Authors: Ozcan Saygin (1), Kemal Goral (2), Halil Ibrahim Ceylan* (3), Mugla Sitki Kocman University, Faculty of Sports Sciences, Turkey.

*Corresponding Author:
Halil Ibrahim Ceylan, Research Assistant
Mugla Sitki Kocman University, Faculty of Sports Sciences
Kotekli/Mugla, 48000
(1) Ozcan Saygin is a Professor in Sports Exercise Science at the Mugla Sitki Kocman University studying physical activity and fitness
(2) Kemal Goral is an assistant professor at the Mugla Sitki Kocman University studying competition analysis, performance measurement, futsal, and soccer.
(3) Halil İbrahim Ceylan is a research assistant and doctoral student at the Mugla Sitki Kocman University studying Health and Coaching Sciences.

An Examination of the Coincidence Anticipation Performance of Soccer Players According to their Playing Positions and Different Stimulus Speeds

The purpose of this study is to examine the coincidence anticipation timing of soccer players, according to different stimulus speeds and playing positions. Forty licensed soccer players (goalkeepers: 10, defense: 10; midfielder: 10, forward: 10) participated voluntarily in this study. Coincidence anticipation timing performances of the subjects at different stimulus speeds (3mph, 5mph, 8mph) were measured with a Bassin anticipation timer. In order to determine whether the coincidence anticipation timing performance values of the soccer players vary according to different stimulus speeds and player positions, the One-Way Anova Test was used. In order to find from which player position and stimulus speed the difference stemmed, the Tukey HSD Test was used. A significant difference was observed in the (3mph) stimulus speed absolute error score according to the player positions of the soccer players (p less than 0.05). The significant difference stems from the goalkeepers having less absolute error scores than defense and midfielder players and their statistically higher performance accuracy in coincidence anticipation timing. Significant differences were found between the absolute error scores at 3mph, 5mph, 8mph stimulus speeds (p less than 0.05), and it was observed that the absolute error score was less at lower stimulus speeds (3mph) when compared with higher stimulus speeds (8mph), and that the coincidence anticipation timing performance accuracy was better. As a conclusion, it is recommended that activities that improve coincidence anticipation timing of the soccer players at different stimulus speeds should be included when training programs are planned.

Keywords: Coincidence Anticipation Timing, Performance, Player Position, Soccer, Stimulus Speed

Soccer differs from other sports branches in terms of physical and physiological properties. Soccer is played in a wider area, the number of the players is more, it has some properties that require struggling, and it is also different in terms of the duties given to the players, and therefore, makes it compulsory to assess player positions depending on the physical and physiological needs (20). Endurance, speed, agility, strength and similar physical and motoric properties in soccer are determiners of the performance as well as the perceptual-cognitive properties (4, 27, 41). In order to ensure high performance of soccer players, it is important that they place their movement in a certain order in advance, and start before their opponents especially in activities that require short-distance speed (12). One of the elements of this high performance concept is the coincidence-anticipation timing, which is the measurement of the accuracy in motor behavior performance, and constitutes an important side of perceptual-cognitive performance and that is important for performance in sports (23, 46).

Researchers, sports-psychologists and sportsmen define coincidence-anticipation timing as the skill of foreseeing and observing the most likely result of one event before it happens, consider in within perceptual-cognitive field, and express that it is among important properties for performance in soccer (37, 43).

In soccer, perceptual-cognitive properties, like anticipation and decision-making, require that fast and accurate decisions are made in an environment that is changing at a fast speed, and the complexity/dynamics of the game also require that players estimate the coming movements of the opponents. This cognitive process is emphasized as an extremely important component for the performance of the players by the literature (11, 27, 41).

Although there are studies in the literature examining and revealing the importance of coincidence anticipation timing in soccer (11, 21), the number of the studies examining the coincidence anticipation timing at different stimulus speeds is very few. This situation increases the importance of the study in terms of literature. The purpose of this study is to examine the coincidence anticipation timing performance of soccer players according to different stimulus speeds and player positions.

