Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why England's soccer team keeps losing on penalty shots

Date:
January 6, 2010
Source:
University of Exeter
Summary:
A new study may explain why the England soccer team keeps losing in penalty shootouts -- and could help the team address the problem in time for the World Cup 2010. New research shows for the first time the effect of anxiety on a footballer's eye movements while taking a penalty.

Dr. Mark Wilson (on the left) and a member of University of Exeter soccer team are testing eye movement in penalty shoot outs.
Credit: University of Exeter

A new study may explain why the England soccer team keeps losing in penalty shootouts -- and could help the team address the problem in time for the World Cup 2010. Research by the University of Exeter shows for the first time the effect of anxiety on a footballer's eye movements while taking a penalty.

Related Articles


The study shows that when penalty takers are anxious they are more likely to look at and focus on the centrally positioned goalkeeper. Due to the tight coordination between gaze control and motor control, shots also tend to centralise, making them easier to save. The research is now published in the December 2009 edition of the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology.

The researchers attribute this change in eye movements and focus to anxiety. Author Greg Wood of the University of Exeter's School of Sport and Health Sciences said: "During a highly stressful situation, we are more likely to be distracted by any threatening stimuli and focus on them, rather than the task in hand. Therefore, in a stressful penalty shootout, a footballer's attention is likely to be directed towards the goalkeeper as opposed to the optimal scoring zones (just inside the post). This disrupts the aiming of the shot and increases the likelihood of subsequently hitting the shot towards the goalkeeper, making it easier to save."

For their study, the researchers focused on 14 members of the University of Exeter football (soccer) team. They asked the players to perform two series of penalty shots. First, they were simply asked to do their best to score. The researchers made the second series more stressful and more akin to a penalty shoot-out. The players were told that the results would be recorded and shared with the other players and there would be a 50 prize for the best penalty taker.

The players wore special glasses which enabled the researchers to record precise eye movements and analyse the focus of each footballer's gaze and the amount of time spent looking at different locations in the goal.

The results showed that when anxious, the footballers looked at the goalkeeper significantly earlier and for longer. This change in eye behaviour made players more likely to shoot towards the centre of the goal, making it easier for the keeper to save. The researchers believe that by being made aware of the impact of anxiety on eye movements, and the affect this has on the accuracy of a player's shot, coaches could address this through training.

Greg Wood continues: "Research shows that the optimum strategy for penalty takers to use is to pick a spot and shoot to it, ignoring the goalkeeper in the process. Training this strategy is likely to build on the tight coordination between eye movements and subsequent actions, making for more accurate shooting. The idea that you cannot recreate the anxiety a penalty taker feels during a shootout is no excuse for not practicing. Do you think other elite performers don't practice basic aiming shots in darts, snooker or golf for the same reasons? These skills need to be ingrained so they are robust under pressure."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Anxiety, Attentional Control, and Performance Impairment in Penalty Kicks. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, December 2009

Cite This Page:

University of Exeter. "Why England's soccer team keeps losing on penalty shots." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091211093637.htm>.
University of Exeter. (2010, January 6). Why England's soccer team keeps losing on penalty shots. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091211093637.htm
University of Exeter. "Why England's soccer team keeps losing on penalty shots." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091211093637.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Oxfam Calls for Massive Aid for Ebola-Hit West Africa

Oxfam Calls for Massive Aid for Ebola-Hit West Africa

AFP (Jan. 29, 2015) Oxfam International has called for a multi-million dollar post-Ebola "Marshall Plan", with financial support given by wealthy countries, to help Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to recover. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are We Winning The Fight Against Ebola?

Are We Winning The Fight Against Ebola?

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) The World Health Organization announced the fight against Ebola has entered its second phase as the number of cases per week has steadily dropped. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Calif. Health Officials Campaign Against E-Cigarettes

Calif. Health Officials Campaign Against E-Cigarettes

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) The California Health Department says e-cigarettes are a public health risk for both smokers and those who inhale e-cig smoke secondhand. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Measles Scare Sends 66 Calif. Students Home

Measles Scare Sends 66 Calif. Students Home

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) Officials say 66 students at a Southern California high school have been told to stay home through the end of next week because they may have been exposed to measles and are not vaccinated. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins