Perceptual skill in soccer: implications for talent identification and development

J Sports Sci. 2000 Sep;18(9):737-50. doi: 10.1080/02640410050120113.


In this review, key components of perceptual skill in soccer are identified and implications for talent identification and development highlighted. Skilled soccer players can recall and recognize patterns of play more effectively than their less skilled counterparts. This ability to encode, retrieve and recognize sport-specific information is due to complex and discriminating long-term memory structures and is crucial to anticipation in soccer. Similarly, experts use their knowledge of situational probabilities (i.e. expectations) to anticipate future events. They have a better than average idea of what is likely to happen given a particular set of circumstances. Also, proficiency-related differences in visual search strategy are observed. Skilled players use their superior knowledge to control the eye movement patterns necessary for seeking and picking up important sources of information. The nature of the task plays an important role in constraining the type of search used. Skilled soccer players use different search strategies when viewing the whole field (i.e. 11 vs 11 situations) compared with micro-states of the game (i.e. 1 vs 1, 3 vs 3 situations). Visual search behaviour also differs between defensive and offensive plays. These observations have implications for the development of perceptual training programmes and the identification of potential elite soccer players.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Physical Education and Training
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Soccer / education
  • Soccer / physiology*
  • Soccer / psychology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*