‘Goalkeepers Are Just ‘Different’ From The Rest Of Us’ – Study Backs Up The Claim
In order to be able to work well in the box, you have to be able to think outside the box. That’s what Brad Friedel, a former Premier League goalkeeper, once said.
Goalkeeping is the most specialised position in the sport, with the primary objective of stopping the opposition team from scoring a point.
While previous studies have highlighted differences in profiles between goalies and other players, far less used to be known about whether they have different perceptual abilities.
Goalkeeping “Is Very Much A Multisensory Pursuit”
Now scientific data supports the idea that goalkeepers really do perceive the world differently – their brains appear able to merge signals from the different senses more quickly.
Dr David McGovern, a psychologist at Dublin City University, said: “Being a goalkeeper is very much a multisensory pursuit. It doesn’t just require visual information, but auditory information.”
“While many … will be familiar with the idea that goalkeepers are just ‘different’ from the rest of us, this study may actually be the first time that we have … evidence to back up this claim.”
What’s A Temporal Binding Window?
“Goalkeepers … make thousands of very fast decisions based on limited or incomplete sensory information,” said Michael Quinn, a former goalie – now studying at University College Dublin.
Quinn and researchers at Dublin City University and University College Dublin recruited 60 professional goalkeepers, outfield players and age-matched non-players to do a series of tests.
The study, published in Current Biology, found goalies had a relatively narrow temporal binding window – the timeframe in which different sensory signals are fused together in the brain.
Team Seeking Funding To Study Female Players Too
Nonetheless, it’s not yet clear whether such differences stem from a natural ability that attracts young players to be goalkeepers or the rigorous training regimens.
McGovern believes “further research that tracks the developmental trajectory of aspiring goalkeepers will be required to tease between these possibilities.”
While the current study involved just male players, the team is seeking funding to study female players and the ones in other highly specialised positions, such as strikers.