Course Notes: PRI Vision Integration for the Baseball Player

The first Section Where I Usually Say Something Like Whew or This Was the Best Course Ever!

Phoenix has yet to disappoint on the CEU front, especially if the Dbacks are hosting. What a facility!

After the baseball course that my homies Allen Gruver and James Anderson taught, Ron and Heidi put together a small vision course that one could apply on baseball athletes.

Only it was so much more than advertised.

Whether it was intended or not, the dynamic duo demonstrated just how extensive the PRI principles are, and spoke to many of the neuroscience foundations to which it was founded on.

PRI Vision Integration for the Baseball Player was the Batman Begins of PRI.

I am going to tell you right now, you must take this course yesterday. The foundational science alone is worth the price of admission, but adding in the visual training and corresponding life lessons, you get way beyond what you expect.

Here were the major nuggets that I picked up.

 GGGGGG-rav…a…ty (Said as though 50 Cent read the title)

 Two major forces are acting upon a body at all times: gravity and ground.

When one is able to manage and be aware of these forces, alternating and reciprocal triplanar activity can be realized. This reason is why PRI emphasizes finding the floor and feeling grounded so much.

When these forces go unrecognized within a human system, extension is needed to maintain uprightedness.

For example, do you ever notice that some individuals look at the ground when they walk? Why do people use a strategy normally reserved for peripheral vision? PRI would argue that because a body does not feel its connection to the ground, so the visual system is utilized to observe that this is happening. The eyes perform the task that the feet ought to do.

If the eyes begin taking over to help one remain upright then you are going to have reduced input from your other senses. This ain’t a good thang!

Round One: Sight vs. Vision

Sight is only a small piece of visual process. It involves the extent and clarity of one’s visual field.

Each eye is capable of achieving 20/20 vision, which means that objects seen at 20 feet away appear clearly as though they are being viewed at 20 feet. To contrast, someone with 20/10 can see something 20 feet away that a 20/20 person must see at 10 feet.

Most baseball players at the pro level have 20/15 or better.

20/20 or better is encompassed in the macular visual field, to which details are picked up. Focusing in this field creates the most stability through extension. Only 3% of your visual field is here, yet this area gets all the love from people

The remaining 97% of the visual field is peripheral. Color and clarity is lost, but this field is the best place to pick up motion. Hanging out in the periphery also creates the most system instability. It is your frontal and transverse plane.

Vision, on the other hand, involves outputting meaning and action via radiant energy input (i.e. light) through the retina.

The perceived visual picture is only a small portion of vision. 70% of the sensory information in the brain is visual, and there are many unconscious processes that occur by radiant energy input.

The visual system has so much sensory power that it can and often does override information from other senses.

Round 2: Sports Vision vs. PRI Vision

Sports vision allows an individual to maximize extension and sympathetics; a critical piece for performance. It is visual system weight lifting.

These skills involve training visual acuity, eye tracking, focusing, coordination, central-peripheral integration, and depth perception. All of these skills are necessary for the highest level of performance.

PRI vision training differs because it involves managing gravity, ground, and bodily awareness without visual overutilization. PRI vision is visual system recovery.

Skills needed here include knowing where one is in space, being able to center over each leg, and combining vision with other sensory information.

Integrating these two types of skill training allow one to maximize and recover from desirable performance output. That said, performing sports vision training on an extended system could be disastrous.

Mad PRI Vision Integration Skillzzz

Being able to visually alternate between power and relaxation is of utmost importance in PRI vision training. This is autonomics. This is breathing. This is life.

We can relate the three skills taught in this course to breathing. When we are in a state of inhalation, we are sympathetic and power-driven. When are in a state of exhalation, we are parasympathetic and recovery-driven.

Our 3 skills include:

  1. Visual focus (inhale)/Visual relaxation (exhale)
  2. Central vision awareness (inhale)/peripheral vision awareness (exhale)
  3. Eyes moving with the head (inhale)/ eyes moving independent of the head (exhale)

Let’s look at each a tad more in-depth.

Round 3: Focus vs. Relaxation

Focusing requires head, neck, and eye tension to see any object closer than 20 feet away clearly. This tension is normal; it gives us power and is necessary to perform at a high level in many sports.

But think about what an athlete individual does when off the field not performing? How many people are on phones or other screens most of the day? To be on these screens require over-focusing; constant tension. When we have constant tension without ever giving our visual system time to relax, we run into trouble.

When we see near-sightedness worsen, which technically doesn’t truly set in until teen years, we have a problem shutting off our visual system. We have a problem with recovery. We have a problem with having less.

Relaxing visual focus can inhibit these tendencies and promote visual recovery. We can use this basic principle in any activity:

  1. Focus on an object that is 5 feet away or closer.
  2. Find an object that is at least 15 feet away.
  3. Alternate looking at the two.

The farther one can see clearly with relaxation, the better one is at inhibiting the visual system.

