Media Release

16/07/2014
Saving soccer goals is all in the eyes, and legs
The eye movement of soccer goalkeepers and the position of the player’s non-kicking leg when attempting a goal might be key to saving the goal.

Saving soccer goals is all in the eyes, and legs

First published July 19, 2013

The eye movement of soccer goalkeepers and the position of the player’s non-kicking leg when attempting a goal might be key to saving the goal.

Tamara Woolley is researching the subject as part of her Honours project for her Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science with Honours at James Cook University in Townsville.

Ms Woolley said her research was looking at the effect of eye movement during the goalkeepers’ anticipation of a penalty shot in football.

“In football, a penalty kick is awarded against a team that commits one of 10 offences for which a direct free kick is awarded, inside its own penalty area and while the ball is in play,” she said.

“Where necessary, kicks from the penalty mark are also an approved method for determining the winning team.

“Hence it is important for a goalkeeper to be proficient at saving penalty kicks, a task which requires the participant to make quick decisions based on information presented in a rapidly changing environment.”

Ms Woolley said goal keeping of a penalty kick required the athlete to process visual information and perform within a very limited time frame.

“With the use of manipulated video clips and an eye tracker, research has been effective in recording visual search behaviours,” she said.

“However, results have been somewhat equivocal, as some have found movement of the hips, kicking leg and trunk just before contact is important for anticipation, while others have found that information retrieved from the non-kicking leg is more predictive.”

Ms Woolley said the aim of the study was to investigate the anticipation skills of goalkeepers, and through the use of an eye tracker and time and space manipulated videos, determine what information is retrieved (fixation points and duration) in order to correctly anticipate a penalty kick.

“It is hypothesised that the stance leg, or the non-kicking leg, will be of greatest significance for a correct anticipation.”

Ms Woolley said the research was designed to determine where exactly attention is to be focussed in order to successfully anticipate a penalty kick in soccer.

“Both soccer players, and ultimately goalkeepers, and coaches will benefit from these results, as it will hopefully provide us with the information required to successfully anticipate a penalty kick.

“This will be extremely beneficial for goalkeepers, as they will have the insight into where they are to focus their attention on, providing them a more accurate prediction of the outcome and increasing the chances of successful saves.”

Ms Woolley said she had already video-recorded a Northern Fury player kicking a soccer ball into various positions of the goal and recently finished cropping and preparing the footage for testing.

“The testing will take place on campus in one of our labs, where participants are required to wear a non-invasive eye tracking device while watching the videos and then indicate where in the goal they believe the ball was aimed,” she said.

“It is from the eye tracking device that data will be extracted and used for analysis in order to determine where participants focus their attention. No testing will be undertaken in real-life soccer matches due to the manipulations that are required of the video recording which cannot be replicated in real-life matches.”

Ms Woolley said three different groups of participants were required for testing, to determine whether or not there are differences in attention between varying training levels.

“The first group of participants will consist of soccer players who have played at a competitive level for a minimum of one year in the position of goalkeeper,” she said.

“The second group will consist of soccer players who have played at a competitive level in any position other than goalkeeper for a minimum of one year. And finally, the third group will consist of novice soccer players; that is people who have no experience in the sport of soccer.

“All participants are to be male and aged between 18 and 40yrs, with no vision problems or uncorrected vision. Participants will be required to watch a number of pre-recorded videos while wearing a light-weight non-invasive eye tracking device and indicate where it is they think each kick had been positioned in the goal.”

If you are interested in participating, please contact Ms Woolley on tamara.woolley@my.jcu.edu.au

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175