chapter  82
Applications of Dynamical Systems Theory to Football
Pages 3

Football is a tactically sophisticated sport requiring understanding of coordination processes within and between players during performance of key dynamic interceptive actions such as passing, shooting and dribbling, heading and catching or punching the ball. Dynamical systems theory is an interdisciplinary framework, utilised to study coordination processes in physical, biological and social systems, which has considerable potential for the study of team ball games, including different codes of football. Recent applications of dynamical systems theory to team ball games have examined coordination processes at two different levels. The first level of analysis concerns coordination of dynamic interceptive actions in performers modelled as movement systems (e.g., Davids et al., 2000; Davids et al., 2002). Movement coordination and control in footballers conceived as dynamical movement systems involve two dimensions: (i) coordination between important limb segments to ensure a proximo-distal temporal sequencing in the movements of joint segments of the lower limb when kicking, to facilitate the development of high velocities in the distal segment; and (ii) coordination between a moving ball and an effector that is moved to satisfy the spatio-temporal constraints of interception with a controlled amount of force. The second level of analysis has attempted to model the dynamics of interpersonal coordination within patterns of play emerging in typical sub-phases of team ball games such as attack and defence and 1 v 1 situations (Grehaigne et al., 1997; McGarry et al., 2002; Araújo et al., 2003). These applications are providing useful insights into processes of motor skill acquisition and tactical development for players and coaches. The aims of this review are to: (i) present an overview of the theoretical constructs and concepts of dynamical systems theory which are highly relevant for the study of coordination processes at different levels in the context of football; (ii) review some current data emerging from these modelling attempts; and, (iii) draw some implications for coaching behaviours from the main empirical and theoretical developments in a constraints-led approach.