In past football competitions it has been recorded that 25% and 33% of goals scored in the 2004 UEFA European Championships and 2006 FIFA World Cup come from the penalty spot (Yiannakos & Armatas, 2006; Armatas et al. 2007). The only player who can directly prevent the ball from hitting the back of the net is the goalkeeper. To put this task into perspective, it has been shown that elite goalkeepers can often take from 600 – 1000ms to dive from the centre of the goal to the corner of the goal (Dicks et al. 2010). With the football movement time for the penalty kick being reported to be as short as 400ms (Morya et al. 2005). Therefore the goalkeeper must initiate the dive before the penalty taker makes contact with the football to increase their chances of saving the shot (Dicks et al. 2011). Consequently goalkeepers must look to pay attention to pre-cues to anticipate the direction and height of the kick, therefore the difference in gaze behaviour may be the defining difference between succeeding to save a penalty and failing (McMorris 2004; Kim & Lee 2006). Attention can be defined as the readiness to respond to stimuli (Moran 2009). Often the direction of attention has been measured through gaze behaviour which can be defined as the gaze held stable on a location in the environment or a shift in gaze from one location to another (Vickers & Adolphe 1997).
How to measure gaze behaviour
Studies have looked at gaze behaviour in goalkeepers through eye tracking equipment to identify pre-cues (Dicks et al. 2010). This functions through the goalkeeper wearing a pair of glasses which tracks gaze behaviour to an accuracy of 1 º degree of the point at which they are focussing their gaze. However, a major limitation of the mobile tracking eye is that it is invasive to the goalkeeper and therefore cannot be worn in a game scenario where the information would be of higher use to a coach. It has been suggested to change the focus of attention, an athlete needs to apply certain perceptual strategies, the use of pre-cues allow athletes to focus on relevant information and overlook irrelevant information this is known as selective attention (McMorris 2004). The studies that have used eye-tracking equipment have reported contradicting findings regarding gaze behaviour, from the hip movement, kicking leg and trunk just before and during contact being important factors in saving penalties (Williams & Burwitz 1993). As well as information gathered from the non-kicking leg to determine the destination of the ball (Savelsbergh et al. 2005). However, the final conclusion throughout these studies are similar, suggesting that it is possible that the successful performances were underpinned by a pattern of gaze to more relevant information in comparison with the less successful goalkeepers (Savelsbergh et al. 2005).
Past literature involving The Attentional and Interpersonal Styles inventory (TAIS) questionnaire such as Nideffer et al. (2001) indicates that the ability to focus concentration distinguishes world champions from athletes. Two subclass have been identified as being relevant to goalkeepers. The first narrow focused attention, (relates to the ability to stay task orientated avoiding distractions) and overload by external information (relates to the amount of irrelevant stimuli is observed in the setting) (Nideffer 1990). Therefore these results can be applied to a goalkeeper in a penalty kick situation, as this could indicate that goalkeepers who have higher focus concentration on the pre-cues such as standing leg position, hip movement, kicking leg and trunk position may have an increased chance of saving a penalty kick (Williams & Burwitz 1993; Savelsbergh et al. 2005). However, this being said, the TAIS sub-scales ‘narrow focus attention’ and ‘overload by external information’ scores by themselves can only establish the levels of focused concentration of the goalkeeper and not where this focus is directed, therefore to establish what the goalkeeper is looking at gaze behaviour should be tracked through eye tracking equipment (Dicks et al. 2010).
In conclusion, it should be recommended to enhance the chance of a goalkeeper saving a penalty kick a modified TAIS questionnaire looking to measure ‘narrow focus attention’ and ‘overload by external information’ should be utilised alongside eye tracking equipment. This will provide the coach with potential links between why gaze behaviour may change in certain penalty kick situations for example, high pressure or an environment with high external distractions such as fans. Allowing the coach to then identify if either of these sub-scales are a weakness in the goalkeeper and look to improve these through helping the goalkeeper direct attention to the relevant pre-cues and ignore irrelevant ones through imagery and self-talk Gelinas & Munroe-Chandler (2006), thus increasing the goalkeepers chance of saving a penalty kick.