N. Vickers is a professor in the faculty of Kinesiology-
the science of human movement - at the University of
Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
holds a Masters of Science from the University of Calgary
and a Doctorate in Educational Psychology from the University
of British Columbia.
research focuses on how cognition influences and guides
decision-making in motor behavior. Vickers' discovery
of "quiet eye" (QE), a period of time when the gaze
is stable on spatial information critical to effective
motor performance has been a key discovery. Insight
into the information that performers use to guide and
control their motor behavior is used to assist a wide
range of participants - from novice to elite athletes
to special populations, such as those diagnosed with
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
has been published in a number of leading peer-reviewed
journals and has written several books, including the
upcoming "Decision Training In Sport."
links to this scientist's home page and other related information
please see our resources
Hi, Joan. LOVE the show. My question is why the same eye
dynamic in putting doesn't apply to tennis. In the putting,
Alan Alda was told to keep his eye on the ball at the
moment of impact and keep it there after the impact. But
in the return of serve, you said the best thing is to
take your eye off the ball at the last second. Why?
Thanks Michael. You are right in noticing that QE
is different in the basketball free throw (on a precise
location on the hoop) than in hitting a tennis ball.
The basic idea behind quiet eye (QE) is that your brain
needs a window of time to receive the right information
in order to organize the movement and then control it
while it is occurring. Focus and concentration through
QE needs to be directed to the locations or objects
that matter, while all else can be ignored.
location of QE in tennis is very early in ball flight.
You should track the ball closely as it comes off your
opponent's racquet and during the first part of its
flight. It is true that as the ball is hit the gaze
is located in front of the ball and not on it at contact.
This is due to limitations in our ability to track fast
objects. But more importantly, the flight of the ball
has to be assessed early so the hitting action can be
set up and organized correctly. The same sort of QE
control is used in hitting baseball, in playing table
tennis and similar skills.
Jim in Wisconsin asks:
Can the Quiet Eye technique be taught to 10-12 year old
basketball players? How would you begin this process?
Hi Jim, most definitely youngsters should use the
QE technique. And the earlier QE is taught the better.
First, ask the young player what location on the hoop
he or she is looking at while shooting? Do not be surprised
if they say they do not know. Have them try a few more
shots and ask them to think about where they focus BEFORE
they shoot. They may answer front rim (on the shiny
part), the back of the rim (the shiny part), or the
middle of the rim (the hole). All of these locations
are fine. The important thing is to select only one
location and keep the gaze focused there for 1-2 seconds
BEFORE the upward movement of the hands into the shot.
Let them try this a few times, then add the following
is important to be slow while preparing the shot so
the hoop can be clearly focused, but the shooting action
itself should be fluid and quick. Also tell them that
maintaining QE on the hoop as they shoot is not needed.
Indeed, if the shot is performed correctly the ball
will occlude the hoop and so cannot be fixated while
last point is important as otherwise we see athletes
move the ball to the side so they can peek around it,
or try to shoot off the top of their heads so they can
see under it. Very good shooters shoot up through the
midline of the body and do not move the ball off this
Hi, Our school basketball team isn't very good. I was
amazed on how the "Quiet Eye" increased shot percentage.
I will try to encourage that in our practices, but I would
appreciate any specific information or key points that
might aide us more. We finished last place in our district,
but I don't believe it is because we are bad. We usually
have "streaks" during the game where we can get ahead,
and everything seems to click...but then it stops and
we get slaughtered. Our hit percentages are terrible at
times, and great at other times. I was hoping you might
spare us a few minutes to help us out. Thank you for your
Hi David, you have asked the perennial question
of all coaches. How can I get my players to be more
consistent? Often when I see teams with the hot/cold
performances you speak of, I find that they may be coached
using too many behavioral methods. This was the dominant
school of thought for all sports coaching until recently,
and most coaches are unaware of the shift in what sport
science defines as optimal coaching methods today.
training features blocked practice drills where the
following characteristics exist: the same skills are
practiced to perfection; high levels of feedback are
given constantly; instruction is delivered using simple
to complex progression; and where there is limited simulation
of what really happens in games. When behavioral methods
are used extensively, performance is often impressive
in the short term (so both the athletes and coaches
think they are doing the best thing), but athletes trained
too much in this way are unable to maintain or improve
their performance in the long term. They lack the ability
to perform consistently. Skills and tactics mastered
early in training and performed well are not maintained
as the season progresses. There is also a limited ability
to perform in new and unusual settings.
is being advocated today is the use of random and/or
variable practice drills, delayed and/or reduced feedback
as skill develops, the use of whole instruction, questioning,
video feedback and video modeling. Collectively, these
new methods completely change the practice environment
where the athlete learns to deal with the realities
of the game and where they become more self-sufficient.
