Visual Behavior in Professional Soccer: Visualization and VR

Geir Jordet studying visual behavior in professional soccer players.

In the high-stakes arena of professional football, visual behavior is paramount. One might wonder, how can this visual behavior best be trained? Enter Geir Jordet, a Norwegian researcher who has delved deep into this question.

Read more: Visual Behavior in Professional Soccer: Visualization and VR

The Evolving Emphasis on Visual Behavior

Up until 2018, attention towards visual behavior in pro footballers has been growing. However, despite past intensive studies, there aren’t many scientific training programs tailored towards this. According to Jordet, perceptual training remains a highly underrated research area. Earlier studies, mostly before 2003, asked participants to watch on-screen football scenarios and answer questions. However, most were conducted with amateur players, leaving a gap in understanding visual training’s impact on professionals.

The Significance of Scanning in Team Sports

Jordet stresses the immense importance of visual scanning in team sports. It can be defined as the bodily and head movement before a player receives the ball. It’s impossible to assume that ball players can process all visual cues without any preliminary head movement.

Visualization as a Training Tool

Visualization is a central aspect of Jordet’s training program. Multiple studies have been conducted on the effects of visualization on sports. Yet, its use as a training tool is limited. This is surprising to Jordet, especially given the hypothesis linking visualization to perception. Some cognitive processes are activated both during actual play and visualization. Jordet’s main research query thus became: Can visualization serve as visual and perceptual training in professional football?

Research Methodology & Findings

Three professional male midfielders were chosen for this study. To measure the effects of visualization, several football actions were tracked, such as the frequency of looking, the number of visual checks before receiving the ball, and various viewing behaviors. Participants were then guided through visualization exercises, simulating real-match situations. While results showed some improvements in visual behavior, the gains were marginal for top-tier players. However, players reported that visualization aided in in-game decision-making. Yet, Jordet concluded that more research is necessary to firmly establish the connection between visualization and visual behavior.

The Rise of Virtual Reality in Training

Though Jordet’s research dates back to 2003, technological advancements have since emerged, especially in visual behavior training. One standout is Virtual Reality (VR). Dutch firm Beyond Sports, in collaboration with Utrecht University, is pioneering this area. Studies show that simulated movement in VR drastically enhances the brain’s spatial updating abilities. This simulates real movement, indicating the VR simulation’s intensity. It would be exciting to see Jordet’s protocols adapted into a VR setting, considering VR’s accessibility compared to pure visualization.

Stay tuned for more on how this research can be practically applied.

Link to the research: Perceptual Training in Soccer: An Imagery Intervention Study with Elite Players

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