This June, Robbie and Gwen attended the 2nd Soccer and Science Conference - held at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. This was a great opportunity to meet other soccer scientists, spot an elephant or two at the local game park, and head to Fan Park to watch South Africa draw with Mexico 1-1 in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
A range of delegates from around the world attended the conference.
Robbie presented a talk showing that skill traits are important predictors of player performance. To study how skill, balance, and athleticism interact in a controlled game scenario, he designed a 'soccer tennis' game for players. Robbie then looked at various traits of individual players in conjunction with how they performed in soccer tennis matches, and found the best game performers were also the best individuals at skills tests.
Gwen presented a poster from her PhD work on diving (or dishonest falling) behaviour in soccer players. She studied hundreds of hours of game footage of elite professional players to find that diving is more likely to pay off for players under certain conditions.
She also presented a talk on her research into what performance traits of individual soccer players are the best predictors of performance in real, uncontrolled soccer games. Like Robbie found in his soccer tennis tournament, Gwen found skill to be a more important predictor of performance than it's usually credited for.
Overall, the conference was great - and showed Gwen and Robbie how unique their research is in soccer science. They'll be travelling to the US in January to present more work at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.