Would you like to stop more washers?
There’s often a fine line between success and failure when it comes to a 15-foot putt in golf, a three-point basket in basketball and a stop following a shot from the slot in field hockey. Although the three sports are quite different in nature, they seem to have at least one thing in common when it comes to top-level performance. A number of researchers have looked into this question, and have noted the major impact that the information gathered in order to plan a motor action has on the success or failure of that action. In fact, we invite you to discover a very specific aspect of vision that is largely responsible for the outcome of a sequence : the Quiet Eye (QE)(1,2) .
The Quiet Eye is defined as the point of final fixation of the gaze before the execution of a gesture. In its definition, the gaze must be located at a specific point for a minimum of 100 milliseconds (ms) and not deviate by more than three degrees during this period. The Quiet Eye is initiated before the final movement of the task, and the EQ ends when the gaze deviates more than three degrees from the target for at least 100 ms. For the goalkeeper, the EQ can start before the shot is taken and end when the puck is in the air. This phenomenon was put forward by Vickers (5) in 1996 and has been observed in several studies since then (1,2,3).
Whether the aim of the motor action is to hit a target with an object in a self-directed manner, as in golf, or under pressure, as in basketball, or an interception task, like the goalkeeper in field hockey, the Quiet Eye would be an important determinant of performance (1,4). Appropriate use of this technique would discriminate from one individual to another (comparing beginners with experts) but also from one throw to another (comparing successful trials with failed trials in the same person). Indeed, it would seem that where athletes fix their gaze, as well as the sequence and duration of this fixation before the gesture, could explain their success (1,2,3).
For the goalkeeper, the preferred location for gaze fixation seems slightly different from what might be expected. In field hockey jargon, we often refer to “puck tracking”, an anglicism meaning that the goalie follows the puck with his eyes for as long as possible, even after it has left a player’s pad. One study showed that during wrist throws from a distance of 5 and 10 metres, the gaze would be fixed on the puck less than 1% of the time. The area that attracts the most attention is the paddle-round interface, with more than 70% of the time preceding the throw (2) . This attachment point would allow the goalie to store information on the movement of the stick, but above all on the positioning of the blade before and during contact with the puck.
A longer fixation time at this location would be associated with increased performance. Indeed, this is what the results of the study cited earlier by Panchuk and Vickers (2006) tell us. In this study, the authors observed a significant difference in the duration of final visual fixation (the EQ) for stopped throws compared to goals awarded for wrist throws made at 5 and 10 meters. Contrary to what we might have thought, the goalkeepers’ efficiency percentage was not influenced by the time it took the player to release his shot, or by the goalkeeper’s ability to follow the puck with his eyes during the flight time, or even the distance at which the shot was taken. In fact, virtually no visual fixations were directed directly at the player in action (2). This doesn’t necessarily mean that the goalkeeper doesn’t take any information from the pitcher into consideration, but it does mean that the goalkeeper’s gaze isn’t focused on the player. Information from the player’s movement or from the environment during a match situation could be taken into account by the goalkeeper’s peripheral vision, a concept that has not been studied.
In short, for wrist throws performed in a controlled environment, EQ efficiency is of paramount importance. This concept is little known and under-used in the world of field hockey and sport in general. Follow the next few articles to find out more about his involvement in stress management and the impact of his training.
Sports physiotherapist at Clinique du Peps, Université Laval
Photo credit: Steve Roy
- Lebeau JC & AL. Quiet Eye and Performance in Sport: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 2016, 38, 441-457
- Panchuk D & Vickers JN. Gauze
behaviorsof goaltenders under spatial-temporal constraints. Human Movement Science, 2006, 25, 733-752
- Panchuk D, Vickers JN & Hopkins WG. Quiet eye predicts goaltender success in deflected ice hockey shots, European Journal of
SportScience, 2017, 17:1, 93-99,
- Rienhoff R & al. The ‘Quiet Eye’ and Motor Performance: A Systematic Review Based on Newell’s Constraints-Led Model. Sports Med (2016) 46:589-603
- Vickers JN. Visual control when aiming at a far target. J Exp Psychol Hum, 1996, 2:324-354
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