Team sports are increasingly being recognised as a valuable resource for youth development, a positive social environment where participants engage in a range of interactions and experiences that can promote healthy lifestyles. In addition, these activities have been found to improve interpersonal skills (Smith, Mellano, & Ullrich-French, 2019; McEwan & Beauchamp, 2014).
Team sport is a popular activity among both adults and high school students alike in the United States and Canada. This is largely due to the fact that team sports offer children a consistent, fun, and reliable way to get exercise. Additionally, team sports teach kids the benefits of dedication, commitment and problem-solving.
Unlike other conventional groups, sport teams have a defined maximum roster size and are bound by the rules of the game or league. This is an important characteristic, as it ensures that the members of a team are committed to a specific level of effort and productivity during practice and competition.
This standard of behavior is based on the belief that all participants should report to the training sessions, adhere to the instructions of the coaches, and work hard in order to win the game or contest. This commitment to standards of effort and performance is a crucial component of the socialization process of the sport group and can be a major influence on its members.
Another important characteristic of team sport is that its organizational structure is similar across the different teams, and all teams have common inputs and throughput processes. This is a significant advantage in terms of data collection, analysis and reporting.
For example, in ice hockey, players rotate on and off the rink in shifts of 30 to 80 s. This allows for periods of high-intensity actions, such as puck control, evasion and body checking. The repetitive nature of these demands may be a challenge for practitioners when tracking athletes’ physical output, as there are often changes in physical intensity over time when examining total distance covered or percentage of time spent performing high-intensity running .
Therefore, practitioners must carefully consider the appropriate technology and metrics to profile the locomotor characteristics of athletes during training and matches, given each sport’s specific constraints. This requires a critical thinking process and the ability to select metrics according to the best theoretical frameworks.
Tracking systems are now available for a large number of team sports and can be used to measure a wide variety of locomotor characteristics. These can be grouped into five categories, namely distances covered at various speeds, accelerations and decelerations, occurrences of high-intensity movements, and occurrences of low-intensity movement. The most commonly reported metrics appear to be those that describe the occurrences of high-speed movement, accelerations and decelerations (Levels 1 and 2; Table 1).
When selecting the metric(s) that will best profile an athlete’s physical output during training and matches, practitioners must consider the unique limitations that team sports impose on their athletes’ movement patterns. This is a challenge that practitioners must overcome, with a critical thinking process and a healthy dose of scepticism, to ensure that the best metric is selected to suit an athlete’s particular needs.