Winning Never Stops Feeling GoodWell, we went to Minnesota.
Edina, to be exact. We went to Edina because it's home to the best visual training for athletes in the country.
True Focus Vision trains NHL players--goalies, mostly--along with AHL/ECHL/D1 college players, with a focus on visual performance. Goalies have extreme visual demands, so evaluating every aspect of the visual system, and correcting any identified weaknesses, can make a huge difference.
Eli 15.9s vision is 20/10, but that's a raw number without any nuance. He underwent extensive testing in quite a few different ways on Monday.
The results were surprising.
Reaction time: excellent. Vision (divergence): excellent. Vision (convergence): weak.
What does that mean? Basically, that as objects get close, it's difficult for his eyes to converge on the object (his right eye is the culprit, mostly).
Boy, that was a surprise. There are several good things, though:
--good grief, he plays at a high level to have this issue
--there is some excellent visual training that can correct this
--he is highly, highly motivated to do the training
We came home with a suitcase of equipment and a training schedule, and he will talk on the phone with his trainer on a regular basis. Everything about this program is measurable, so it's easy to adapt the training if results aren't on course.
Not surprisingly, the training is tiring. Eli was definitely feeling it after each session. But he can't wait for the results, so doing the training won't be a problem.
Okay, two stories from being at the facility.
First, while the trainer juggles, he didn't know that Eli could juggle four balls (and five, at least for a short time), so Eli spent some time showing him the four-ball patterns and how they work.
Later that afternoon, two NHL goalies (including a Vezina Trophy candidate) came by to train. There's an artificial turf field inside the facility, so they all stood out there together and juggled. Eli showed them the four-ball patterns, then went Mr. Clutch and juggled five balls for as long as he ever has.
They were both incredibly nice, and Eli was thrilled, of course. I didn't take any pictures because it was a private training session at a private facility, and I felt like doing so would be an invasion.
I will say, though, that seeing all of them juggling together and laughing was a moment that I won't ever forget, and no matter how I describe it, I can't nearly do it justice.
This facility also had a light board. This one:
The board trains reaction time and visual tracking. In the most basic exercise, the board lights up one light at a time, and it stays lit until you touch it, then another lights up, etc.
Those lights are very small, by the way--a little smaller than a nickel. And the board is big enough (over 6 feet tall) that you can't possibly have it all in your field of vision, so hunting down the little lights (and touching them) is tough at times, particularly when you're trying to do it at high speed.
Eli did the basic version (30 seconds) and scored 41.
I had to ask, of course. I mean, I was there already, right? I had to try. It was irresistible.
So I tried it, too.
Eli went again and scored 46. That is really, really fast.
I went again. 40.
I tried two more times. 40. 40.
There was a bit of good-natured chirping, of course.
On Tuesday, we came back for one more training session before we flew home. A few variations were introduced in the light board, including one where a three-digit number appeared in that little gray panel above the center circle, and you had to sum the numbers. If you got even one of the sums wrong, your score didn't count.
It's much, much harder, because you have to add numbers while you're still trying to score points on the board.
I wanted to try one more time--puncher's chance, right?--and I was going to do the straight 30-second test, and then it hit me.
"I get to make the challenge, right?" I asked.
"Sure," Eli said.
"Math version," I said, and he started laughing. "You go first."
"Oh, no," he said, halfway through the 30-second period. The panel had flashed 3 numbers, but he hadn't seen them. He kept going and finished with a 36.
"Thirty-six with an asterik," I said.
"I just looked away for a split-second!" he said, laughing.
"The power of math," I said, and stepped up to the board. Through a strange quirk of fate, this light board had played right into my hands.
"Yes!" I said, raising my arms.
"Oh, no," Eli said, laughing.
Eli's trainer thought this was hilarious. "Wait a minute," he said, and he took a medal down from his bookshelf, put it around my neck, and made us pose for a picture.
I know I never show you guys pictures of myself, and I probably never will again, but this was too much fun to not share: