Quiet Eye in Sport - Sport Performance Member Article By George Mitchell
Posted 07/19/2021 in Category 1 by George Mitchell

Quiet Eye in Sport

Quiet Eye in Sport

According to Vine and Wilson (2010) existing research using eye/gaze tracking technology shows that eye gaze is directed to the more vital objects and targets in the visual-performance workspace when there are high levels of attained performance of motor skills (e.g., Vickers, 2007; Williams & Ford, 2008). The QE (Vickers, 1996) is a particular gaze that has revealed higher levels of underlying skill and performance in a wide array of interceptive and aiming skills (Vickers, 2007). 

QE is defined as the “duration of the final fixation towards a relevant target prior to the execution of the critical phase of movement and has been accepted within the literature as a measure of optimal visual attentional control (Vickers, 1996).” It is further suggested that QE allows for a period of time to cognitively pre- programme movement parameters whilst reducing distractions from internal or external cues. 

Vickers (1992) investigated the control of the gaze in golf putting, which mediates the performance of golfers. Data displayed significant differences in path scanning when they were aligning the putt, as well as differences in orientation and timing of gazes during the putting action. 

It was noted that experts maintained a final fixation of the QE on the back or centre of the ball before that execution of the initial putting movement, approximately 2s when compared to 1 – 1.5s for the skilled golfers. This data has since been supported by Vickers (2007) and Wilson and Pearcey (2009). 

QE has not just been shown to increase performance and been found to be more common in expert performers, but can also be trainable. Harle and Vickers (2001) used a QE training protocol to try to improve free-throw accuracy for almost elite basketball players. 

QE of each team member was recorded pre-protocol, they then QE trained to follow three steps in order to improve their visuomotor control. Results revealed that their QE significantly increased in a lab setting but after two seasons their free throw percentages improved by up to 23%.  

Additionally, Vine and Wilson (2010) examined the efficacy of QE training to optimize learning and performance under pressure for novices during a putting task. 14 participants’ performance 40 pre-test putts and were randomly allocated into a QE training or a control group. Next, they performed 320 acquisition phased putts then a further 120 test putts. 

The QE trained group sustained more effective attentional control and performed significantly better under pressure in comparison to the control group. Additionally, longer QE periods were correlated with superior performance across all test putts. However, an implication to this study is that the guidance that is current by coaches from an application perspective concentrates on the mechanics of movement and the individual’s attention is driven inwards which has been shown to be counterproductive (Wulf, 2007) although there may be problems when trying to focus their focus of attention externally (Bell & Hardy, 2009). 

Vine and Wilson (2010) summarise that QE training may be a practical, easy and applicable training method to direct an individual’s attention in a correct fashion and optimise their coordinate gaze and motor control.  

According to Vine and Wilson (2010), a key objective is helping athletes with emotional and cognitive factors that exist during the performance in ego threatening situations (e.g., Hardy, Jones, & Gould, 1996; Zinsser, Bunker, & Williams, 2006). 

Pre-performance routines, that contain cognitive and behavioural elements have been put forward as a valuable strategy to maintain concentration and perception for increased control in pressurised environments (Moran, 1996).  QE could be seen as part of the pre-preperformance routine, helping the athlete focus on what they can control rather than a non-productive internal thought or emotion (see, Wilson & Richards, 2010). 

Connor et al (2018) examined the anticipatory and visual behaviour of elite rugby league players under two distinctive evasion manoeuvres (side- and split-steps). Eye movement was measured whilst watching videos of the two manoeuvres and there weren’t/t any significant differences found between the elite rugby players and the controlled group. 

However, what was noticed is that the split-step was harder to anticipate and the elite players seemed to spend a greater time focusing on the torso/mid-region of the opposition's body compared to the control group. 

Woolley et al (2015) had their work supported by Conner et al (2018) as it showed that elite goalkeepers (when compared to the control group who weren’t elite) maintained a longer fixation on distal regions whilst extracting information cues from other various sectors of the body (e.g., kicking leg, stance leg, hips) in contrast to focusing on one certain cue and predicting the shot. 

Rivilla-García et al (2013) found similar results when comparing elite goalkeepers with amateur goalkeepers in handball. The elite goalkeepers had a greater number of fixations which showed large and significant differences; longer fixations on the arm/ball compared to the faces of the player by the amateur goalkeepers. These results infer that elite keepers use different visual strategies and have a greater perceptive capacity compared to amateur keepers. 

