Ball not in play

Ray Williams’ book Rugby for Beginners was published in 1973. I first read it as a postgraduate physical education student at Loughborough College. By coincidence, Ray had been a student there too. Both of us were from North Wales.

Years later when I got to know Ray, I was able to explain how important the book was to me in my development as a player, teacher and coach.

The cover of Ray Williams' book.

Huw Richards (link) wrote about Ray’s career and noted his appointment as the Welsh Rugby Union’s first national coaching advisor. In that role he “drove that transformation through his promotion of conferences, teach-ins and courses which gave Wales more than 300 qualified coaches by the mid-1970s”.

I was fortunate to be one of those coaches and delighted in late night conversations with Ray in the bar of the National Sports Centre at Sofia Gardens in Cardiff. It was like being with the Oracle at Delphi.

One conversation became quite heated. I asked Ray about a line in his book that suggested “no player has the ball in his hands for more than one minute” in a game. The essence of Ray’s argument was that each player had a responsibility to support the ball (one of Ray’s game principles).

Even at my time playing rugby at Loughborough, I was sure I did not have the ball in my hands for that amount of time. I suggested to Ray that I ought to investigate what time the ball was in play and not in play.

I did follow up on this for the much of the next two decades. My operational definition of ball in play time was when the game was started and restarted by the referee either by a whistle or when the play was put back into play. Ball out of play was measured by a referee’s whistle or when the ball visibly left the field of play or was waiting the restart of the game.

It took some time to stabilise the recording of ball in play time. I monitored ball in play time from live broadcasts. One of my first successful attempts was on 16 January 1982, in what was then the Five Nations rugby tournament. Scotland played England at Murrayfield in a game refereed by Ken Rowlands (Wales).

  • The first half game time was 42 minutes and 33 seconds. The ball was in play for 10 minutes 28 seconds.
  • The second half game time was 44 minutes. The ball was in play for 13 minutes 10 seconds.
  • In the whole game, the ball in play time was approximately 27% of the available time.

It took me a further three years to develop a template to record each passage of ball in play in real time in addition to the other data I was collecting with hand notation. From this time on I termed passages of ball in play activity cycles.

My record of the Scotland v Wales game played on 2 March 1985 (video link) was:

For the first time, I was able to have a detailed account of game play. I recorded 97 distinct activity cycles (49 first half, 48 second half). Scotland had 52 of these (25 first half, 27 second half) and Wales 45 (24 first half, 21 second half). The game was refereed by Rene Hourquet of France. Wales won 25 points to 21 points.

The activity cycles were:

My record of the 97 activity cycles indicates a total ball in play time of 25 minutes 46 seconds (12 minutes 01 seconds first half, 13 minutes 45 seconds second half). Scotland had 13 minutes 20 seconds of ball possession and Wales 12 minutes 26 seconds.

I shared these data with Ray and we corresponded about the implications of such data for coaching and playing. I continued to share my data with him and he in turn passed it on to colleagues in coaching.

I have returned to these data this week as I researched the concept of dwell time (link). I was delighted to discover that Herbert Levinson (1983) was undertaking similar real-observations of performance … in the context of transit travel times. He concluded “transit performance should be improved by keeping the number of stopping places to a minimum”. That sounds like a fascinating pedagogical insight for rugby union.


The centenary of the 1919 Peace Regatta

The AIF No. 1 Crew – Winners of the 1919 King’s Cup at the Henley Royal Peace Regatta

The centenary of an Australian eight’s success at the 1919 Peace Regatta will be celebrated in Australia and at the Henley Royal Regatta (link).

Bruce Coe has written a book to record events in 1919 and the story of the King’s Cup (link). The book will be published in time for the 2019 Interstate Championships (link). Bruce is also involved in the making of a documentary about the Peace Regatta.

The 1919 Regatta was organised by rowing clubs in England for oarsmen in the Allied Armies. Two Australian crews competed in the event. They raced each other in the heats. The Number 1 crew won that race and went on to win the King’s Cup.

Photo Credit

The AIF No. 1 Crew (Rowing Australia website)

Australian Paralympic History Project 2018

A photograph of Katy Parrish competing in the long jump at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

Tony Naar has shared news of the Australian Paralympic History Project for 2018. (Link)

Ross Mallet (link) has compiled a list of the page views of articles created through the Australian Paralympic history project.

2018 was a record year for a non-summer Games’ year with 1,971,930 page views … an average of 5,402 views for every day of the year.

Tony notes that whilst the Winter Games in March elevated the number of views, the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and the profiles of two Paralympians, Kurt Fearnley (link) and Dylan Alcott (link) stimulated considerable interest in paralympians and their performances.

Kurt carried the flag for Australia in the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games and was subsequently named as the NSW Australian of the Year for 2019. Dylan became even more of a superstar at the Australian Open in January and then through his media roles.

Tony notes that for the first time in a few years, classification articles did not dominate the top 10 page views, although they did make up half of the top 30 articles viewed.

The top 15 articles about athletes were:

Dylan Alcott 182,838 views
Kurt Fearnley 125,933
Madison de Rozario 44,716
Isis Holt 37,824
Jan Cameron (coach) 35,185
Ashley Adams 30,387
Ellie Cole 25,627
Timothy Disken 22,654
Damien Thomlinson 22,049
Lakeisha Patterson 18,928
Evan O’Hanlon 17,331
Heath Davidson 16,145
Katie Hill 14,087
Kelly Cartwright 12,390
Matt Levy 11,680

Top 15 topic page views were:
T38 (classification) 101,506 views
T35 (classification) 36,828
Disability sport classification 23,685
Para-alpine skiing 21,503
Para-swimming classification 20,055
T44 (classification) 19,974
S9 (classification) 19,312
Para-athletics classification 15,926
S10 (classification) 13,308
T54 (classification) 12,323
S7 (classification) 12,290
S8 (classification) 11,857
BC2 (classification) 11,777
S14 (classification) 11,291

Page views since the start of the Project in 2012

A bar graph that shows page views of Paralympian wikipedia articles since 2012 to 2018.

Photo Credit

Katy Parrish (Australian Paralympic Committee, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Link)