Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

London — England’s new vision coach believes modern rugby players spend so much time looking at smartphones that they are less skilful and not as aware of what is happening on the pitch around them.

The expert hired by the Rugby Football Union to improve hand-eye co-ordination among England players ahead of this year’s Six Nations says she has seen a deterioration across all sports over the six years in which phone use has rapidly increased.

"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," Sherylle Calder, a South African vision specialist who has also worked in golf, motor racing and gridiron, told The Guardian newspaper.

"We are losing the ability to communicate well and all those skills are declining. We will be working on awareness because it helps you make effective decisions under pressure."

Although players will be allowed to keep their phones, they will be encouraged not to overuse them.

"We can’t stop them, but we will teach them good behaviours," Calder was quoted as saying on the paper’s website on Monday. "We develop skills by climbing trees, walking on walls and falling off and learning all those visual motor skills which people aren’t doing any more," she said. "Young kids spend a lot of time on mobile phones, so those instinctive natural skills are disappearing.

"If you don’t see something, you can’t make a decision. So 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. 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 has joined England’s pre-Six Nations training camp in Vilamoura, Portugal.

Reuters, AFP

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