Decoding team sports with data science

La Trobe researchers are investigating the importance of the physical actions of players during a team sport game

Dr Matthew Varley, Senior Lecturer in Sport Science, is researching the importance of the physical actions of players during a team sport game.

“My research is primarily focused on using a data science-based approach to understand the dynamics between physical actions and their situational context during matches. In particular, high-intensity movements – sprints, accelerations and decelerations – in team sports, including football, Australian football and rugby,” says Dr Varley.

“These movements can have a significant impact on the overall game strategy, player performance and team success. Understanding these movements better is highly valuable to teams and clubs, yet the research in this area remains limited.”

A scoping review conducted by Susanne Ellens (PhD candidate) and Dr Varley found inconsistencies in the way movement data was being tracked and analysed.

“Based on our findings, we developed a refined approach to quantifying player accelerations and have created data analysis guidelines for both sports practitioners and researchers to address these inconsistencies.”

These research findings have already informed training and testing practices across a range of football disciplines.

“Our research has been widely adopted, informing practices and deepening understanding of the contexts in which high-intensity movements occur, thereby influencing training methods,” he says.

“With the dynamic nature of team sports there is still a lot yet to be explored. Building on our findings on acceleration, our next steps are to delve further into understanding deceleration and change of direction in our upcoming research.”