04 January, 2015

Team Sports

This post, the first of the new year, will not be a 100 % athletics-oriented one but deal with sports in general and, in fact, something one would not associate with athletics: team sports. 

First, how do we define a “team” sport? I would like to begin with a tongue-in-cheek definition: 
a team sport is one where you can blame somebody else for your failure.

The main reason for this analysis is the fact that at some point it appeared that the IOC has been frowning upon individual-disguised-as-team events. In particular when the team result is obtained by the addition of the results of the individuals composing the team this should not be a team event. The team event in gymnastics is a typical case. A team classification is road cycling (like the Tour de France) is another. I could make some exception for the team classification in Formula One racing: in principle drivers may be (and sometimes are) replaced freely provided each team enters only two cars. Team fencing is another sport where the only "team" component is one of tactics, based on the order the members appear in the successive assaults.

The first question is whether a couple is a team. I will take the easy way out by deciding that the true plural starts at three (my greek origins show here, since ancient greek distinguished between singular, dual and plural). A couple works (in principle) always together and a substitution of one of the members changes completely the profile of the couple.

So, the second criterion (neglecting the one in the first sentence of this article) is that some members can be substituted without this changing drastically the team.

The third and obvious criterion is that some cooperation is expected from the members of the team, be it minimal. In relay races passing the relay may influence substantially the result despite the fact that the duration of this interaction is quite short. In fact this criterion puts a new perspective upon road cycling: members of the same team may help each other out and thus perhaps the judgement in the first paragraph is a bit too harsh.

One of the rare team events in athletics. 
Here the 4x100 m relay at the Moscow 2013 World Championships

Some sports exist as individual and as team ones. Synchronised swimming is a typical example. Many sports exist as individual and couple ones.

A statistically established fact is that people are individual- or team-oriented. It is not very frequent to see people excel in both types of sports. Of course such statements have no absolute value. The choice of sport is also a question of opportunity, not only of taste. Still in order to enter a team event one must be prepared to interact with several people and accept the fact that some of his/her preferred teammates can be replaced by the coach on short notice. But most important of all is the fact that in a team the end result can be larger or smaller than the sum of the expectations of the individuals. In the latter case one has the luxury to be able to blame somebody else for one's failure.

No comments:

Post a Comment