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The Art of Movement in Football

What is the cognitive process of elite athletes working at their peak? In this article, researcher Dr. Laurie Rauch discusses the various levels of thought, conscious and subconscious, behind human movement in sport.


An athlete’s movement on the sports field is largely an automatic process that is coordinated subconsciously. The only voluntary part of movement is its intended goal (Rauch et al. 2013); the movement itself essentially consists of a chain of reflexes (Evarts 1980), (Lacquaniti et al. 2012). Indeed, thinking or reasoning about how to execute a movement would only hamper performance.

Recent advances in brain imaging – coupled with vast resources of animal behaviour and human brain disorder research – allow researchers a view inside the working brain; though brain imaging during peak athletic performance is not yet possible. One way to partially overcome this difficulty is via indirect measurements of an athlete’s brain activations during movement execution. Two such indirect brain measurements are the motor outputs of 1) the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the behavioural outputs of 2) central pattern generators (CPGs).

Note that both...

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