Left-eye dominant but right-handed, Lucy O’Sullivan has spent a fair amount of time working to overcome the problems that presents. Here, she shares some of the tips and tricks she’s learned
As a left-eye dominant archer I have spent years struggling with eye dominance. I have been squinting all of my archery career, but over that time I’ve found there are a few things that you can do to help cover up the issue.
So what is eye dominance?
Eye dominance is the tendency to prefer one eye to the other one. Usually if you are right-handed you will be right-eye dominant. However, it doesn’t always work this way. Both brain hemispheres control both eyes, but one will always take charge. Dominance appears to change depending on direction of gaze due to image size changes on the retinas, and there are also some cases caused by myopia, amblyopia and sometimes even migraine sufferers, although most research would suggest that eye dominance is due to the dominant eye being challenged more.
How do you test for eye dominance?
All archers should be tested on eye dominance in their first archery lesson, but you can test it at home very easily.
The most common test is the Miles test – the archer extends both arms and brings their hands together to create a small opening between their hands (usually a small triangle). Then, with both eyes open, they focus on a distant object through the opening. They then slowly draw their hands back to their face and whichever eye the hand comes back to their dominant eye.
You can actively change eye dominance by suppressing the dominant eye such as using an eye patch, or, in more extreme cases, opt for laser eye surgery.
Overcoming cross eye dominance
Aiming in archery is a fine motor skill. Lucky archers who are right-eye dominant and right-handed (or left-eye dominant and left-handed) actually have the option of keeping both eyes open during shooting. Not only does this enable more light be ‘let in’, you have double the visual information being fed into the brain to help reaction and aiming, and the dominant eye will always take over so your aim will be led with that eye.
Now unlucky archers who prefer to shoot right-handed and who are left-eye dominant (or vice versa) do not have this option. They either have to opt to change to be the “wrong handedness” or close their dominant eye.
Choosing the latter can often be a hindrance as your facial muscles have to work harder to keep the dominant eye closed during your shot. I myself have shot many years with my left eye closed, but this can often start opening mid-shot and I have to remind myself to force the eye shut. As you might imagine, this isn’t very useful in a sport reliant on aim! So what handy things have been used by archers to ensure this doesn’t happen?
What are your options?
There are many options available to archers to overcome the cross dominance, such as
The “pirate” eye patch
The clip onto hat eye patch
The clip onto glasses eye patch
A piece of cardboard clipped onto the hat
A piece of tape over glasses
A sticker over glasses
You do not need to block out all of the light with an eye patch, as I mentioned above cardboard can be just as effective, it just needs to be something that relaxes the dominant eye. It presents the dominant eye with an unchanging visual field containing nothing of visual importance and allows the brain to focus solely with the weaker eye. However, it can often cause irritation and frustration until the brain starts to adapt to not being able to use the dominant eye.
A great reason for why many archers may opt for an eye patch or cover, as opposed to closing the eye, is that you can train yourself to have both eyes open, thus having the same benefits of letting more light in but being able to focus with the weaker eye (see the picture with the targets unfiltered and filtered, this is how cross dominant archers see the target).
As archery has progressed aiming aids such as Pilla glasses have started being utilised in archery. Gun shooters have used this technology for years, and I myself was one of the first UK shooters to use this simple technology for archery.
As technology changes and gets better so has the eye cross dominance devices. No longer do you need bulky clips attached to your hat or Pilla glasses, there are things as simple as stickers now that relax your eye. A great company called “Off Eye” have used this concept, and noticed I shot with Pilla glasses with one eye squinted shut. After sending me a few samples I now shoot with the Off Eye stickers and it is great!
The Off Eye stickers attach to your glasses with ease, much like a car window sticker that can come off easily. The concept is simple; if you focus on a target with both eyes open, and hold up your fingers slightly separated in front of the dominant eye the target can only be viewed properly with the weaker eye. The dominant eye is blinkered and is looking through “venetian blinds” or a “picket fence” – the image is there but not 100 per cent.
Off Eye’s process uses the ability of the brain to filter the target, and using the different stickers you can decide which strength of filter you need to use to block out enough of the target, by shifting a little or a lot of strength to the weaker aiming eye.
Well, if you’ve read this far and are thinking of trying something to help with any eye dominance problems of your own, I’d recommend starting off with something attached to your hat or glasses. If you really want to up those scores you can use the better technology of the “picket fence” or “hatched” Off Eye stickers and shoot with both eyes open, really learning to rely on the weaker eye. Obviously with any new training it’s best to start at a close range for a few weeks before you begin training the brain to aim from further away with that weaker eye.
Remember, it is no longer a case of having to squint that eye shut, there are options available to you without having to change your bow to the “wrong handedness”.