Last week, I experienced Nike’s new SPARQ Sensory Performance innovations in action. I have no doubt in my mind that this new approach to vision training in conjunction with all other aspects of physical training will give an edge to the athletes who utilize these advancements. What’s most interesting is that vision training can be used by athletes of all levels to increase focus, reaction times & anticipation in any sport. I could rattle off a list of athletes off the top of my head that could use vision training immediately: Ahem… Josh Hamilton… Ahem…
SPARQ Sensory Performance is a system of technologies, products and programs designed to assess, analyze and improve an athlete’s visual and sensory performance. It’s another step in Nike’s nearly 40-year legacy of delivering game-changing innovations to help athletes perform at their peak.
“Sensory training is at the cornerstone of how we can build better athletes,” said Paul Winsper, SPARQ Performance Director. “With SSP we’re able to integrate both sensory and physical training together. This performance philosophy has resonated with some of the top athletes, teams and clubs throughout the world.”
Nike SPARQ Sensory Stations
As the first step in improving an athlete’s performance, the SSP “assess” phase uses the Nike SPARQ Sensory Station, an interactive touch screen device, to evaluate athletes on 10 sport-relevant visual and sensory performance skills. The personalized station then translates that raw data into next steps for the athlete, which can guide a training program. The resulting SPARQ Sensory Performance profile compares an athlete’s results to others in their sport, position and skill level to provide a roadmap for improvement.
I underwent these tests and compared my results to all other professional soccer defenders in Nike’s database and I’ll post my results as soon as I get over my embarrassment at my scores. Welp, it seems that countless hours spent pushing pixels isn’t great for my vision or health.
Once the assessment and analysis are complete, Nike SSP provides two key tools designed to help an athlete improve: The Nike SPARQ Sensory Training Station and Nike SPARQ Vapor Strobe Eyewear. Athletes at any skill level can integrate both into their training programs to hone their sensory skills.
Nike SPARQ Vapor Strobe Eyewear
Following visual testing to evaluate different aspects of the athlete’s visual skills, a crucial tool to improve key areas is the Nike SPARQ Vapor Strobe Eyewear. By blocking or disrupting vision using a strobe or flicker effect that can be varied in speed, an athlete can develop quicker reaction times and motor skills. The strobe effect improves reaction time by switching between clear and blocked vision, which trains the brain to anticipate what‘s coming when the eyes are blocked. Features include an adjustable head strap for a secure fit and liquid-crystal lens technology with variable speeds for different levels of training.
“After years of tireless testing, we’ve discovered an innovative way to help increase athletic performance,” said Dr. Alan Reichow, Global Research Director of Nike SPARQ Sensory Performance and Vision. “The SSP ecosystem of testing and products allows our team to serve the athlete with a clear and actionable plan that helps them see sport better.”
The system is already proving effective. Two recent studies* showed that training with the Nike SPARQ Vapor Strobes improved:
1) The ability to pick up subtle motion cues
2) Visual information processing
3) Timing of motion
When looking at the list of athletes that participate in SPARQ Sensory Performance training, I’m not surprised that they’re at the top of their game. Kevin Durant, Larry Fitzgerald, Greg Jennings, Misty May-Treanor, A.J. Pierzynski all get an edge.
“I catch balls for a living. What I do is eye-hand coordination, so any way that I can improve my eye-hand coordination is going to be pivotal throughout my career. The Nike SPARQ Vapor Strobes are a total game changer, a training game changer. You take vision for granted, you take catching the ball for granted but the Vapor Strobes force you to focus on the fundamentals.” -Greg Jennings
Nike SPARQ Sensory Training Stations use software-based training modules to improve multiple sensory performance skills. The stations can be used regularly as an integrated part of training programs for athletes at all levels. Top collegiate and professional programs have purchased the Nike strobe eyewear and stations, with a full global rollout now in action.
The Nike SPARQ Vapor Strobe Eyewear is $300 USD and available Internationally at NikeStore.com. Both the Nike SPARQ Sensory Station and Nike SPARQ Sensory Training Station are available through the Nike SPARQ Sensory Training Help Desk (1-855-870-6778 or NSSTsupport@nike.com).
* Duke University Study: Appelbaum LG, Schroeder JE, Cain MS and Mitroff SR (2011) Improved visual cognition through stroboscopic training. Front. Psychology 2:276. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00276
* Southern Utah University Study: Smith, T.Q. (2011) Sensory Training: Nike Strobe (Master’s thesis). Southern Utah University, Cedar City, UT.