Over the years, I have made a point to continually emphasize the importance of hand-eye coordination. When I coach an athlete, it is one of the first things that I pick up on. I want to know if the athlete can see and react to an incoming object (ex. a punch or ball). Without hand-eye coordination, an athlete will be limited in many areas. Certain sports depend heavily on this critical quality. Unfortunately, hand-eye coordination is one of those attributes that rarely receives direct attention. Many coaches view it as something that you either have or you don’t. That’s a mistake.
The Strength and Conditioning Era
In today’s world, you’ll be hard pressed to find athletes at any level who aren’t engaged in a strength and conditioning program. Everyone wants to improve their strength, power, and endurance. Even youth athletes are spending more time building these attributes.
As a result, a day rarely passes without a parent contacting me in hopes of improving his child’s strength or conditioning. And more and more of these inquiries are being asked about prepubescent athletes. Oddly enough, I can’t recall the last time a parent contacted me in hopes of improving his child’s hand-eye coordination.
Beyond Natural Ability
I’ve worked with enough athletes over the years to know that hand-eye coordination isn’t evenly distributed at birth. Not everyone possesses the same natural gifts. The fact that there are genetic differences though isn’t an argument to ignore an attribute entirely. For example, it’s not as if strength is overlooked just because certain athletes are naturally stronger than others. All athletes work to become stronger regardless of where they start.
The same logic should be applied to hand-eye coordination. Vast improvements can be made with consistent practice. And “practice” should not be confused with simply playing your sport. Hand-eye coordination drills can be practiced separately. You don’t need fancy equipment and you’ll never need more than a few minutes at a time.
Back in 2012, I shared a video tutorial of some hand-eye coordination drills. In the time since, I’ve had several requests for an abbreviated version that can be used to reference the throw and catch sequence. With that in mind, I’ve created the brief video below.
I enjoy these hand-eye coordination drills for several reasons. For starters, you can perform them almost anywhere without special equipment. A few tennis balls or racquetballs will suffice. You also don’t need a partner or coach to assist.
Furthermore, these drills are not physically taxing. In other words, hand-eye coordination can be enhanced without interfering with the rest of your training. You could perform these drills for a few minutes each day without wearing yourself out.
The throw and catch sequences demonstrated above are just a few of the countless options that exist for hand-eye coordination development. Naturally, there are other throw and catch drills that can be done with a partner. There’s also a long list of solo drills that you can perform.
A few of my favorites include the following:
- Learning to juggle
- Hitting the speed bag or double-end bag
- Training with an elastic head ball
- Catching coins
You don’t need to be a fighter to benefit from these drills. You can also think up additional drills yourself with a little creativity. It is always useful to mix in different forms of training that will challenge your coordination.
There’s no doubt that an athlete’s hand-eye coordination will be challenged and developed through sports. Speaking as a boxing coach, I challenge the hand-eye coordination of my athletes through regular mitt work. Sparring is also excellent. Plenty can be done outside of competition and sport practice however. Hand-eye coordination drills can be practiced regularly by athletes of all levels (regardless of the sport). You are never too old or too young to benefit from such drills.
In summary, I highly recommend that all athletes dedicate time to improving their hand-eye coordination. Frequent, yet brief sessions are ideal. Don’t allow yourself to get frustrated, but don’t limit yourself to the same drills either. The best drills are typically those that are difficult for you to perform. Once you’ve mastered a drill, it is time to move on to something that is more challenging.
Never settle, and continually strive to improve.
“Excellence is in the details. Give attention to the details and excellence will come.” – Perry Paxton