Why thought patterns impact AFL goal kicking

Why hasn’t AFL set-shot kicking improved with other advancements in the game? Goal kicking is getting worse with data revealing a historic low of 51.1% of all set shots hit their target in 2019.

In the first Australian study of it’s kind, Flinders University sports researchers analysed the cognitive changes semi professional and junior players make during a set shot kicking attempt, revealing senior players abandon regular routines and thought processes as shots, beyond 40 metres, become more difficult to convert into a goal.

Lead author Dr Sam Elliott, from the centre for Sport, health and Physical Education (SHAPE) says the cutting edge study focused on understanding the cognitive thoughts AFL players experience when attempting to convert a set shot attempt on goal from varying distances and angles, in an outcome-focused climate.

“Research shows that AFL set shot kicking success rates hover around 55% and decrease by 13% in wet conditions. We’re developing an association between an AFL players proficiency in front of goal and the types of thought processes that will allow players to have increased success across the season or a prolonged period of time,” says Dr Elliott.

“Understanding how the difficulty of a kick influences player thought patterns will have implications for coaches in terms of training and developing coping mechanisms to manage stress when taking shots on goal, and players themselves can find active ways to have their greatest success in kicking goals consistently.”

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