A team sport is any sport that involves teammates facilitating the movement of a ball or similar object in accordance with a set of rules to score points. Examples include volleyball, football, baseball, and basketball. However, there are many other sports that can be considered team sports, such as rowing and dragon boat racing.
A number of research efforts have aimed at understanding the coordination mechanisms that underlie the functional collective behavior of teams in team sports. Most recently, the focus has shifted toward examining how teams interact continuously during competition, by employing methods such as tracking player positional data and measuring players’ lateral and longitudinal movements. This approach has revealed the existence of a remarkably complex web of interaction behaviors in team sports that is characterized by a counterphase relation between expansion and contraction movements.
These findings suggest that a new way of thinking about the nature of team sports is needed. Traditionally, they have been understood to be a contest between internal and external structures that control performance outcomes (e.g., federation rules and coaches’ prescriptions). Taking an ecological dynamics perspective, this idea needs to be replaced with an understanding that the functional emergence of intended behaviors in sports teams depends on individual athletes perceptually attuning to affordances created by others’ actions. The result is a coordinated collective behavior that, like an orchestral piece of music, is formed by mutual shaping of individuals with their unique skills.