Integrity and Achievement

This is a brief post to celebrate Samantha Stosur‘s victory over Serena Williams in the Women’s Singles at the US Tennis Open 2011.

Performance is a key theme in my blog.

I am fascinated by the process by which athletes prepare to perform. I am fascinated too by the realisation of the readiness to perform in actual performance.

I look out for athletes’ performances of understanding.

I think Sam Stosur’s win at the US Open Tennis is a great case study in this realisation and demonstration of performances of understanding. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the integrity of and in sport too.

For me:

There was:

  • A technically and tactically outstanding first set.

Source: IBM data

Source: IBM data

I thought the game had everything an observer could want in a game of tennis. I do think that Eva Asderaki’s decision in the first game of the second set contains within it the essence of the integrity of sport. It reminded me again of the partnership players have with officials in making a game … and the role spectators have in engaging in a sporting event either at the event or through a live broadcast.

Photo Credit

Sam Stosur’s Blog

Conference Session 2: ACCSS

The second session of the ACCSS Conference started at 4.30 pm.

This session comprised four papers on Tennis:

  • Kei Nishinakama
  • Hyongjun Choi
  • Masahiko Ishihara
  • Hiroo Takahashi

Hiroo Takahashi chaired this session. Two of the four papers were students (Kei and Masahiko) working with Hiroo. He inducted these student gently into public presentation.

Kei explored the use of a normative performance profiling technique.

Hyongjun looked at the consistency of key performance indicators in tennis. He made a very interesting distinction between real-time and lapsed-time analysis. He explored an absolute distinction between winning and losing and a relative distinction between winning and losing performance.

Masahiko discussed the effects of online discussion of tennis technique.

Hiroo presented the final paper of the session and day. He looked at the application of a computerised scorebook for tennis to coaching.

I was very interested in Hiroo’s discussion of momentum and the potential of real-time analysis evident in his scorebook approach..

Momentum in Team Sports


Photograph by (Tres) descamarado (2006) (Flickr Creative Commons image)

A weekend of watching televised sport renewed my thinking about momentum in sport. I thought I might illustrate my post with some images from Flickr.

I think about momentum as a wave (perhaps from my reading of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) and have been contemplating for a long time now the role of probabilistic approaches to sports performance. I like the idea of a wave as it suggests tidal change.

The Wikipedia article on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi notes that his concept of flow involves “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”


Photograph by Mike Baird (2007) (Flickr Creative Commons image)

Some years ago (1990 in fact!) I was thinking of writing a paper entitled ‘Do coaches need a Gamelan rather than a Gameplan?’ I had seen a Gamelan in action at the Dartington College of Arts and what attracted me then was the characteristics in this description:

Varying forms of gamelan ensembles are distinguished by their collection of instruments and use of voice, tunings, repertoire, style, and cultural context. In general, no two gamelan ensembles are the same, and those that arose in prestigious courts are often considered to have their own style. Certain styles may also be shared by nearby ensembles, leading to a regional style.

So … whether it is jazz or gamelan music … it seems to me that athletes and coaches can have an active engagement in performance by being sensitive to rhythms. I think there are three types of rhythms in team games:

  • Negotiating
  • Driving
  • Chasing

I believe that in all three rhythms probabilistic behaviour can optimise the opportunity to drive a game and amplify that driving process. The enormous temptation when chasing, I believe, is that players seek possibilistic outcomes and abandon risk management. Clearly some teams do have a once in a lifetime experience but winning teams are able to counter most of these challenges by applying principles and probabilities. In most team games there is ample time to manage risk and probabilities so that the outcome is under your control independent of conditions and officiating.


Photograph by Jim Frazier (2005) (Flickr Creative Commons image)

(Note: Jim Frazier’s Flickr Profile can be found at and the Surfing in Chicago picture can be found at

I hope to return to this post to add some more about Martin Lames‘s idea of phases in games and Clive Ashworth‘s notions of figurations.