We all know that guy – hell, we’ve probably been that guy at some point or another in our lives. We’re talking about Clumsy Carl, that unfortunate soul who’s, in fact, a living and breathing example of mind-body dualism; where the intentions are there but the execution is simply lacking in an embarrassing manner. He makes himself known in all of us from time to time – be it our sudden inability to catch a ball thrown our way, sink a shot from the free-throw line, or even perform some of more simpler tasks that put our motor skills to the test.
Yes, we’re speaking of course about hand-eye coordination. That innate trait in some – learned in others – that allow us to athletically function in our day-to-day lives. Initially, this is a skill that’s developed alongside our basic motor skills when we’re born up until we’re about 7 years of age. From here, we continue to fine-tune these skills over the developmental years through young adulthood. Naturally, the more practice something like hand-eye coordination receives at a young age has a direct influence on our skills later in life. Luckily, however, if you’re looking to improve these skills down the road all is not lost. For there are a handful of ways to practice and improve your hand-eye coordination even from your own home. We’ve broken down several of the most handy (bad pun intended) methods below.
Real World Application
Broken down to the very basics, hand-eye coordination refers to the body’s ability to process information received through the eyes into proper responsive movements of the hands. Basically, experts in this field are your athletes – i.e. golfers along with basketball, tennis and baseball players. Here’s how it works: your eyes start thing off by sending visual information to the brain. From here, this data is received, integrated and transformed into three-dimensions. Then, two systems come into play – the focal and the ambient – in which the focal system identifies the object and the ambient positions the object in terms of space-time. Once this information is processed, a part of the brain called the cerebellum controls the coordination responsible for handling the task. Hand-eye coordination refers to the body’s ability to process information received through the eyes into proper responsive movements of the hands.
If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is. This process is one of the many miracles of nature – taking place in mere nanoseconds allowing us to respond almost instantly to incoming stimuli. Obviously, the real-world benefits here included things like knowing how to throw and catch a baseball, properly ride a bicycle or, you know, not getting into a car crash on the way to work. Clearly, there’s application here, but if you want to improve upon your already learned – or lacking – hand-eye coordination skills, then give some of these basic exercises a try in your free time.
1. Play a Game of Catch
Honoring America's Pastime
Who knew that America’s pastime could be such a useful exercise in hand-eye coordination. And the best part? You can either practice by yourself or with as many people as you want. Obviously, all you need is a standard baseball glove and ball. From here, start thing off slowly if you’re not used to throwing or catching a baseball. And once things get warmed up, increase the distance and speed at which you’re throwing the baseball. It’s these fast-paced games that really help boost response time and hand-eye skills.
To take things a step further, have your partner start throwing the ball overhead or to the right of left of you. This will help refine your peripheral vision – a key aspect of hand-eye coordination – and also enhance your motor skills and spatial awareness.
2. Learn to Juggle
Here’s an activity that not only enhances hand-eye coordination but also serves as an entertaining talent for parties. Juggling is also an excellent way to perfect your peripheral vision, seeing how you need to focus on multiple airborne items simultaneously while keeping track of what’s cycling through your hands without actually glancing at them. Start with two items, cycling them back and forth, then slowly up the number one at a time.
Ideally, you want to be comfortable juggling four or more items at a time. And since training never ends and you feel like pushing the limits, try adding some variables into the mix. For instance, juggling on a balance board is not only a great way to get your focus and coordination to the next level, but also give your body a bit of a workout in the process.
3. Practice With a Tennis Ball
Remember wall ball as a kid? Well, besides serving as a fun and easy way to spend time outdoors during recess, this game also worked to fine tune your coordination skills as well. These days, just because you’re a bit older doesn’t mean you can’t continue practicing either. Hit the nearest concrete or brick wall in your neighborhood with a couple of tennis balls and get a game going by yourself or with a couple friends.
Or if you don’t feel like overly exerting yourself on a hot afternoon, simply stand in front of the wall and rotate tossing a ball or two off of it in front of you. And just like anything else, start simple – slowly upping the ante as you become more comfortable with the exercise. Try differing angles, catching and returning with different hands, and with multiple tennis balls at once. It’s a great and simple way to up your coordination skills.
4. Video Games
Finally a Real World Benefit
Out of all the possible ways to enhance hand-eye coordination, this drill is definitely the most fun. Don’t worry, it’s okay to admit it. Video games are meant to be fun. And since most – if not all – require some semblance of coordination we’re happy to suggest that there is some benefit to spending a bit of time in front of the TV screen from time to time.
That’s not to suggest that all of your free time should be spent with a video game console, but in smaller doses and with certain games, we feel it’s safe to suggest these are even more beneficial than other analog exercises. The key here though is balancing the two.
5. Exercise Your Vision
Utilizing the 'Quiet Eye'
Every wonder how athletes have such refined coordination? Well, besides years of practice and training, it’s been recently discovered that some of the world’s best athletes, surgeons and pilots utilize something called the “quiet eye” technique. The Atlantic published a lengthy piece on this theory a couple years back if you’re interested but in brief, the theory is quite simple. That is, before performing an action, try focusing your gaze on a key aspect of your goal – be it the catcher’s mitt, the rim of a basketball hoop, etc. before performing the action.
Researchers first discovered the phenomenon using eye tracking technology on certain professional athletes and found that locking into a stimulus relevant to the task at hand during the right time frame (a few hundred milliseconds before, during and after) greatly enhances the success rate. Not only does it allow you to lock into the task but also increases attention to detail and your focus – thus aiding to eliminate the effect certain external distractions may have on the final action.
8 Survival Skills Every Man Should Know
Hand-eye coordination is one thing, survival in the wild is another. So if you’re ready to take things to the next level here are eight survival skills to help you handle whatever issues come your way in the backcountry.