The Effects of Task Constraints on Visual Search Behavior and Decision-Making Skill in Youth Soccer Players

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Roel Vaeyens Ghent University

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Matthieu Lenoir Ghent University

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A. Mark Williams Liverpool John Moores University

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Liesbeth Mazyn Ghent University

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Renaat M. Philippaerts Ghent University

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We examined differences in visual search behaviors and decision-making skill across different microstates of offensive play in soccer using youth participants (13.0-15.8 years) varying in skill and experience. We used realistic film simulations of offensive play, movement-based response measures, and an eye movement registration technique. Playing experience, skill level, and the unique constraints of the task, expressed by the number of players and relative proportion of offensive and defensive players, determined both the observed search behavior and processing requirements imposed on players in dynamic offensive team simulations. Significant differences in performance were observed between players and nonplayers and across three groups of soccer players who differed in skill level. Implications for talent identification and development are considered.

Vaeyens, Lenoir, Mazyn, and Philippaerts are with the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Gent, Belgium, and A. Mark Williams is with the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, England.

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