If you would like an easy to read booklet describing
these methods I have summarized them in: Decision Training:
A New Approach to Coaching. Go to the University of
Calgary Bookstore at http://calgarybooks.collegestoreonline.com/.
Search on Author: Vickers. They will mail you a copy.
Is this Quiet Eye technique applicable only to sports
where hand-eye co-ordination is important? Or could it
also be useful in other sports, such as cross-country
ski racing, in which I'm active?
Hi Tom, Yes, since QE is the location and duration
of critical information in motor skills, then we work
on the assumption that this it is present in all skills.
We have just finished a pilot study in cross-country
skiing. The objective of the study was to find out how
far ahead a skier should look while negotiating a turn
at high speeds. QE in this case was defined as the location
and duration of the gaze prior to initiating the turn.
We have also carried out similar work in speed-skating.
Basically, what appears to be the case is that exceptionally
fast athletes project QE forward much further than we
imagined and this projection is linked to their speed.
The faster they go the further ahead they need to locate
James in Las Vegas, NV asks:
My 17 year-old daughter plays soccer and plans to play
in college. Her shots on goal can be technically off and
inconsistent, I believe due to rushing to get the ball
off. In this game where a player may not have a second
to focus on a certain point (or do they?) and has a moving
goal keeper to try to out guess (stress factor), can the
quiet eye be used? Have you done research with this type
of sport? Thank You.
We have done some work in ice hockey shooting on
goal that may help. We have identified two types of
shooters - heads-up and heads-down. The heads-up shooter
maintains the gaze on the target as the shot is taken.
The heads-down shooter locates the target before the
shot and then keeps the head-down and fixates the puck
while shooting. The heads-down shooter actually sees
the target both earlier and longer than does the heads-up
shooter and overall this may be a better strategy. Goaltenders
tell us the heads-down shooter is the more difficult
to defend against as they do not telegraph where they
are shooting via the gaze. Given the nature of he soccer
kick, I would recommend you watch your daughter play
to see how she controls her gaze while shooting. A heads-down
approach is best. Encourage her to "see" the target
early but then keep QE on the ball until it has left
her foot. She should see the grass before looking up.
Joan-- I'm a personal coach and am fascinated by the
implications of "quiet eye." Two questions: There seems
to be a difference between the QE for basketball and
golf. In the first, the gaze needs to rest on the goal
(the hoop) and in the second, on the ball (although
there is a glance to the cup). In general, where should
athletes focus? On the instrument or on the goal?
question has implications for personal coaching as well.
Would you be so unscientific as to speculate on the
extension of the metaphors in QE to life in general?
Here's what I notice in coaching people to achieve change
in their lives: the default is to focus on the technique,
and get bogged down in "should I do this, should I do
that." When they focus relentlessly on the goal and
not on technique or planning, they feel more relaxed,
flexible, and often do great things in service to that
goal. The question is, what do you concentrate on? I'd
appreciate your ideas!
Jon, you are correct in noting that the location
of QE in the free throw differs from that in golf. One
reason for this is that the free throw is a far targeting
skill that requires the hands be controlled precisely
relative to one target, the hoop. The athlete fixates
the gaze (QE) on one location on the hoop for 1-2 seconds
before the upward shooting action of the hands and ball
In contrast, golf putting has two targets (a near and
a far) that requires precise focus and concentration,
the ball and the hole (or the breakpoint in sloping
putts). The ball must be struck precisely by the club
face in order for the ball to be hit accurately to the
hole (or breakpoint). Of the two targets in golf, our
research shows that the near target may be the most
important, however, I have not entirely resolved in
my mind. We find that highly skilled golfers locate
the gaze on the back of the ball where the club makes
contact. This agrees with Dave Pelz's work on the impact
point of the club face on the ball. Professional golfers
hit the ball very precisely while lower skilled golfers
have impact points spread all over the club face. QE
is one key to keeping the club stable at impact.
both the near and far target may be equally important
in the golf putt. This is suggested by some new research
I am conducting with Debbie Crews at the University
of Arizona. We compared highly skilled professional
golfers with novices when playing breaking putts. Our
study showed that most novice golfers seem to be unaware
of the breakpoint, while professional golfers may identify
a breakpoint but are 50/50 in getting the location correct.
