By Justin D’Ancona
The basic fundamental principal found in all sports is keeping your eye on the ball. We’ve all heard it. Heck, there’s a good chance that idea was drilled in our heads long before we could even read or write.
Well, it turns out, those responsible for torturing us with that phrase the majority of our childhood might have been on to something after all.
A study done in England, suggests that keeping your eye on the ball is more important than looking at your intended target. The researchers used a group of 40 golfers to conduct their experiment.
What they did was split the group up evenly; having one half focus on swing technique during putting while the other group glanced at the hole briefly then fixated their eyes upon the ball at their feet before putting. They found those who gazed at the ball were more successful and accurate with their putts than those who did not.
This method of training is called the “Quiet Eye” technique which is designed to eliminate the unneeded distractions that come with focusing on multiple objects. When you look at the ball, then the target, then back to the ball, the brain is desperately trying to process all that information and it can yield unwanted results. By glancing at the target first, then focusing on the ball, you narrow the mental chatter and can get a more accurate shot.
A study was also done in the journal of Cognitive Processing that looked at penalty kicks in soccer. Players were instructed to look briefly at one of the upper corners of the net -- ignoring the goaltender -- and then fix their sight back on the ball before kicking at the net. The players who followed these instructions were able to reduce the amount of times the goalie saved their attempts by 50 percent.
Obviously, simply following these steps won’t compensate for terrible form, but inexperienced putters who followed these steps improved much more rapidly than those who merely practiced putting technique repeatedly.