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Jack Gunston on Goal Kicking

Photo: Joe Armao

Jack Gunston was on Triple M’s Hot Breakfast this week.  Was a great interview by Luke, Eddie and Mick as always but while I was intrigued I was not surprised by the comments from Jack when Luke Darcy commented on the lack of goal set shot skill in the AFL with the exception of his ability.  Now maybe Jack was being humble or secretive but if he was answering truthfully to the question in how he does it with “I wish I could say” this answer is not uncommon in outstanding performers.

Jack was clear in his articulation of his pre-shot routine and outlined the elements that are fundamental to his set shot goal kick.  But these skills are not unique to AFL and almost every sport out there has a point where an action plan or routine must be developed to optimise performance.  There are the direct observable components much like what Jack outlined – ensuring the number of steps is worked out, holding the ball right, the run up etc.  However, that is only part of the performance equation. There is an unobservable component to success – the visual – attention – motor network that is vital to his kicking success.

Visual – motor skill acquisition is something our brains are hard-wired to do and do it pretty well.  Think about babies learning to crawl only to learn to stand and then to walk.  We commence visual – motor skill acquisition from an early age.  In the sporting world this learning is critical for success. It is being painfully proclaimed around the globe that you need at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become proficient in a skill.  Well for some skills yes, I would agree, but when it comes to visual – motor skills this time demand may not be as accurate as you might think.

It takes a long time to learn a skill often because there has been little opportunity to see what the athlete is doing from their own perspective.  In Jack’s case, I would predict he has perfected his visual – attention system combined with his pre – shot routine such that there is a clear neuro-visual imprint of the target before he gets set; his routine focuses his attention, calms the nerves, blocks out distractions and away he goes.  It is that neuro-visual imprint of the target that is what locks into play his motor guidance system to kick the ball at goal.  

Many top athletes develop this ability over time, often a long time of trial and error but it doesn’t have to be that way.  By using state of the art eye tracking technology, athletes can capture exactly what they and their most proficient counterparts are doing from a visual – motor perspective.  They can then compare their own actions and adjust to improve dramatically.  As soon as they start practicing the ‘right’ actions lead by the ‘right’ neuro-visual markers the imprint forms very quickly.  It is quick because when their is successful outcomes the brain encodes the success and remembers it for next time.  

As a general rule of thumb it usally takes a 5 positive outcomes to over ride 1 negative outcome.  Wouldn’t you want to ensure you are having the most positive outcomes consistently?  Check out Eye Pro+ or give Inner Truth Sport a call and we will make it happen for you.  

The Interview Segment with Jack Gunston.