What Makes An Athlete Elite?

What qualities separate the very best players from good ones? Work ethic, determination and natural ability, sure. But a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise suggests a player’s ability to rapidly act on visual cues might also factor into the top competitor equation.

Researchers recruited 8 elite soccer athletes along with 8 lower level players and had all take part in a soccer-specific drill where reactions to simulated opponents during match play were analyzed. While intermittent exercise improved visual and cognitive processes for both groups, the elite players displayed better anticipation by focusing on a greater number of areas in a shorter time span. The non-elite athletes didn’t process the action that quickly or accurately.

True Strength Moment: Is there a technique for teaching yourself to focus more quickly and accurately on opponents during competition? There are probably a number of different drills you could practice, but on-field experience might be the best way to gain the upper hand. It’s one of the reasons elite players spend very little time on the bench.