Note: The breakpoint is the precise location where the
putt begins to roll toward the hole.
for your second question, I enjoy trying to solve very
difficult scientific problems. From the beginning of
my research career, I always wondered how skilled people
saw the world and why this made a difference. I simply
go where I perceive there may be answers to this question,
so you are right, my overall goal has always been quite
constant. When I first came into the eye movements research
field, the subjects were not allowed to move. They viewed
artificial stimuli and were restricted with a bite bar
or chin rest and so no motor behavior was present. My
first goal was to free the subject so that I could observe
what they saw when performing. The Vision-In-Action
system for collecting and analyzing the gaze of moving
subjects came from this. I have been doing this work
for 24 years. I cannot tell you how many times things
have not worked out, but this does not bother me that
much. It is normal course for this kind of work. Three
steps back and one forward is normal. As you say, if
the overall goal is clear, the reversals do not impact
one that much.
Sheilah C. Barnett asks:
My son, Jared, is 16 and has ADHD. He is much better now
that he is older and maturing. How can the "Quiet Eye"
technique help him at baseball when he is batting or playing
defense. He also plays football. Can the "Quiet Eye" technique
help him? I would like to share this information with
his team and other teams here in the county where I am
a middle school teacher. Thanks for your assistance and
for developing this wonderful technique!
We have just finished a study with ADHD boys in
table tennis, which has some of the perceptual characteristics
of baseball batting, as well as in fielding skills.
In table tennis, the player has to track the ball early
in flight in order to determine where it will be when
it is hit by the racquet. Similarly in baseball batting,
it is important to tell your son to really focus on
the ball as it leaves the pitchers hand and during the
first half of it's flight to the plate. Beyond this,
it is too late to adjust the swing or make any corrections.
In fielding grounders, similarly he needs to see the
ball leave the hitters bat and during the first part
of the flight toward him. Seeing the ball later is very
difficult in both skills due to it's speed, but also
seeing it late does not give him enough time to organize
the skill correctly in his brain. In table tennis, we
found that the ADHD boys had trouble tracking the ball
for as long as age-matched controls. For this reason,
they tried to see it later rather than earlier. I would
suggest your son concentrate on the first part of the
ball flight in both situations. He needs to see then,
not later. If you would like more information on our
work in ADHD, I can send you the research paper.
I coach girl's fast pitch softball (pitching speed:
40-45 miles/hr.) for 10-11 years old, and I get very
frustrated trying to teach the girls to "watch the ball"
when it is pitched to them. They think they are watching
it, but most often they are looking at the pitcher up
until the moment the ball is right in front of them.
I think your "quiet eye", technique is fascinating,
and I intend to try it with my pitchers, but I was wondering
if I could use it with my hitters? Do you have any tips
or suggestions? Thanks.
Hi Jocelyn, One exercise we use to help volleyball
players see the ball while it is coming toward them
on the serve is to put numbers on the ball and ask the
player to call out the number before the ball is received.
This drill is not new - it was actually performed by
Ted Williams long ago. The drill causes the athletes
to really see the ball and also tells the coach if they
did see it. Our volleyball players got so good at this
that we had to put two numbers/letters on the ball.
We also moved the serve closer and had it come from
behind a screen. Their % receptions went up from 62%
to 72%, which in volleyball is very good.
Sally Leiner asks:
I play golf and tennis and I have what I call bouncy
eyes. As I'm trying to make contact with the ball my
eyes are bouncing and I don't know where they are looking.
They have a mind of their own. What can I do to get
"quiet eyes?" I would appreciate some information. Thank
"Bouncy eyes" are caused by the athlete not knowing
where to look during a skill, so they try to see everything.
In golf, first concentrate on where you want to hit
the ball. Fixate that pointon the green or fairway for
a 1-2 seconds. Then settle over the ball and keep you
QE on the back of the ball at the point where the club
makes contact with the ball. Be sure to "see" the green
after the club has hit the ball for 1/2 second.
tennis, the first part of ball flight is most critical.
Be sure to see the ball as it leaves the opponent's
racquet, as well as during first half of it's flight
toward you. Note that in golf two gaze are needed and
in tennis only one. This is what is meant by a quiet
eye. You do not need to see everything - just the right
thing at the right time.