Round 4: Central vs. Peripheral Visual Awareness

This training emphasizes using the correct visual field at the desired time. When distractions must be reduced, such as a pitcher aiming his pitch, central vision should be utilized. A pitcher simultaneously aware of a player on first base and the catcher uses both central and peripheral. In the baseball world, there is almost never an instance when peripheral vision is dominant.

The right-sided human norm involves greater right peripheral awareness. Right space appears to be more open than left. To maximize visual relaxation, we want the ability to perceive both left and right periphery.

If the brain does not recognize peripheral space, then the ability to shift and rotate is reduced. There is no need for action in space that cannot be perceived. Thus, accessing peripheral awareness allows for increased transverse plane movement freedom.

The easiest way to increase peripheral visual awareness is to just be cognizant of your surroundings or working in environments that have a lot of motion.

Round 5: Eyes with head vs. Eyes without head

Saccadic movements are the big player here. These movements involve changing fixation from one point to another; using only the eyes. This eye movement is used throughout everyday life, and is commonly done so in a left to right fashion.

Every time you read a book you use saccades to do so.

Keeping the eyes moving independent of the head is easiest when the distance between fixation points is small and the eyes are not pushed toward extreme end-ranges of motion.

Baseball requires use of these extreme end ranges; thus requiring the eyes and head to move as a unit. This strategy will increase sympathetic drive, tension, and performance.

We don’t want this style while you are sitting on the couch.

Here’s how we do it

1. Pick 3 points at various distances. Moving eyes only, look right 30-45 degrees–>straight–>left 30-45 degrees.

2. Pick 3 points at various distances and look at something 30-45 degrees below midline –> straight –> 30-45 degrees above midline

3 Pick 3 points at various distances and tilt head up, keeping eyes on target 30-45 degrees below midline –> midline –> up

Seriously, Stop Talking About Reference Centers

I can’t. Just can’t get enough of these things.

Especially since I had a huge revelation on these this weekend. It started when Ron made this comment:

“The ball in any game is a reference center.”

Say what? Here this whole time I was thinking of reference centers as inputs within us that help facilitate a pattern.

But they are so much more than that.

A reference center is any sensory input that facilitates a change in positional output.

Take the ball example. When an athlete sees a ball, that object is a sensory input that is going to prime their systems to play the sport. Often this results in necessary extension.

Ron illustrated this point several times in class. One of my classmates who used to pitch was given a baseball and instructed to assume the pre-throwing position while focusing on a target.

He was stable, primed, and by the look on his face ready to throw that ball as hard as possible.

Put him on the table and check is shoulder mobility, and he went from about 30 degrees of IR to 5, 30 to 10 horizontal abduction, and a large drop in flexion.

The ball cued him into extension, as that reference center gave him power.

Then Ron did something that was utterly fascinating. He taped the ball with black kinesiotape and had him get in the exact same position.

When he first grabbed the ball, you could tell he wasn’t really sure what to do with it. He got into the pre-throw position a bit calmer but was also more unstable.

Ron then put him back on the table, his shoulder motion now was 80 degrees IR, 50 degrees horizontal abduction, and full flexion.

Simply changing the context led to large changes in outputs. Everything matters. 

Think of all the reference centers a baseball player could have that could keep him extended:

  • Outfit
  • Baseball cap
  • Glove
  • Cleats
  • Chew/gum/sunflower seeds
  • Anything

Since players are not getting rid of all these things between plays, how can one expect to shut down and recover?

An interesting suggestion was to take away one reference at a time until neutrality was achieved, then perform PRI activities (including those listed above) until one could maintain desirable position.  Slowly, you would add more of these pieces.

Retraining in this capacity could possibly allow for an athlete to have improved recovery between plays.

There it Is

I can’t emphasize enough how much I liked and how important this course was for me on many levels. You will definitely not regret attending this; whether you are a PRI vet or rookie.

Now for the important stuff.

Infamous Ron Quotes

  • “There’s baseball and there’s China.”
  • “The ball in any game is a reference center.”
  • “If you look at the ball and don’t know where you are at you will miss that ball.”
  • “I’m just trying to psychologically twist you.”
  • “If you look at the ground to get the ground you are ungrounded. And Zac you can tweet that!”
  • “Now if he wasn’t positive I’d create it.”
  • “A successful process means you need less.”
  • “The more they can learn to turn it off the more they’re capable of turning it on for better outcomes.”
  • “He’s sympathetically a sunflower seed chewer.”
  • “If you don’t recognize you have tension you can’t turn it off.”
  • “Extension activity is good if you season it with peripheral activity.”

Very Wise Heidi Quotes

  • “It’s not the eyes that the problem is in. It’s the brain.”
  • “Nothing will destroy a program faster than looking at the ground.”
  • “Extension is needed for gravity and ground.”
  • “Mismatch is mandated by neck function.”
  • “The human body was made to observe peripheral movement.”
  • “Eyes are the brain’s way of touching the world.”