There are several reaction balls on the market today that all do the same thing, however, I have chosen the most commonly known one for the analysis.
“Designed to improve your hand-eye coordination, reaction time, depth perception and first-step acceleration, the Nike SPARQ eyeReact Ball is a performance-enhancing super-tool that will benefit athletes of all sports.” (Nike Store, n.d.)
The SPARQ eyeReact Ball is a tool used to help athletes improve their ability to detect an unpredictable stimulus due to the ball’s unknown bounce pattern, and react to it in an organized and efficient movement pattern. This develops what we call “Human Information Processing“. First the person is exposed to a stimulus, in this case the SPARQ eye React Ball, then the individual proceeds to Response Selection where translation occurs. The person chooses how to respond to the stimuli, in this case depending on where the ball bounces the person makes a choice to step in that direction, possibly with a specific foot leading, and reaching with a specific hand, while maintaining a low athletic posture. After the response selection has been identified the next step is Response Programming where the central nervous system organizes an appropriate response and begins the movement. The purpose of using this SPARQ eyeReact Ball is to successfully develop an appropriate, and time efficient; stimulus identification, response selection, and response programming. This is called Reaction Time.
The type of reaction time used while training with the SPARQ eyeReact Ball is called Choice Reaction Time. Choice Reaction Time is very receptive to improvements if practiced. This makes the use of this training tool effective in aiding athletes in their training. The use of this tool in the development of Human Information Processing as mentioned earlier supports Nike‘s claims of improving reaction time and first step acceleration.
However, Nike‘s claim to improve depth perception is not entirely valid. As stated in the journal article Training Perceptual Skill by Orienting Visual Attention (Hagemann, N., Strauss, B., & Cañal-Bruland, R., 2006). The benefits of training programs that claim to improve general abilities such as depth perception, visual acuity, and peripheral vision lack empirical confirmation and the benefits of such programs are doubtful. In fact in a comparison between novice and expert athletes it was found that there was little to no difference in those general skills listed above. The major contributing factor to experts performing better was in their ability to better anticipate and react to given stimuli (Hagemann, N et al., 2006). Hand-eye coordination and depth perception are not actually motor skills, but hand-eye coordination can improve from improved Human Information Processing (Aparo, L. ,n.d.).
Hand-eye coordination is a task that requires accurate judgement of timing based on what the person interprets from the visual stimulus and translates that to an appropriately timed response. For example: a football player reaching out to catch a football moving at a very fast velocity with proper placement of his hands to successfully catch the ball. Improving choice reaction time allows the player to see the football (stimulus identification), select when to reach out for the ball and how to place his hands (response selection) and have the central nervous system organize the information and begin the action (response programming). Hand-eye coordination first starts by the detection of the stimulus. As mentioned already visual acuity cannot be improved however, effective anticipation can drastically reduce the time it takes to process the stimulus and give the athlete more time to be accurate with hand-eye coordination. Spatial anticipation can be improved through practice and when used effectively makes a big difference in both hand-eye coordination and information processing. (Bredin, D. S., 2011)
Therefore it can be concluded that the Nike SPARQ eyeReact Ball can effectively improve Human Information Processing, which results in improved choice reaction time. Developing a fast choice reaction time directly supports Nike‘s claims to improving first step acceleration and hand-eye coordination based on a faster response to the stimulus. However, the claim to improve depth perception is not directly benefited through the use of this training tool.
Aparo, L. (n.d.). Influence of Sport Stacking on hand-eye. soeedstacks.com. Retrieved October 5, 2011, from http://www.speedstacks.com/groups/benefits/thesis_luca_aparo.pdf
Bredin, D. S. (Director) (2011, September 20). Information Processing Parts 1 & 2. Class Lecture. Lecture conducted from Dr. Shannon Bredin, Vancouver
Bredin, D. S. (Director) (2011, September 29).Information Processing Expert vs Novice. Class Lecture. Lecture conducted from Dr. Shannon Bredin, Vancouver
Hagemann, N., Strauss, B., & Cañal-Bruland, R. (2006). Training Perceptual Skill by Orienting Visual Attention. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 28, 143-158.
NikeStore. (n.d.). NikeStore. Shop the Official Nike Store for Shoes, Clothing & Gear. Retrieved October 3, 2011, from http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/?l=shop,pdp,ctr-inline/cid-1/pid-304449/pgid-304449#l=shop,pdp,ctr-inline/cid-1/pid-304449/pgid-304449
Translation: Involves relating a particular stimulus to a particular response (Bredin, D. S., 2011)
Response Programming: Organization of the motor system to produce the desired response, movement is initiated (Bredin, D. S., 2011)
Reaction Time: the time taken to identify a given stimulus, and respond to that stimulus. Reaction time does not include observable movement. (Bredin, D. S., 2011)
Choice Reaction Time: The interval of time that elapses from the presentation of one of several possible unanticipated stimuli to the beginning of one of several possible responses. (Bredin, D. S., 2011)
Spatial anticipation: The capacity of an individual to predict what is going to happen in the environment.