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Research Reviews

Proximity-to-Goal as a Constraint on Patterns of Behaviour in Attacker-Defender Dyads in Team Games

Jonathon Headrick, Keith Davids, Ian Renshaw, Duarte Araújo, Pedro Passos, and Orlando Fernandes

The Big Idea 

The time and path of a major storm ravaging parts of Europe can be influenced by the flapping wings of a butterfly in the Amazonian jungle (“the butterfly effect”).  So too can small changes in the sub-phases of a non-linear dynamic system of a football game have big later-consequences on the outcome of the game.  In other words, small causes may have larger, later effects.

In this research paper, we have an example of the significance of studying the sub-phases of team sports.  There is consensus in the research community that the actions and interactions of most team sports are complex, dynamical systems.  Localised interpersonal interactions within the game-as-a-whole—which constitute the entire make-up of the play—can indeed influence a match on a macroscopic scale.  The better we understand the nature and significance of the sub-phases of association football, the more relevant and productive our training and practice sessions will become.


  • Emergent decision-making by players in the throes of competition become the football...

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