Looking Back: A 1992 Take on Notational Analysis

In the Autumn of 1992, I was invited to write an article for the Sports Council of Wales’ In Touch magazine for coaches. I had been at Cardiff College for just under a year and had established a Centre for Notational Analysis there with the help of Peter Treadwell, Dave Cobner, Sean Power and Jeff Young. I had started my work with the Welsh Rugby Union as a notational analyst.

The article was titled The Use of Notational Analysis in Sport Performance. I reproduce it here to coincide with the start of week four of the small open online course, Observing and Analysing Performance in Sport.

Coaches use a variety of methods to remember and recall the fleeting moments of sport performance. Video is a particularly effective way of recording events for subsequent analysis and reflection. Some coaches are also making use of what is termed ