Raôul Oudejans

Raoul Oudejans - 200x200What makes one player better than another at getting the ball into the net? Why do some top players find it impossible to stand up to pressure, so that they miss a key penalty for example? I sometimes feel like a top basketball player myself when I am studying such problems. We are very fortunate to be able to rely on the excellent facilities of the MOVE Research Institute Amsterdam here on the campus when we are engaged on movement research projects.

These investigations fit in well with the mission statement of VU University Amsterdam, which urges all members of the university community to “look further” – further than their own personal interests and their own discipline, into as yet unknown regions, further than the here and now. We are “looking further” by trying to understand the roots of both good and bad performance. Awareness that our behaviour is based on observation led me to devote my doctoral study to investigation of the optimum linkage between observation and movement. I am currently working together with the women’s basketball division of the Dutch Centre for Top sport and Education CTO, where my tasks include helping talented young women basketball players to improve their visual attention.

My research questions were initially generated by my passion for sport, but I have recently done a great deal of research into how well armed police officers perform under stress. Accurate use of firearms under stress depends not so much on relaxation as on learning to focus one’s attention on the task on hand, despite the inevitable stress and the resulting distraction. I have developed a training course for armed police officers on the basis of the results of our study, which aims to teach them to shoot accurately in stressful situations, for example when they are under fire from paintball guns.

A useful new arrival in this field is the Amsterdam Institute of Sport Sciences, a network organization combining expertise in a variety of fields that can be deployed to help athletes. Field labs are currently under development that will provide athletes and trainers with tailor-made support. There is no other institute like this anywhere in the world, and it would therefore be very interesting to help to build it up. Our new faculty performs a comparable function, by sharing expertise in many different fields for the study of human behaviour from the perspective of all kinds of disciplines. This is an ideal playing field for students and researchers who want to excel in movement sciences in general, and the study of locomotor behaviour in particular.