Forty licensed soccer players (mean age: 23.60±2.38), who were studying at Mugla Sitki Kocman University, Sports Sciences Faculty, and who dealt with sports actively, and who did not have any diseases or disabilities in terms of health, participated in the study voluntarily (goalkeeper: 10, defense: 10; midfielder: 10, forward: 10). The subjects were informed about the study and then all participants signed an informed consent form before participating in the study. One day before each timeframe, when the data were collected, the participants were asked about avoiding heavy physical exercises as well as keeping away from alcohol and caffeine. Before starting the measurements, a 15-minute warm-up was given to athletes and then a warm-up period was completed with stretching exercises. The anthropometric measurements along with the entire physical and physiological measurements of the athletes were performed in a quiet and serene environment. After the anthropometric measurements of the players were assessed, the coincidence anticipation timing performances were measured in the laboratory in a quiet, peaceful, not noisy, and well-lit medium at different stimulus speeds (3mph, 5mph, 8 mph) in a random manner. The Bassin anticipation timer device was used in measuring the coincidence anticipation timing performances. During the coincidence timing measurements, the soccer players were taken one by one to the laboratory. They were unaware of the stimulus speed’s order. This application was applied for each playing position and for each player in a random style. The order of the stimulus speeds were applied equally in order to ensure the standard among playing the positions (Table 1).

Coincidence Anticipation Time Table 1

Body Weight and Height: The measurements of weight and height were evaluated with a scale of 0.01 kg sensitivity level and the heights were measured with a digital height measurement device with a sensitivity of 0.01 cm. The data obtained were recorded to the information form as centimeters and kilograms (14).

Bassin Anticipation Timer and the Procedure: The Bassin anticipation timer device (Lafayette Instrument Company, model 35575) was used is to assessed the random coincidence anticipation timing measurements of the soccer players. The device was developed by Dr. Stanley Bassin to test the visual acuity of hand-eye coordination and anticipation (16). In 1980, Nettleton and Smith (26), In 1983, Ramella and Wiegand (29), and in 2011, Sanders (33) conducted studies and reported that the Bassin anticipation timer device was reliable and beneficial to test the error decrease at different stimulus speeds. In 2008, Lyons et al. (18) conducted a study and determined that 5 mph is “medium” stimulus speed. In 2006, Lobjois et al. (17) conducted a study and determined that 3mph is a “slow” stimulus speed, and 8mph is a “fast” stimulus speed. For this reason, the coincidence anticipation timing of the soccer players at different stimulus speeds was measured.

The device consists of a control console, a reaction key, and a runway where LED lights (49 lights) move in a linear, serial manner (set; the ground where LED lights move). The three parts of the set (2.24 m) are placed in such a manner that they will face the subjects and be 87 cm above the ground level on a table. The first light is the yellow warning light, and the last red light is the target light placed at the far end of the set. All the lights of the device are placed in a linear manner and are a moving-stimulus LED configuration designed to strobe from left to right in relation to the participants (3). In this study, the start and end speeds are fixed as 3, 5, and 8 mph for each different stimulus speed (8), and the target light is selected as the 16th light of the third set, in other words, the 49th light of the device (including the warning light). In order to decrease the possibility of the participants estimating the timing of the experiment, the starting sign (the visual warning system) is adjusted in a random manner that will delay, for a minimum delay, at 1 second, and maximum delay for 2 seconds (8). The participants were neither informed about the stimulus speeds after each trial or trial blocks, during the measurements, nor was any feedbacks received from them (2). In order to obtain maximum efficiency and to prevent another participant from learning during the measurement of coincidence anticipation timing, only one participant was taken to the laboratory. The signal was sent by the conductor of the study, for each trial. The participants were asked to press the button with their dominant hands in such a manner that they would be as close to the target light at the arrival time of the signal, as possible (7). The screen displays the difference between the time of reaction and the time of the arrival, of the light at the target, and indicates whether the reaction is early or late (16). Each subject was given 3 trial at each stimulus speed before starting the actual measurement. The coincidence anticipation timing performances at three different stimulus speeds (3mph, 5mph, 8mph) were measured randomly, and 5 measurements were taken for each stimulus speed, and the issue of whether the reaction was early or late was recorded in milliseconds.

Coincidence Anticipation Time

Figure 1. The measurement of Coincidence Anticipation Time (CAT)

The Analysis of the Data
The results are given as arithmetic average values and standard deviation. The raw data of the coincidence anticipation timing performance of each participant, for each stimulus speed, were converted into absolute error score and were taken statistically analyzed (7).

