sports or fields and figure out how to connect it back to your sport. All the while, keep a slight foot in the door of your sport by seeing what the latest research is saying. I simply set up an RSS feed so that any journal article that comes out mentioning endurance performance is sent to me so I can stay up to date. In summary, get the basics down, find out how we got there, and then branch out while still keeping a foot in the door of your sport.

JD: What should our readers and attendees expect to see in your presentation at The 2015 Seminar?

SM: I hope to challenge your thought process and make you think. I’m not going to simply tell you what I do in terms of coaching and training, but instead I want you to understand the process I go through. If you understand the process, then you can apply the concepts to your own coaching.

More on 2015 Presenter Steve Magness:

SM 4Steve Magness joined the University of Houston cross country and track and field programs as an assistant coach with his hiring in August 2012. He serves as the Cross Country team’s head coach.

In cross-country, Magness has helped turn the program around, led by Cougars Brian Barraza and Yonas Tesfai. Barraza became the fastest UH Cougar over 10k in XC school history with his national qualifying 4th place finish at the South Central Regional in 2014. For the past two seasons, Magness has had three individual All-conference performers each year .

On the track, Magness has led the Cougar middle and long distance runner’s to a new level. In three years, the Cougars have had 7 school record breaking performances, including Yonas Tesfai’s 1:48.40 800m, Brian Barraza’s 8:04 3k and 13:56 5k. Showing depth, his student athletes have re-written the school record books with 26 performances in the Top-5 All time for UH.

Off the track, Magness’ squad has excelled in the classroom. For the first time in school history, the men’s and women’s Cross-Country teams received NCAA All-Academic awards, while Brian Barraza became the first Cougar since his coach in 2008, to

In addition to his collegiate coaching, Magness has had immense success at the professional level. He has coached 4 athletes to top 20 at the World Championships; including Jackie Areson (11th-2012 World Indoor Champs, 15th-World Outdoor champs, Sara Hall-20th 2015 World Cross-Country Champs, Brian Barraza-13th World Junior Champs, and Ciaran O’Lionaird- 2012 World Indoor Champs). Magness continues to coach several professional athletes. Most Notably is Sara Hall who placed 20th at World XC championships and has been a 7-time USA top 3 finisher in events ranging from one mile to 25k under Magness. He has also worked with 3:56 miler and 3rd place finisher at the USA indoor championships in the 3k, Tommy Schmitz and 3:58 miler, 13:38 5k runner Jake Edwards. More recently, Magness has begun working with several athletes who have qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the marathon, including Lauren Woodring, Carly Seymour, Whitney Bevins, and Zach Hines. Magness also works with former NCAA champion, Josh McDougal, 2:00 800m performer Lea Wallace, 8:40 steepler Felix Hentschel, and 15:25 5k runner Neely Spence.

Magness joined the Cougars after spending a year and a half working for Nike as a coach and scientific advisor with several of their professional runners. During this time, Magness assisted with athletes who came away with gold and silver medals at the 2011 world championships and 2012 Olympic games in London. While in Oregon, Magness was responsible for coaching several elite runners including, Irish miler Ciaran O’Lionaird who recorded an indoor personal best of 3:54 for the mile, as well as an appearance at the 2012 World Indoor Championships. Magness also worked with Israeli steeplechaser Itay Magidi, and Olympic trials qualifier in the 3,000m steeplechase Lindsay Allen.

Prior to working with Nike, Magness coached at the high school level, guiding Klein Oak HS runner Ryan Dohner to a state championship in the 3,200m run, and an 11th place finish at the Nike Cross Country National championships. Magness had 8 different athletes who went on to compete at the collegiate level.

Magness competed his freshman through junior years at Rice University, where he was the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and a regional qualifier in track during the 2003-04 season. In 2004, Magness qualified as an individual to the NCAA cross country championships by placing 5th at the south central regional meet. In his senior season (2007-08), Magness ran for the Cougars and finished in the Top 10 at the Conference USA Championships and was 11th at the NCAA South Central Regionals, missing making nationals by .08 seconds. For those efforts, he was named to the C-USA Academic All-Conference and the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Academic teams.

As a prep, Magness ran under Gerald Stewart, where he won the State Championship in the 1600M and set a state record in the event. As a high school runner, Magness competed against some of the world’s best at the Prefontaine Classic, recording a time of 4:01.02, which still stands as the 8th fastest high school mile time ever run in the U.S. Magness was also part of the fastest high school Distance Medley Relay team in the nation in 2003.

Magness holds a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Houston in 2008 and a master’s in exercise, fitness, and health promotions from George Mason University in 2010. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Exercise Science from the University of Houston. He is also a columnist for Running Times Magazine and a frequent contributor to Competitor Magazine and Meter magazine. He has been in to articles published in Runner’s World, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, New Studies in Athletics, Wired, and the International Journal of Athletic Training. Finally, in 2014 Magness wrote the book, The Science of Running.


In this edition of The Central Virginia Sport Performance Podcast University of Iowa’s Landon Evans gives us a peek into the recent developments inside the Hawkeye athletic department. Coach Evans discusses the athlete centered approach being developed in their department, the evolution of the strength and conditioning staff at Iowa from interns up, and how all this plays together with his teams. I feel that we all can agree that an athlete centered model is the way of the future in athletics, so to hear first-hand from people on the front line of this professional evolution is fantastic. I hope you enjoy the talk as much as I did.


In this edition of The Central Virginia Sport Performance Podcast University of Wisconsin’s Jim Snider holds no punches. Snides dives right into how he is training the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams at Wisconsin, what this specific GPP block is geared towards, physical results he sees, and how he sees the results through the different hats he wears. This talk is FULL of awesome info that you can take home and utilize with your athletes TODAY! Even though it’s just a brief snap shot of what he does with his student athletes it is a HUGE view into why we wanted Jim on the docket and why I’m so excited to hear what he has to say come July. I hope you enjoy the talk as much as I did.


Introducing 2015 Presenter, Virginia Tech's Dr. Mike Gentry

Introducing 2015 Presenter, Virginia Tech’s Dr. Mike Gentry

I am extremely excited to announce our final speaker for The 2015 Seminar, Virginia Tech’s Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Performance, Dr. Mike Gentry. Dr. Gentry’s reputation is preceded only by his tenure at Virginia Tech. The author of A Chance to Win: A Complete Guide to Physical Training for Football, Dr. Gentry’s background as an author, coach, and PhD brings a huge addition to The Seminar. The following is his bio from CSCCa MSCC Class of 2003 page:

Dr. Mike Gentry begins his 24th season as the Hokies’ director of strength and conditioning. As assistant athletic director for athletic performance, his duties include overseeing the strength and conditioning training of athletes in all 21 varsity sports at Virginia Tech. He is directly responsible for the physical training of the football team and is the administrator for the sports nutrition program and sports psychology program within the athletics department.

A native of Durham N. C., Gentry received his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Western Carolina University in 1979 and received his masters from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1981. He received his doctorate in education; curriculum and instruction, from Virginia Tech in 1999.

Gentry worked as an assistant strength coach at UNC and as the head strength coach at East Carolina University from 1982 to 1987, prior to coming to Virginia Tech in 1987.

In 1995 and 1996, Gentry was recognized by the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a finalist for the National Strength and Conditioning Professional of the Year. Coach Gentry has a son, BO, 20, a Virginia Tech football player. He is married to the former Wendy Ann Williams.

A fantastic addition to an already superb line up. We welcome Dr. Gentry to The Seminar, are hope you are excited to hear what he as to offer as we are.

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