Fergus O'Connell Novelist & Writer

The Power of Doing Less – for goalkeepers


Economist, Ofer Azar knows all about doing less.  Recently he and some colleagues in Israel published a study on goalkeepers [6].  They watched hours of archival footage and noticed that goalkeepers save substantially more penalty kicks when they stay in the centre of the goal rather than when they jump to the left or right. Yet paradoxically, in 93.7 per cent of penalty situations, keepers chose to jump rather than stay in the centre.

In fact, analysis of 286 penalty kicks taken in elite matches around the world showed that keepers saved 33.3 per cent of penalties when they stayed in the centre, compared with just 12.6 per cent of kicks when they jumped right and 14.2 per cent when they jumped left.

Or to put it another way, doing nothing would have achieved a far better result than doing something.

But notice too how hard it is to do nothing.  Imagine if you were that goalkeeper and you stood stock still while the penalty taker rocketed the ball into the top corner.  Imagine the abuse that would be heaped upon you by your teammates and by the fans.  Imagine the embarrassment and guilt you would feel.  Imagine trying to explain in an after match press conference that the reason you stood still was that statistically, you were doing the best thing.  It’s like we would rather do something – anything – and be seen to fail rather then do nothing, even though we know it might be the better thing to do.