Emergent Coordination of Heading in Soccer: Of Two Players and a Single Ball

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Purpose: In many sports situations, two or more players need to coordinate their actions to make sure that one of them intercepts a ball or opponent. We considered how two soccer players head back a thrown ball. Two accounts for the joint decision making by both players were considered. These two accounts not only differ in their theoretical basis but also have vastly different implications for training practice. In a first account, players know their areas of responsibility for interception, and combine this with their prediction of the ball's landing location. In a second account, the coordination emerges from the unfolding dynamics of the system of informationally connected players and ball. According to this second account, especially for balls aimed in between the two players, both of the players may start moving and one player sees that the ball will be interceptable for the other player, and subsequently yields the interception. Methods: We instrumented soccer players and the ball with Kinexon sensors and had pairs of players head back the thrown ball. Results: In line with the second account, the results showed a fair number of instances where the player who intercepted the ball had to move the longest distance. Furthermore, considerable movement by both players was not an exception. Conclusion: The results can be taken as a first step towards an understanding of joint coordination as an emergent phenomenon.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch Quarterly for Exercise and Sport
Publication statusPublished - 15.07.2022

ID: 6751797

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