Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing

Momentum in Team Sports

3 Comments

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Photograph by (Tres) descamarado (2006) (Flickr Creative Commons image)

A weekend of watching televised sport renewed my thinking about momentum in sport. I thought I might illustrate my post with some images from Flickr.

I think about momentum as a wave (perhaps from my reading of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) and have been contemplating for a long time now the role of probabilistic approaches to sports performance. I like the idea of a wave as it suggests tidal change.

The Wikipedia article on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi notes that his concept of flow involves “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

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Photograph by Mike Baird (2007) (Flickr Creative Commons image)

Some years ago (1990 in fact!) I was thinking of writing a paper entitled ‘Do coaches need a Gamelan rather than a Gameplan?’ I had seen a Gamelan in action at the Dartington College of Arts and what attracted me then was the characteristics in this description:

Varying forms of gamelan ensembles are distinguished by their collection of instruments and use of voice, tunings, repertoire, style, and cultural context. In general, no two gamelan ensembles are the same, and those that arose in prestigious courts are often considered to have their own style. Certain styles may also be shared by nearby ensembles, leading to a regional style.

So … whether it is jazz or gamelan music … it seems to me that athletes and coaches can have an active engagement in performance by being sensitive to rhythms. I think there are three types of rhythms in team games:

  • Negotiating
  • Driving
  • Chasing

I believe that in all three rhythms probabilistic behaviour can optimise the opportunity to drive a game and amplify that driving process. The enormous temptation when chasing, I believe, is that players seek possibilistic outcomes and abandon risk management. Clearly some teams do have a once in a lifetime experience but winning teams are able to counter most of these challenges by applying principles and probabilities. In most team games there is ample time to manage risk and probabilities so that the outcome is under your control independent of conditions and officiating.

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Photograph by Jim Frazier (2005) (Flickr Creative Commons image)

(Note: Jim Frazier’s Flickr Profile can be found at http://www.flickr.com/people/jimfrazier/ and the Surfing in Chicago picture can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimfrazier/79017858/)

I hope to return to this post to add some more about Martin Lames‘s idea of phases in games and Clive Ashworth‘s notions of figurations.

Author: Keith Lyons

Clyde Street has been my WordPress blog since June 2008. I write about learning, teaching and performing.

3 thoughts on “Momentum in Team Sports

  1. Keith
    Excellent thoughts – this area is ripe for further work.
    I have found through practical application that ‘wave’ is a good descriptor but only in one direction – some think there must be a natural and consequential reverse tidal movement with the opposition automatically producing its own momentum. Actions can occur to prevent a reversal and I contend reversal is in any case not automatic. Tony Charge

  2. Very good points, Tony. I have been thinking about relative phase as a way of describing the ebb and flow of momentum.

    Keith

  3. Pingback: Chaos, Perturbation, Configuration, Dynamical Systems « Clyde Street

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