Monday, October 12, 2009

Red Card For Faking Footballers (Soccer Players)

The game is up for football’s (soccer's) divers: A new study by Dr Paul Morris from the University of Portsmouth could help referees know when a top player has genuinely been fouled or taken a dive.

Dr Morris, an expert on the embodiment of emotions and intentions in the Department of Psychology, says refs could be helped to spot the tell tale signs of cheating, sometimes even in the split seconds in which they occur.

“Referees have a very difficult job and given the demands of the task they do it remarkably well. We think even experienced professionals could enhance their decision-making by studying the categories of deceptive behaviour we have identified,” said Dr Morris.

Published in the Springer Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, and conducted in three separate studies, the research could also help by improving decisions based on video evidence.

Dr Morris’s research shows that there are distinct actions which footballers use – either individually or in any combination - when faking a fall. These include:

* clutching their body where they haven’t been hit
* taking an extra roll when they hit the ground
* after being tackled taking fully controlled strides before falling
* holding up both arms in the air, with open palms, chest thrust out, legs bent at the knee in an “archer’s bow” position

“In most dishonest tackles the behaviour itself does not indicate dishonesty – the deception is revealed in the timing and co-ordination of the behaviours,” said Dr Morris.

“But one action is unique to a faked fall – the archer’s bow. This occurs in many dives but biomechanically it does not occur in a natural fall. Instead instinctively the arms either go down in an attempt to cushion the fall or out to the side for balance.

“Although this behaviour is absurd, the fraudulent footballer does it to try to deceive the referee into believing that the tackle was illegal, and the histrionics are necessary to get the referee’s attention in the first place.

“This behaviour has no national boundaries; everyone does it, it even occurred unprompted during our research trials.”

Dr Morris said that a player who positions his body into this peculiar shape to show that he has been fouled as a result of a tackle looks quite bizarre.

“Moving the body like this is completely controlled behaviour so it clearly doesn’t show a genuine fall.

“The moment both arms go above the shoulder is a clear indication of deception,” he said.

Previous research has focused on whether incidental factors such as the colour of clothing, crowd expectation, or a team’s or player’s reputation subconsciously affects a referee’s decision about cheating players.

This is the first research, co-authored with David Lewis, also from the University of Portsmouth, to examine individuals’ behaviour to determine their intentions in football. The researchers found that a footballer’s deceptive intentions are easy to identify.

During his research Dr Morris showed four-second clips of tackles from televised live games to over 300 people. The participants were only allowed to see the clip twice in real-time before they were asked to spot the fakers. The results showed that there was a high level of agreement by participants in their classification of the players who intended to deceive and those who did not. However, there was also strong agreement about tackles where the intentions were ambiguous.

“The result shows how, that regardless of all factors such as team allegiance and players’ reputations, behaviour during a fall is a clear indication of the intention to deceive,” said Dr Morris.

Although participants were in agreement about which falls were faked, Dr Morris then needed to test that their judgements were correct.

He employed over 30 experienced amateur footballers to stage a scenario taken from a Football Association coaching manual.

Attackers were instructed to dribble the ball past approaching defenders and then deceptively exaggerate the effects of a tackle to varying degrees. Nearly 50 observers were asked to judge if the attackers were faking and the level of exaggeration, if any.

The relationship between the intentions of the tackled player and the observer’s judgement of the player’s intentions was consistent.

The third study involved a frame by frame analysis of dishonest and legitimate tackles in order to produce a comprehensive list of deceptive behaviours.

The research is part of on-going work in the University’s departments of Psychology and Sport and Exercise Science on the perceptions of intentions in sport. Studies currently being conducted seek to produce a precise mathematical description of the difference between intentional and unintentional behaviour.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sports Failure Makes Success Seem More Difficult

"People trying to kick field goals will see a much smaller goal after unsuccessful attempts," said Jessica K. Witt, an assistant professor of psychological sciences who studies perception in athletes. "But those who kicked better judged the goal posts to be farther apart and the crossbar lower to the ground."

Golfers, baseball players and other athletes often report their targets look bigger on days they play well and smaller on bad days. This study affirms that performance influences perception.

Interestingly, perception relates to specific areas of success and failure. Study participants who missed because they kicked the ball too wide judged the goal to be narrower, and those who missed because they kicked the ball too short judged the goal to be taller, Witt said.

The study is available online in the journal Perception at . The findings are based on the kicking performance of 23 non-football athletes who kicked from the center of the field at the 10-yard line.

"When you watch football, kicking that extra point after a touchdown looks so easy, and that kick is almost never missed," Witt said. "And when it is missed, then fans are in an uproar. But it's actually really hard to hit that target. Because of this disconnect, we thought this sport would give us the biggest effect to show how performance influences perception."

