Reaction time vs perception: Imagine yourself to be on the other side of tennis court opposite Andy Roddick ready to return his serve. At 120 to 150 mph chances are high the ball will zoom past you before you have time to turn your head towards the ball. At that speed, the ball will travel from the Andy’s racket to your service line in just over a quarter of a second. Yet top players routinely return those serves. Conclusion we tend to draw is that top players have incredible reaction times, enabling them to watch that ball come at them and get themselves in proper position in a quarter of a second. Research shows that the conclusion is incorrect. Here are the findings:
- Reaction time does improve with practice. However, it belongs to the land of mediocristan and follows 80-20 rule. That is, nearly all the improvement comes in the first little bit of training. After that lots more practice yields only a little additional improvement. This means reaction times poses inherent limitation as to how much you can improve. However, researchers found something interesting as to how top players overcome this limitation.
- By watching eye movement of top players using sophisticated equipment researchers have found that top players weren’t looking at opponent's ball. They were looking at opponent’s hips, shoulders and arms that foretold where they would hit the ball. This gave them additional time to adjust themselves.
Ask yourself, “What can I see more with less?”