The ability to perform a context-free 3-dimensional multiple object tracking (3D-MOT) task has been highly related to athletic performance. In the present study, we assessed the transferability of a perceptual-cognitive 3D-MOT training from a laboratory setting to a soccer field, a sport in which the capacity to correctly read the dynamic visual scene is a prerequisite to performance.
Throughout pre- and post-training sessions, we looked at three essential skills (passing, dribbling, shooting) that are used to gain the upper hand over the opponent.
We recorded decision-making accuracy during small-sided games in university-level soccer players (n = 23) before and after a training protocol. Experimental (n = 9) and active control (n = 7) groups were respectively trained during 10 sessions of 3D-MOT or 3D soccer videos. A passive control group (n = 7) did not received any particular training or instructions.
Decision-making accuracy in passing, but not in dribbling and shooting, between pre- and post-sessions was superior for the 3D-MOT trained group compared to control groups. This result was correlated with the players’ subjective decision-making accuracy, rated after pre- and post-sessions through a visual analogue scale questionnaire.
To our knowledge, this study represents the first evidence in which a non-contextual, perceptual-cognitive training exercise has a transfer effect onto the field in athletes.