The Law of Space and Time

Continuing on the lessons from #GAMECHANGER

Space creates time, but time cannot always create space.

The most important law in all sports, regardless of moment, context, or phase, is the law of space and time.

Often you hear people refer to an athlete who seems to have more time on the ball, or a player who creates time for others. In reality, what is really being referred to here is the creation of space. Time and space are both created using the four macro principles of team sport. The law of space and time states that space can create time. This law is not reversible in sports—time does not necessarily create space.

To create space in one area, we compress players in another.

The biggest difference between professional and collegiate games is speed of play. In any game, if a player gets enough time they can achieve almost anything. Creating space gives them this time.

What is special about this is that it applies to all the sports I’ve worked in. In AFL, Clarko’s cluster is one of the most extreme examples of how by compressing space with men, time on the ball was reduced. In the NFL, no quarterback has any chance if the O-line can’t give him space. Even as you watch the NBA finals, you see players making space and therefore making time. In rugby, the greatest teams will seem to make time, but in essence they are making space, creating an illusion of time.

Of course different teams use different techniques and strategies. Clarko’s Custer is one, Warrenball, favored by Warren Gatland is another, No-huddle attempts to do the same—all replying on different approaches to achieve the same thing—space. Generally, and I will cover this in later posts, there are two broad approaches to this, using physicality or using techno-tactical ability. In almost every case the later is infinitely more successful and sustainable.

We move the players through force, the ball, or misdirection. Phillip Meilinger suggested that “John Boyd’s entire theory of the OODA Loop is based on the premise that telescoping time—arriving at decisions or locations rapidly—is the decisive element in war because of the enormous psychological strain it places on an enemy.”

Great players either find or make space for themselves to allow them the time needed to execute.

GameChanger by Fergus Connolly and Phil White is out September 2017.

The 3 MOST IMPORTANT questions

If you are involved in the high-performance world of modern sport today, 80 percent of your time is spent deciding what not to use, or investigating things you won’t use. Despite this, we all have access to multiple types of technology or measuring equipment and metrics.

Over the past 7 years, many teams have gathered store rooms of technologies and tools, some gathering dust. There often are periods where teams will reevaluate their approach.

The following are 3 simple questions I always use when I reevaluate or audit a team’s performance system or sports science approach—as I explain in Game Changer.

Does what they assess or what it provides fall into 3 simple categories:

  1. Useful
  2. Interesting
  3. Useless

Useful, Interesting or Useless?

The word kazien (Japanese word for “continual improvement”) is thrown around in business and manufacturing circles far too easily, but these are the 3 questions of the ruthless, cyclical self-improvement in sports science, or as I call it—winning science.

I have grown to dislike the term “sports science,” because of what it now means—the majority of which is simply activity for the sake of it.

We’re not in the business of sports science.

I’m the business of winning science. There’s a big difference.

Winning science focuses on the useful technologies and data that impact results and actions. It feeds agile and reactive programming of experiences. It does have things that are interesting and that helps form instinct (more on this later) and the decision-making cycle. There is no time wasted on useless things, because in the best programs there is no time. Life comes at you fast in pro sport.

Ask yourself, is what you’re investing time in useful, interesting or useless?

Be brutally honest. Eliminate the useless. Be cautious with things you find “interesting” or “entertaining.” Focus on the useful, and develop it. No one got fired for focusing on what matters.

What are you doing?