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Sports Med. 2012 Aug 1;42(8):633-42. doi: 10.2165/11632450-000000000-00000.

Sports teams as superorganisms: implications of sociobiological models of behaviour for research and practice in team sports performance analysis.

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Laboratory of Expertise in Sports, Faculty of Human Kinetics, Technical University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal.


Significant criticisms have emerged on the way that collective behaviours in team sports have been traditionally evaluated. A major recommendation has been for future research and practice to focus on the interpersonal relationships developed between team players during performance. Most research has typically investigated team game performance in subunits (attack or defence), rather than considering the interactions of performers within the whole team. In this paper, we offer the view that team performance analysis could benefit from the adoption of biological models used to explain how repeated interactions between grouping individuals scale to emergent social collective behaviours. We highlight the advantages of conceptualizing sports teams as functional integrated 'super-organisms' and discuss innovative measurement tools, which might be used to capture the superorganismic properties of sports teams. These tools are suitable for revealing the idiosyncratic collective behaviours underlying the cooperative and competitive tendencies of different sports teams, particularly their coordination of labour and the most frequent channels of communication and patterns of interaction between team players. The principles and tools presented here can serve as the basis for novel approaches and applications of performance analysis devoted to understanding sports teams as cohesive, functioning, high-order organisms exhibiting their own peculiar behavioural patterns.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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