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Why Athletes (and Christians) Need a ‘Quiet Eye’

Researchers have now identified some of the common mental processes that mark out elite athletes. And one of the most intriguing aspects appears to be a phenomenon known as the “quiet eye.” It is a kind of enhanced visual perception that allows the athlete to eliminate any distractions as they plan their next move.

Intriguingly, “quiet eye” appears to be particularly important at times of stress, preventing the athlete from “choking” at moments of high pressure. It may even lead to the mysterious “flow state.” The same laser-sharp focus can help doctors maintain their focus as they perform surgery, and it is of increasing interest to the military.

Kinesiologist Dr. Joan Vickers began to suspect the secret of extraordinary performance lay in the way that elite athletes see the world. She hooked a group of professional golfers up to a device that precisely monitored their eye movements as they putted. She found an intriguing correlation: the better the player, the longer and steadier their gaze on the ball just before, and then during, their strike. Novices, by contrast, tended to shift their focus between different areas of the scene for shorter periods of time.

The general idea that you should “keep your eye on the ball” is well-known, of course. But this suggested something more intricate, with the precise duration of the gaze correlating with an objective measure of sporting success.

Researchers caution that we should be wary of assigning too much importance to the quiet eye; many other factors will contribute to sporting genius. But it would certainly seem to be a key component of the extreme focus of athletes.

Possible Preaching Angles:

It is important for believers to have a “quiet eye” that is fixed on Jesus waiting for us at the finish line. We must guard against anything that would take our focus off of “winning the prize” (Philippians 3:13-14)


David Robson, “Why Athletes Need a ‘Quiet Eye,’” BBC.com (6-29-18)

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