The crackdown on electronic devices will begin today on the instruction of visual awareness coach Dr Sherylle Calder, who has been added to Eddie Jones’s backroom staff on a consultancy basis until Japan 2019. Calder, whose CV details spells with elite golfers, Formula 1 drivers, and NFL teams, insists the immersion into smartphones and tablets as part of contemporary life is inhibiting the development of players.
“In the modern world, the ability of players to have good awareness is deteriorating by the nature of mobile phones, etc,” said Calder, who stated that she would recommend players are told to limit their exposure to technology.
“I always use the analogy that we develop skills by climbing trees, walking on walls, and falling off and learning all those visual motor skills, which people aren’t doing anymore.
“Young kids spend a lot of time on mobile phones, so those instinctive natural skills are disappearing.
“We have seen in the last five or six years, when we assess elite players in different sports, that there is a decline in skill levels. When you look at your phone, you are losing awareness, because you’re on the screen all the time.
“There are no eye movements happening, everything is pretty static.
“We are losing the ability to communicate well and all those skills are declining.
“We will be working really hard on awareness, because awareness makes you make effective decisions under pressure.
“We don’t only train the eye movements, the ability to judge and the ability to recognise early, we also train the brain, which is really a muscle.
“That has an impact on what you see, what you process, and how you respond on the field. I’m not going to give too many secrets away, because we want to share it with the English players, but there are definitely principles that we want them to follow.”
Calder’s initial brief, as outlined by Jones, is to work with the wings and full-backs, but she will also spend time with all the three-quarters over three stints each year, starting with this week’s training camp in Portugal.
There is already a ban in place on the use of mobile phones during squad meal times, but this could now be extended.
“The important thing that people misunderstand is that I don’t work on eyesight at all. It has no relevance,” said Calder. “I work on the visual motor system and how you make decisions based on that. We have worked with players with bad eyesight and worked with players with one eye. Our work is not sight related, it’s about sports science and individual motor performance.”
Among those to have benefited from Calder’s methods is Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
“We helped him make decisions under pressure. I think quarterback is the most incredible position in any sport,” she said. “They’re under enormous pressure and there’s so much happening around them. To be able to put the ball exactly where it should be going is almost impossible, I think, but you can train that ability. One of the skills we work on is being able to see, or pick up, something early. The earlier you see, the more time you have to make a decision. That’s a trainable skill.”