Hacking Tracking with Rainbow Pucks
This article in our Goaltending Science series is from Brandon Thibeau, inspired by his work as the founder of the IQ Goalie e-digest newsletter series. Instagram: @IQ_Goalie
Thibeau is a former Canadian Hockey League and Canadian University goaltender. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s of Science degree in Physiotherapy. He is currently coaching U18 in Nova Scotia and is a Scout in the QMJHL.
Review: What is The Quiet Eye?
The brain is very similar to a computer. Like a computer, the brain must be taught how to perform any skill using cues and inputs. These cues and inputs are then used to calculate the proper response to achieve a certain goal. In this case, the goal is to intercept a flying puck.
As we learned in the previous article The Modern Understanding of Tracking, a vital way of getting visual information into the brain is by reading the stick blade and initial puck flight. This is facilitated by a technique called the Quiet Eye.
Using the Quiet Eye means fixating the gaze on one point and holding the gaze within 3 degrees of visual angle for a period of over 100 milliseconds before and after the release (Vickers, 2016).
Much like learning to read or write, there is a foundation to complex tasks. When learning to read, we first need to learn the letters of the alphabet. We need to understand the sounds that each letter can make. This is a lot like learning to use the Quiet Eye. The most complex words and poems are built on the foundation of the alphabet. The most complex saves are built on the foundation of executing the Quiet Eye before the puck is released.
You may be thinking: “Obviously the goalie is always fixating the eyes on the puck as the shot is released, right?” Oddly, the answer is no. It has been proven using eye tracking technology that experts are more fixated and stable in terms of their gaze just before the release whereas amateurs are less skilled at this. Amateurs’ eyes are less fixated and more scattered.
This strategy is proven to differentiate professionals from amateurs in many sports such as hockey, baseball, tennis, volleyball etc. (Vickers, 2007)
All about Anticipation
Having a stable gaze (Quiet Eye) allows the brain to use pre-release clues to calculate the puck’s flight path. Think of it this way: a calculator cannot give the right answer to a question without numbers being input. In the same way, the brain and eyes cannot predict puck trajectory without a stable visual gaze that absorbs crucial information from the shooter’s blade and from initial puck flight. So, how is this stable gaze trained and how will the coach know if the goalie is performing this skill well?
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