Absolute Error: This is the most frequently reported error timing measurement in coincidence anticipation timing literature. It shows the absolute value of each raw data score without considering whether the reaction is early or late (33). Absolute error is the difference between the actual performance and the target score in each trial. For more than one trial situation, it is given by adding these differences and dividing by the number of the trials. Absolute error provides useful information on the size of the error, made by an individual during the trial and trial series. This score provides the general accuracy index of the performance of an individual (19). In addition, it also expresses how far the real performance is from the perfect timing in a metric style (38).
Statistical calculations were made using the SPSS (version 18.0) Program. The one-way Anova Test was used in examining the absolute error score according to the position and different stimulus speeds, and the Tukey HSD Analysis was used to determine from which stimulus speed the difference stemmed from. The significance value was accepted as p less than 0.05.

Coincidence Anticipation Time Table 2

As given in Table 2, a significant difference was determined in absolute error score at 3mph stimulus speed according to the player positions (p less than 0.05). However, no significant difference was observed in absolute error score at 5mph and 8mph stimulus speeds and in coincidence anticipation timing (p more than 0.05). It was observed that the Absolute Error Scores of the goalkeepers at low stimulus speeds (3mph) showed statistically higher performance accuracy when compared with the midfielder and defense players in coincidence anticipation timing.

Coincidence Anticipation Time Table3

As shown in Table 3, when the absolute error scores of the soccer players for each position are compared, according to different stimulus speeds (3mph, 5mph, 8mph), no statistically significant differences were observed (p more than 0.05). However, a statistically significant difference was observed when the absolute error scores of all the soccer players were compared according to different stimulus speeds (p less than 0.05). The significant difference stems from the statistically higher performance of the soccer players in coincidence anticipation timing at low stimulus speeds (3mph) when compared with the high stimulus speeds (8mph).

Soccer is a perfect game because the decisions are complex and the players have to prefer the best choice within a certain time limit. Applying the desired movement in this sport, which has a high performance requirement, performing the right technique, establishing superiority versus the opponent are extremely important for scoring a goal and winning the game (5). The soccer players having a good anticipation skill is related with many performance characteristics such as estimating the shoot, the decisive movement of the opponent, or the movement of the co-player (37). Although the same training style is applied to the soccer players on the same team, the running distances of the soccer players during the game, their movements, and their participation levels in the game vary. This creates an appearance of differences in some characteristics between the positions (20). These characteristics may be physical and physiological parameters (4, 10, 30) as well as coincidence anticipation timing, reaction time and decision making, which are considered in perceptive-cognitive characteristics. In this context, this study has been conducted for the purpose of examining the coincidence anticipation timing performances of soccer players according to the different stimulus speeds and player positions.

Perceptual-motor skills constitute an important requirement in goalkeepers, because they have to receive information, from the environment, in a fast manner, in order to catch the ball and prevent the scoring of a goal (24). For this reason, the position of the goalkeepers has a separate importance in soccer, and therefore, goalkeepers are in an important position that influences the final score of the game. They are the first attack and last defense players. The goalkeeper not only prevents the attacks of the opponent team but also has the characteristic of sending his team to a fast attack towards the opponent. Although the errors of the soccer a position player may be compensated by another player, the errors of the goalkeepers are exempt from this compensation. Although goalkeepers are not directly involved in holistic movements during an attack, they are the critical last players in winning and losing the game and in preventing the opponent from scoring goals (13, 40). Especially in penalty kicks, goalkeepers must have high anticipation speed in order to make an efficient defense. During the penalty kicks, the ball goes to the net with a speed less than 0.5 s, and the goalkeeper performs a movement to the sides nearly 2 m within this time. In this context, the goalkeeper must decide on which direction the player who is kicking the penalty is going before he even touches the ball, and thus he has the possibility of saving the ball, by performing the necessary movement (42). In 1996, McMorris and Colenso (22) conducted a study and claimed that the techniques of approaching the ball during a penalty kick, the position of the foot when it touches the ball, and the position of the hip during the touch of the foot to the ball are the main defining points, for coincidence anticipation timing, for professional soccer goalkeepers. When the literature is examined, it is observed that there are studies conducted on the importance of coincidence anticipation timing in team sports like baseball (39, 25), handball (32), basketball (1, 49), volleyball (28), and soccer (50). Although there are studies in the literature reporting that the experienced players in soccer have better anticipation timing when compared with the inexperienced player (21, 31, 35, 43, 45), there are also some studies examining the coincidence anticipation timing for goalkeepers in soccer (24, 34, 35, 48), however, the number of studies examining the coincidence anticipation timing at different stimulus speeds, according to positions, is few.