Additionally, Wood et al (2017) examined the role of QE during deceptive aiming actions. Results indicate that increased QE durations were necessary when using a deceptive aim and accuracy was influenced the keeper’s positioning. It was concluded that whilst there was deceptive aiming, soccer players sustained accuracy by surreptitiously processing information in relation to the keeper’s positioning.

Kim and Lee (2006) concluded based on their results that if attention is fixed on the unnecessary cue instead of the main cue, “it will make the rate of observation and application of target strategy control high” which may result in improper motor behaviours. 

Based on this information a perceptual training programme could synthetically use concentration training and strategies for gaze fixations should be provided to athletes in cases where anticipation and play decision making plays a vital role. Subsequently, to improve the perception training programme they used, a study to improve anticipation accuracy needs to be supported with training on the main perception techniques to conduct with the mandatory tasks.   

Quiet Eye Training

Based on the work by Toit et al (2011) looking at the effects of sport vision exercises on the visual skills of university students. Their study aimed to determine if exercises training sports vision could develop visual skills and thus improve motor and cognitive performance. 

Data showed significant enhancements in sequencing and eye-hand coordination in the training group compared to the control group. The researchers observed visual acuity, tracking, visualisation, reflex tests and vergence (the simultaneous movement of the pupils of the eyes towards or away from one another during focusing). 

Improvements apart from focus was greater in the training group than the control, which strongly demonstrates that sports visual training can significantly improve certain visual skills and can lead to improvements in motor and cognitive learning and performance. Therefore, these exercises are an efficient method of improving particular visual skills and minimize defects caused by stress. 

Perception: This stage uses the visual system. Firstly, the retina part of the eye (receptor) obtains information from a stimulus, the light. The stimulus is then transformed into a nerve impulse by the photoreceptors by phototransduction. Then this impulse is transmitted by a sensory neuron and finally leaves the eye by an optic nerve (Silverthorn, 2007). 

This optic nerve then enters the brain at the optic chiasm which is where the nerve fibres from both eyes cross over to the opposite side and then eventually the synapse in the lateral geniculate body of the thalamus (Silverthorn, 2007). After, the impulse is then relayed to the other areas of the brain. 

Integration: Interpreting and analysing visual information occurs in the CNS more precisely, the visual cortex which is in the occipital lobe of the cerebral cortex. The visual cortex is the most significant area in the brain that is responsible for the decision making regarding visual information. The visual cortex obtains this visual information, analyses it and referring to past experiences, makes a decision for an appropriate motor response. 

Even though the majority of visual information is directed towards the visual cortex, other brain structures for example the cerebellum/midbrain could also play a role in visual processing. The cerebellum is partly responsible for the coordination of movement whereas the midbrain is involved with the movement of the eyes (Silverthorn, 2007).  

Response: The final stage of visual processing is the motor response which is executed by an effector, for example, a muscle. When the sensory information has been analysed within the visual cortex, impulses are sent to the motor area and the premotor area. 

The premotor area is associated with the integration of the information gathered from the sensory and motor areas whereas the motor area is concerned with directing movement of the skeletal system which will allow for voluntary movements to occur (Silverthorn, 2007). Finally, a motor neuron will carry impulses to specific effectors in order to execute an appropriate motor response. 

The 15 min sports vision exercises were performed by the experimental groups as suggested by du Toit et al. (2007a):

Simultaneous Ball Throw 

The participants stood 2m from each other with bent knees and feet shoulder-width apart. One at a time, each participant threw two balls simultaneously for the other participant to catch. This was done for 3mins. Benefits: Improve concentration and peripheral vision. 

Crossover throw

The participants remained standing 2m from each other with bent knees and feet shoulder-width apart. One at a time, each participant threw two balls simultaneously to opposite hands for the other participant to catch. This was also done for 3mins. Benefits: Improves concentration and peripheral vision. 

Crucifix Ball drop 

The participant stood with knees bent; feet shoulder-width apart and hands on the knees. A coach stood upright, arms extended towards the side with a ball in each hand. The coach then dropped either hand and the participant had to drop into a squat position and catch the ball with the wrists supinated. Benefits: Improves peripheral awareness, foot movement and anticipation. 

