What All Team Sports Have In Common

What All Team Sports Have In Common

The Foundation of All Team Sports

We all have played different team sports at some stage– but have you ever thought of what they all basically have in common?

Take any live game – a local kids game, collegiate or professional. The first thing we need to condition ourselves to do is not to follow the ball – as is normally presented to us on television. Rather look at the movements, the reactions, the reasons for movement. It’s here you start to see the basic principles that underline all team sports.

There are four basic principle common to all sports – from your kids playing in the backyard right up to playing in a championship final with millions of dollars on the line.

Let’s start at the beginning……

The Macro Principle Of Structure (Formation)

All plays start with original positioning from kickoff/ tip-off or a restart. So in football it’s the formations, in rugby this could be a line- out, in football a kickoff, in basketball an inbounds play after a timeout, and in soccer a free kick or corner.

To play the correct role in each structural situation, players need to be aware of where they are in relation to teammates, opponents, and the ball.

They must also know where they are on the pitch, court, or field before the ball goes live. In an offensive situation, positional structures exist to create a scoring opportunity; in a defensive situation, to prevent one. If there is a breakdown, players need to re-adjust fast in relation to positioning of players, opponents and team mates, ball and place on the field. This is referred to as The Macro Principle Of Structure or the formation.

The Macro Principle Of Ball (Target) Circulation

Now, watching the game and focus on the movement of the players and the movement of the ball. Ignore colors and teams and observe those two things only: ball and player movement in response to this. Sometimes it helps to watch at double speed from a high-up view that shows the whole court or field. You will see that the movement of the ball influences the movement of both teams.

This influence is noticed most in games where there is zone defense (for example in basketball).
The Macro Principle Of Player Circulation (Movement)

The next thing you’ll notice, especially if the ball slows or becomes stationary, is how the players move in relation to each other. Defenders will try to fill space or track a man, whereas attackers will move into space to accept the ball.

By moving to a different point on the field, an offensive player not only puts pressure on the defender but also creates space for the other players on his or her team. What is most interesting is when players move anticipating actions of others.

Player circulation often includes elements of deception or misdirection to confuse the defense and obscure the true intention of the attacking move. It also creates too many possibilities for defenders to choose among, impairing their decision-making.

The Macro Principle Of Relationship (Sequence And Timing)

The final element to look at is relationship or timing. This is the sequence or order in which events happen and the timing with which they occur. Effective attacking or offensive play will demonstrate good initial positioning, smooth player circulation to accept the ball and move into space, and precise ball circulation to exploit it.

The best teams and players do this with effortless timing and in an order that befuddles and breaks down even the most potent defenses. This seems almost pre-programmed and like a dance when observed from a distance, but as we will see, it is far more complex.

The best players do not try move as much as possible but rather as much as is necessary—a highly efficient skill that makes the team appear to be playing effortlessly and with the precision of a Swiss watch.

Cohesion Of Principles

When you see these four macro principles come together in synch at every level, from kids on the street to the highest level of any sport, you witness an orchestra of almost telepathic non-verbal communication – basic skills executed at incredibly high speed and skill.

The sequencing of players’ actions appears to create and close space almost at will. The positioning, timing, and constant movement are on par with those of any world-class orchestra.


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