chapter  12
19 Pages

Team sports as dynamical systems


The challenge for understanding coordination was introduced by Meijer (2001) as ‘Charles’ problem’ (Charles V, 1500-1558) in reference of the longstanding difficulty in comprehending how coordination might be explained using mechanical (machine) metaphor. In short, Charles was reportedly preoccupied with getting mechanical clocks (or pendulums) to strike together in unison but was unsuccessful in doing so. Unfortunate for Charles, an answer to the coordination problem was not discovered until much later when Huygens, in 1664, reportedly sympathetic, behaviour between pendulums when swung separately but suspended from a common frame. Thus, two pendulums swinging from a common frame, given sufficient time, self-coordinate into one of two possible rhythmic patterns, that of in-phase or anti-phase (Meijer 2001). In-phase and anti-phase coordination therefore constitute separate attractors for the coupled pendulums with both pendulums drawn to one or the other attractor. Importantly then, coordinated behaviours between coupled pendulums emerges not from prescriptive control design by some outside agency (like Charles) but, instead, from within by virtue of common information (energy) flows. In short, coupled pendulums produce self-organized behaviours by means of shared information exchange.