Profiling in sport using momentum and perturbations


  • Mike Hughes Middlesex University, United Kingdom
  • Peggy Bürger Otto von Guericke Universitat, Germany
  • Mike T Hughes PGIR, United Kingdom
  • Stafford Murray English Institute of Sport, United Kingdom
  • Nic James Middlesex University, United Kingdom





Examining a team’s performance from a physical point of view their momentum might indicate unexpected turning points in defeat or success. Physicists describe this value as to require some effort to be started, but also that it is relatively easy to keep it going once a sufficient level is reached (Reed and Hughes, 2006). Unlike football, rugby, handball and many more sports, a regular volleyball match is not limited by time but by points that need to be gathered. Every minute more than one point is won by either one team or the other. That means a series of successive points enlarges the gap between the teams making it more and more difficult to catch up with the leading one. This concept of gathering momentum, or the reverse in a performance, can give the coaches, athletes and sports scientists further insights into winning and losing performances. Momentum investigations also contain dependencies between performances or questions if future performances are reliant upon past streaks. Squash and volleyball share the characteristic of being played up to a certain amount of points. Squash was examined according to the momentum of players by Hughes et al. (2006). The initial aim was to expand normative profiles of elite squash players using momentum graphs of winners and errors to explore ‘turning points’ in a performance. Dynamic systems theory has enabled the definition of perturbations in sports exhibiting rhythms (Hughes et al., 2000; McGarry et al., 2002; Murray et al., 2008), and how players and teams cause these disruptions of rhythm can inform on the way they play, these techniques also contribute to profiling methods. Together with the analysis of one’s own performance it is essential to have an understanding of your oppositions’ tactical strengths and weaknesses. By modelling the oppositions’ performance it is possible to predict certain outcomes and patterns, and therefore intervene or change tactics before the critical incident occurs. The modelling of competitive sport is an informative analytic technique as it directs the attention of the modeller to the critical aspects of data that delineate successful performance (McGarry & Franks, 1996). Using tactical performance profiles to pull out and visualise these critical aspects of performance, players can build justified and sophisticated tactical plans. The area is discussed and reviewed, critically appraising the research completed in this element of Performance Analysis.


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How to Cite

Hughes, M., Bürger, P., Hughes, M. T., Murray, S., & James, N. (2013). Profiling in sport using momentum and perturbations. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 8(2proc), S242-S260.

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