Hand-Eye Coordination in Sports
Hand-eye coordination is used in many daily activities. Pour the milk, fold the clothes, set the glass on the coaster. In sports, it's used from start to finish. Throw the ball, stop the puck, hit it straight, pass the ball, catch the ball. Each sport uses it in a different way. Some sports reward reactionary skill while others reward intense concentration. Your hand-eye coordination must be stellar even if you are a mediocre athlete; one minor miscalculation can be disastrous.
America's national pastime requires exceptionally high hand-eye coordination. Ted Williams, the last player ever to hit .400 in a season, once said, "The hardest thing to do is to hit a round baseball with a round bat, squarely." A fastball coming at 90 miles per hour or more from 60 feet, 6 inches away, gives a batter 0.4 seconds to see the ball, swing the bat and make solid contact. Combine that with catching a batted ball traveling over 100 miles per hour, pulling it out of your glove, and throwing it 120-plus feet to a stationary target, often inside of four seconds. All of this can happen dozens of times in every game.
Basketball is an excellent sport for someone who wants to improve his hand-eye coordination. Basketball forces you to use hand-eye coordination to catch, pass and shoot the ball while being guarded by someone who is trying to keep you from doing all three. Measuring the force, spin and arc that needs to be put on a ball to shoot it through a horizontal hoop is a skill made more difficult by the constraints of opposing defenders and a game clock.
Football combines physicality and strategy with hand-eye coordination. In football, roughly 60 percent of the players on the field will need to use hand-eye coordination. However, those 60 percent will need to be able to throw or catch a ball while a defender tries to separate his head from the rest of his body. A quarterback for example, has to throw an oblong ball in a spiral to a moving target 50 yards away with little to no room for error while remaining cool under intense pressure from oncoming defenders. His receiver has to sprint down the field, while attempting to outrun a defender and then catch the oblong ball without breaking stride.
Hand-eye coordination is much different in golf than any other sport, but it similar to baseball in that it plays a role in every aspect of the game. The premise of golf is to swing a long stick with a bulbous head at a tiny dimpled ball. Bringing the club up and behind you in a backward motion and pulling it back down toward the ball in an attempt to generate as much torque as possible, you need to hit the tiny dimpled ball in a perfectly straight line, which can only happen if your club-head is perpendicular to your target at the point of impact. The more skilled you are at performing this task, the fewer times you will have to do it during a game.
There are two main components to hockey that use hand-eye coordination. One is hitting a small puck the size of a biscuit, with a long, slanted stick that has a flat paddle on the end of it. The other is squatting in front of a net with these tiny pucks flying at you at up to 100 miles per hour and stopping it before it zings past you. Hockey is unique in that while you are using hand-eye coordination, you're gliding around on on a giant frozen sheet of ice.
Nicholas Bragg, a lifelong athlete and certified personal trainer, attended four separate colleges from Maryland to California, finishing in 2004. Named to the CEO's club as an elite performer at Intuit in 2009, he changed careers in 2010 and now contributes writing to Mahalo and SportswithM.