Vertical ball hit 

The participant wore a glove bat and with palms face upwards had to hit a ball vertically. This was done for 3mins.
Benefits: improves concentration.
Find the letters 

Computer Program

Using a computer program, the participants needed to click on the letters of the alphabet from A to Z. The letters are automatically mixed and change position randomly.
At FocusPerform we have access to the only computer programme (SportsVision) in the UK and we work closely with the owner of this project who works with an IPL cricket team and a Premier League Football team. Or visit his website at thepressurezone.com !!

References:

Bell, J. J., & Hardy, J. (2009). Effects of attentional focus on skilled performance in golf. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 21, 163–177. 

Connor, J. D., Crowther, R. G., & Sinclair, W. H. (2018). Effect of Different Evasion Maneuvers on Anticipation and Visual Behavior in Elite Rugby League Players. Motor control, 22(1), 18-27.

Du Toit, P. J., Kruger, P. E., Mahomed, A. F., Kleynhans, M., Jay-du Preez, T., Govender, C., & Mercier, J. (2011). The effect of sports vision exercises on the visual skills of university students: sport science. African Journal for Physical Health Education, Recreation and Dance, 17(3), 429-440.

Grant, A. M. (2012). An integrated model of goal-focused coaching: An evidence-based framework for teaching and practice. International Coaching Psychology Review, 7(2), 146-165.

Hardy, L., Jones, G., & Gould, D. (1996). Understanding psychological preparation for sport: Theory and practice of elite performers. Chichester, England: Wiley. 

Harle, S., & Vickers, J. N. (2001). Training quiet eye improves accuracy in the basketball free-throw. The Sport Psychologist, 15, 289–305. 

Kim, S., & Lee, S. (2006). Gaze Behavior of Elite Soccer Goalkeeper in Successful Penalty Kick Defense. International Journal of Applied Sports Sciences, 18(1). 

Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (1985). The application of goal setting to sports. Journal of sport psychology, 7(3), 205-222.

Moran, A. P. (1996). The psychology of concentration in sports performers: A cognitive analysis. Hove, East Sussex, U.K.: Psychology Press.

Rivilla-García, J., Muñoz, A., Grande, I., Sanchís Almenara, M., & Sampedro, J. (2013). A comparative analysis of visual strategy in elite and amateur handball goalkeepers. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 8(3).

Rubin, R. S. (2002). Will the real SMART goals please stand up. The Industrial-OrganizationalPsychologist, 39(4), 26-27.

Silverthorn, D.U. (2007). Human Physiology: An Integrated Approach. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings. 

Vickers, J. N. (1992). Gaze control in putting. Perception, 21, 117–132.


Vickers, J. N. (1996). Visual control when aiming at a far target. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 2, 324–354.


Vickers, J. N., & Adolphe, R. A. (1997). Gaze behavior during a ball tracking and aiming skill. International Journal of Sports Vision, 4, 18–27.


Vickers, J. N., & Williams, A. M. (2007). Performing under pressure: The effects of physiological arousal, cognitive anxiety, and gaze control in biathlon. Journal of Motor Behavior, Journal of Motor Behavior, 381–394.


Vine, S. J., & Wilson, M. R. (2010). Quiet eye training: Effects on learning and performance under pressure. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 22(4), 361-376.

Wilson, M. R., & Pearcey, R. (2009). The visuomotor control of straight and breaking golf putts. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 109, 555–562.


Wood, G., Vine, S. J., Parr, J., & Wilson, M. R. (2017). Aiming to deceive: Examining the role of the quiet eye during deceptive aiming actions. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 39(5), 327-338.

Woolley, T. L., Crowther, R. G., Doma, K., & Connor, J. D. (2015). The use of spatial manipulation to examine goalkeepers’ anticipation. Journal of sports sciences, 33(17), 1766-1774.

Wulf, G., & Su, J. (2007). An external focus of attention enhances golf shot accuracy in beginners and experts. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 78, 384–389.


Zinsser, N., Bunker, L. K., & Williams, J. M. (2006). Cognitive techniques for improving performance and building confidence. In J.M. Williams (Ed.) Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (5th ed., pp 349–381). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. 

 


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