Sports Medicine

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 1–10 | Cite as

The Role of Ecological Dynamics in Analysing Performance in Team Sports

  • Luís Vilar
  • Duarte Araújo
  • Keith Davids
  • Chris Button
Current Opinion Performance Analysis in Team Sports


Performance analysis is a subdiscipline of sports sciences and one-approach, notational analysis, has been used to objectively audit and describe behaviours of performers during different subphases of play, providing additional information for practitioners to improve future sports performance. Recent criticisms of these methods have suggested the need for a sound theoretical rationale to explain performance behaviours, not just describe them. The aim of this article was to show how ecological dynamics provides a valid theoretical explanation of performance in team sports by explaining the formation of successful and unsuccessful patterns of play, based on symmetrybreaking processes emerging from functional interactions between players and the performance environment. We offer the view that ecological dynamics is an upgrade to more operational methods of performance analysis that merely document statistics of competitive performance. In support of our arguments, we refer to exemplar data on competitive performance in team sports that have revealed functional interpersonal interactions between attackers and defenders, based on variations in the spatial positioning of performers relative to each other in critical performance areas, such as the scoring zones. Implications of this perspective are also considered for practice task design and sport development programmes.


Team Sport Sport Performance Ecological Dynamic Notational Analysis Team Game 



Luís Vilar was supported by a financial grant from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (SFRH/BD/43251/2008). The authors would like to acknowledge the three anonymous reviewers for their insightful and valuable comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare that are directly relevant to the content of this article. No funding was received by Duarte Araújo, Keith Davids and Chris Button to assist them in the preparation of this article.


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Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luís Vilar
    • 1
    • 2
  • Duarte Araújo
    • 1
  • Keith Davids
    • 3
  • Chris Button
    • 4
  1. 1.Faculty of Human KineticsTechnical University of LisbonLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Faculty of Physical Education and SportsLusófona University of Humanities and TechnologiesLisbonPortugal
  3. 3.School of Human Movement StudiesQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.School of Physical EducationUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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