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Hum Mov Sci. 2012 Apr;31(2):303-17. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2010.09.005. Epub 2011 Mar 16.

Identifying individuality and variability in team tactics by means of statistical shape analysis and multilayer perceptrons.

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Department of Training and Movement Science, Institute of Sport Science, Johannes Gutenberg University, Albert Schweitzer Straße 22, 55099 Mainz, Germany.


Offensive and defensive systems of play represent important aspects of team sports. They include the players' positions at certain situations during a match, i.e., when players have to be on specific positions on the court. Patterns of play emerge based on the formations of the players on the court. Recognition of these patterns is important to react adequately and to adjust own strategies to the opponent. Furthermore, the ability to apply variable patterns of play seems to be promising since they make it harder for the opponent to adjust. The purpose of this study is to identify different team tactical patterns in volleyball and to analyze differences in variability. Overall 120 standard situations of six national teams in women's volleyball are analyzed during a world championship tournament. Twenty situations from each national team are chosen, including the base defence position (start configuration) and the two players block with middle back deep (end configuration). The shapes of the defence formations at the start and end configurations during the defence of each national team as well as the variability of these defence formations are statistically analyzed. Furthermore these shapes data are used to train multilayer perceptrons in order to test whether artificial neural networks can recognize the teams by their tactical patterns. Results show significant differences between the national teams in both the base defence position at the start and the two players block with middle back deep at the end of the standard defence situation. Furthermore, the national teams show significant differences in variability of the defence systems and start-positions are more variable than the end-positions. Multilayer perceptrons are able to recognize the teams at an average of 98.5%. It is concluded that defence systems in team sports are highly individual at a competitive level and variable even in standard situations. Artificial neural networks can be used to recognize teams by the shapes of the players' configurations. These findings support the concept that tactics and strategy have to be adapted for the team and need to be flexible in order to be successful.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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