In a previous study, Witt asked golfers after a round of golf to report their scores and estimate the size of a golf hole. She found that those who played better saw the hole as bigger. In this football study, she asked the kickers to estimate the size of the goal posts before and after kicking. There was no correlation between performance and how the goals posts were viewed before kicking. However, perceived size of the goal posts after kicking was positively correlated with kicking performance.

This is an example of how action, in this case kicking a football, can bias perception, she said. However, some perception researchers are still resistant to such a claim.

"Most people think of perception as just being about information received by the eye," Witt said. "If that were the case, then perceived size should not have changed because the optical information specifying the size of the goals posts is constant. This research shows that perception is about more than just the optical system."

Witt next wants to examine if watching others perform can affect perception. If seeing others perform poorly makes the kicker see the goal as smaller, this also may affect the kicker's subsequent performance. In that case, during timeouts called to try to ice the kicker, home teams might benefit from showing replays of failed kicks.

"There are still a number of questions to answer about this work, including what role perception plays for professional athletes who practice the sport more than the average person," she said. "We would also like to know if there are ways, such as visualizing the target to be bigger, that can benefit athletes in their sport."

The study was co-authored by doctoral student Travis Dorsch, a kicker on the Purdue football team from 1998-2001. He was named an All- American kicker in 2001 and set Big Ten Conference career records for points scored and field goals. He also was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2002 draft.

"Anecdotally, the study's participants were surprised at how difficult it was to make an extra point," said Dorsch, who is working on his doctoral degree in the Department of Health and Kinesiology. "Kickers, perhaps more than players of any other position, are self-evaluating and constantly thinking about what they themselves are doing and what's going on around them. Therefore, kickers, and kicking coaches, will be interested in learning about the cognitive aspects that can play into success on the field."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Women's soccer -- get fit while having fun

The study

Over a period of two years, 30 scientist lead by Associate Professor Peter Krustrup, University of Copenhagen, have investigated physiological, sociological and psychological aspects of women's soccer in comparison to running. 100 untrained adult premenopausal women have participated in the study.

The women (65 participated in the physiological study) were randomly divided into three groups: One soccer group, one running group and one control group. The soccer players and runners trained twice a week for one hour. After four and sixteen weeks, all the subjects went through extensive physiological tests. The same 65 subjects + another 35 women playing in soccer clubs were continually observed and interviewed to study the sociological and psychological effects of their training.

Soccer players stick to their game

Many women find it difficult to fit in sport and exercise in their busy daily lives, and many state family and especially small children as the main reason for not finding the time.

The study reveals that contrary to common assumption, the flexibility of running as exercise form actually makes running harder to stick to for most women than soccer, which requires a fixed time and place.

"What is really interesting is that the soccer players differed from the runners in their motivation. The runners were motivated by the idea of getting in shape and improving health. But the soccer players focused on the game itself and were motivated by the social interaction and by having fun with others. As it turns out, the soccer players got in better shape than the runners, and that combined with the social benefits makes soccer a great alternative to running", says Associate Professor Laila Ottesen and continues:

"The women who played soccer have continued their soccer training as a group whereas few of the women in the running group continued running after the study. Actually, some of the women from the running group joined teams with the soccer group after the project finished."

Why soccer players are more fit

When choosing a sport, women tend to favour cardiovascular training to strength training although the build-up of muscles and bone strength are vital to preserve health into old age.

"While playing soccer, the women have high heart rates and perform many sprints, turns, kicks and tackles, making soccer an effective integration of both cardio and strength training", says project leader Peter Krustrup.

"Our study shows that the 16 weeks of recreational women's soccer causes marked improvement in maximal oxygen uptake, muscle mass and physical performance, including the endurance, intermittent exercise and sprinting ability, explains Peter Krustrup, and continues

"This makes soccer a very favourable choice of exercise training for women.

In the recent decade, we have seen a significant rise in women and girls playing soccer. It seems as though women are really beginning to take in soccer and make it a popular sport for women on their own terms. This is a very positive step forward, not only because of the improved physical fitness and health profile but also for the enjoyment of sports", Krustrup concludes.

Publication plans

The present results will be submitted online in the high-level international journal "Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports" next week (Bangsbo, Nielsen, Mohr, Randers, Krustrup, Brito, Nybo and Krustrup. Performance enhancements and muscular adaptations of a 16-week recreational football intervention for untrained women. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 2009).

In January 2010, the same journal will publish a supplementum describing multiple health effects of recreational football for various subject groups, including men, women, young and elderly. The supplementum includes one review and 13 original scientific papers.

The data will also be presented at the Scandinavian Congress of Medicine and Science in Sports 2010, Copenhagen, Denmark, 4-6 February 2010, and at the 3rd International Football Medicine Conference in Sun City, South Africa, 19-21 February 2010.

The project group currently includes collaborators from Switzerland, Norway and Italy, and major applications are currently being processed to include collaborators from England, Portugal, Belgium, Australia and Kenya.