When the results of this study are considered, a significant difference was determined in absolute error score in terms of the positions of the soccer players at the (3mph) Stimulus Speed (p less than 0.05). No statistically significant differences were determined at the (5mph) and (8mph) stimulus speeds for absolute error score (p more than 0.05). It was observed that the absolute error scores, of the goalkeepers, at lower stimulus speeds (3mph) are minimal, and they showed a superior performance in coincidence anticipation timing when compared with the midfielder and defense players (Table 2). In 2015, Woolley et al. (48) conducted a study and measured coincidence anticipation timing by using video surveillance, and reported that goalkeepers had better anticipation timing when compared with the field players and with those who were not soccer players. They reported that the reason for this was that the goalkeepers adopted a global perceptive approach by using the Fixation Method and by eliminating the information coming from the far parts of the body (the posture feet, the hip, the kicking foot) instead of anticipating specific signs or kicks. Coincidence anticipation timing constitutes the physiological limitation of the reaction time (23), and are closely related to each other. In 2001, Maranci and Muniroglu (20), In, 2012, and Goral et al. (12) conducted a study and examined the reaction times of the soccer players, according to positions, and reported that the visual and audio reaction times of the goalkeepers were better than those of the defense, midfielder, and forward players. In another study, it was reported that there were two different strategies in saving the penalty kicks, between the experienced and inexperienced goalkeepers. They reported that the goalkeepers, who were not specialists, started their movements relatively earlier and used the gambling strategy, however, the specialist goalkeepers used the clear launching strategy and started their movements later. They also emphasized that the most critical factor for success was the use of the information about the foot that does not hit the ball and that decided where the ball would go. As a conclusion, they reported that saving a penalty kick was a multiple skill, and anticipating the direction of the kick was one of the most definitive properties for a successful save (34).

When the soccer players were compared in terms of the absolute error scale calculated, for each position, at different stimulus speeds (3mph, 5mph, 8mph), no statistically significant differences were observed (p more than 0.05), and when the absolute error scale of all the soccer players was compared according to different stimulus speeds, the difference was found to be significant (p less than 0.05). The significant difference in coincidence anticipation timing at lower stimulus speeds (3mph) stems from the statistically superior performance accuracy in coincidence anticipation timing when compared with the higher stimulus speeds (8mph) (Table 3). When the literature is examined, there are some studies examining coincidence anticipation timing in different sports branches in different age groups (6, 8, 44). It has been reported that high stimulus speeds influence coincidence anticipation timing in a negative manner (15, 33, 47). In 2015, Duncan et al. (9) conducted a study and reported that stimulus speeds played important roles, and the anticipation performance was influenced positively at low speeds in exercises, and the coincidence anticipation timing was influenced negatively in high stimulus speeds. In 2012, Akpinar et al. (2) compared the 1mph (slow) stimulus speed, 3 mph (medium) and 5mph (high) stimulus speeds of tennis players and reported that the absolute and variable error was less, and the coincidence anticipation timing performance was better. In table tennis players, on the other hand, the absolute and variable error levels were less in high stimulus speeds when compared with medium-level and low-level stimulus speeds, and the coincidence anticipation timing performance was better.

As a conclusion, soccer is a popular game in which there are activities at various tempos with a low-score in terms of goal (0-0, 1-0, 1-1, 2-1). Coincidence anticipation timing is considered among the perceptual-motor properties that affect higher-level cognitive performance, and are influential on the score. As a result, coincidence anticipation time of goalkeepers at low stimulus speed was found to be significantly better than midfielder and defense players. There were no statistically significant differences in coincidence anticipation time at fast stimulus speeds but the scores of goalkeepers were found to be better than other playing positions. The reason goalkeepers have better coincidence anticipation timing when compared with the other positions, is they’re playing in the most efficient position on the team, have high concentration, and attention levels, and due to their specific workouts during training. In addition, as stimulus speed increase, it was determined that coincidence anticipation time was affected negatively.

Shorter coincidence anticipation time provides an advantage for high performance to players who compete at every playing position in terms of reading the game very well. For this reason, when the training is being planned, the activities that will improve the coincidence anticipation time at various stimulus speeds, as well as technical and tactical practices, must be included in the plan. Due to the variable nature of soccer, this is considered to be important in training the goalkeepers, who are in the most influential position compared with all the other positions.

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