New York Red Bulls II players, with the help of technology company Tobii Pro, have been using insight from the latest eye tracking technology to look at the rapid evaluation process through which players read their opponents, gauge distance, determine the position of the ball, and take aim at goal.
New York Red Bulls II, the New York Red Bulls reserve team, play in the United Soccer League, the second tier in the American soccer pyramid.
As part of the experiment, players wore wearable eye trackers that measured their precise eye positions and movements as they ran through a series of drills involving corner kicks, free kicks, penalty kicks, target shooting, and scrimmages. An adidas Smart Ball also extracted data on the strike point, speed, spin, and trajectory when the ball was kicked.
Strong peripheral reaction time was a key skill shared among the players when passing a defender, while all players approached penalty kicks in a similar manner, with a high degree of concentration was centred on the goalkeeper (46%) and the goal area (38%), with far less time looking at the ball itself (16%).
“Over the past decade, new technologies have turned athletic performance and training into a science,” explained Mike Bartels, senior research director at Tobii Pro Insight. “Eye tracking is unique in that it provides accurate, second-by-second eye tracking data during the rigors of an athletic competition. It allows coaches and trainers to see what their players see.”
“Our production team comes from a science and math background, so our goal is to creatively apply research technology,” said Munna Koorathota, producer, Fractal Media. “Soccer is an incredibly dynamic sport, and studying professionals gives us a good way to understand different aspects of visual processing.”
The Tobii Pro Glasses 2 model weighs in at 45 grams and is equipped with a wide-angle HD scene camera, infrared illuminators, four eye cameras taking up to 100 pictures per second, microphone and a pocket size recording unit that saves gaze data on an SD card. The data can then be viewed in real time, replayed or exported for further analysis.
The technology aims to make it possible to reveal methods and techniques that occur instinctively or too quickly to be observed in real-time, and offers opportunity for greater understanding of player development.