I recently watched Clint Eastwood’s movie “The 15:17 to Paris” with my wife. We both loved it and I highly recommend watching it. If you’re not familiar with this movie, it’s a true story about three friends that stop a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train. It’s a very cool story.
Anyways, my goal is not to give you an overview of The 15:17 to Paris. I just want to highlight one scene that a lot of people in the athletic community can relate to.
One of the main characters, Spencer Stone (playing himself) joined the Air force in hopes of becoming a Pararescueman. He changes his diet and trains his butt off to get into shape. Then, after basic training, Spencer takes his exams to qualify for pararescue school. But…. he’s turned down due to failing his depth perception test… So… he’s forced to choose a different job.
This reminded me of so many athletes that have aspirations to perform at a high level in their sport. They work so hard at practicing their sport, eating right, and getting physically fit. But for some reason they come up short. Along the way there’s something that becomes a roadblock that their training didn’t prepare them to overcome.
Just like that… those aspirations are shut down… and it’s usually due to something that they never even thought about. Just like Spencer, he never thought that his lack of depth perception would hold him back from his desired job. Like a lot people he had no idea he even had a lack of depth perception until it was too late.
If you take a close look at the skills an athlete needs to perform, you’ll notice there are a lot of similarities to a soldier in the military. They both need to be in top physical condition, mentally conditioned, know how to manage their bodies, feed their bodies with proper nutrition, and have superior vision.
All of which should be taken into account when trying to be the best soldier or athlete you can be. If any of those aspects are overlooked, I guarantee there will be roadblocks. The problem is, the majority of athletes are unaware of what they need to do in order to achieve their goals.
Spencer thought that getting in shape and working hard would get him where he wanted to be, but it didn’t… because he was missing at least one piece of the puzzle… He didn’t test or train his eyes before basic training. From that, he was left with a deficiency in one of his vision skills… That’s what put an end to his goal of becoming a Pararescueman. All of that hard work crumbled because of something that was unknown to him.
When Spencer gets the bad new about his bad depth perception. I immediately whispered to my wife, “I could have helped him.” She glared at me and said “SHHHHH, I’m trying to watch the movie.” I guess the movie really was that good 😉
But really, I could have helped him. The vision testing and training we do in our Sensory Speed programs would have picked up on his weakness and then eliminated it with specialized training. Had he known about this and done vision training before basic training, he probably would have become a Pararescueman. Now…in Spencer’s case, I’m glad he didn’t become a Pararescueman because if he had, then he wouldn’t have been on that train to stop the terrorist attack. Everything does happen for a reason.
But I want it to be known that him failing his depth perception test could have been prevented.
This really hits home for me because I had to overcome vision deficiencies myself. Not only that, but I’ve seen soooo many athletes struggle when they don’t have to. I’ve seen some of the most physically gifted athletes come up short because they’re just a little bit off or a little bit too inconsistent. There’s a deficiency somewhere in their ability to see, decide, and react.
The difference for Spencer was that the military tested his vision so he knew why he failed. Most athletes that don’t achieve their goals never have their vision fully tested so they have no idea why they are failing. Instead they’re left feeling frustrated wondering what went wrong.
Our goal at Sensory Speed is for every student-athlete to have their functional visual skills assessed, including depth perception. Making them aware of their strengths and weaknesses is the first step to improvement and maximizing their potential.
Even if you haven’t experienced any roadblocks up to this point, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something that could become a problem down the road. Some might be at a low enough level of competition where they can rely on their strengths to get by. But at some point, if not addressed, it will catch up to them.
It really doesn’t matter where, how well, or how poorly you’re doing in your sport, everyone can benefit from improved vision neurocognitive skills (eyes & brain).
The military tests it… why don’t you?
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