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How a player’s senses can help improve the way they play
What separates the top players from the rest of us? We call it talent, but talent can be broken down into many different factors. One factor that is often overlooked is the keenness of the senses. Although having perfect sight and hearing may seem like a matter of luck, those of us who are less fortunate can often do something to fix or work around problems – what really matters is being aware of them.
Hearing and balance
Hearing is not just important for following what’s happening elsewhere on the court, it also plays a key role in balance, important when you’re extending your reach sideways or executing sharp turns. Generally speaking, players with good hearing have a big advantage, but there are some deaf players – like Lance Allred and Tamika Catchings – who have made it to the top. Specialist support can be a big help for hearing impaired players, as there are visual techniques that can help with balance and approaches to memory and predicting others’ movements that can help to interact effectively within a team.
Many players with sensory impairments put their ability to compensate down to intuition. This, too, is an ability that varies between individuals, but it can be trained up, and often all that players need to do to utilize it is to let go and trust their instincts. When the game is moving at a rapid pace, there’s no time to make reasoned calculations about what’s going on or what’s going to happen next – you need to use the non-verbal part of your brain, which is much faster. If you suffer damage to your senses due to an accident or illness, your intuitive faculties will take a little while to adjust, and the best thing you can do is to play as much as possible in order to give them more opportunity.
Humans are visually focused animals, and on the court, vision is the most important of your senses. Most importantly, you need good peripheral vision in order to be aware of what’s going on around you, at the same time as focusing on your own movement. This is something you can improve by doing lots of side passes in practice or by spending time on an activity such as juggling, which requires your eyes to keep track of several objects at once.
Because of the importance of peripheral vision, playing basketball while wearing glasses is very difficult, and glasses also tend to get your eyes into bad habits. Contact lenses are a much better bet, but if you want a long-term solution, you can get affordable Houston LASIK surgery surprisingly easily these days. It’s a simple outpatient procedure that will leave you with improved all-round vision for the rest of your life.
Because the senses are so important, basketball players should avoid listening to very loud music (for instance, standing next to the speakers at a show) and should take care to avoid straining or dehydrating their eyes. If you look after your sensory organs, they’ll serve you well.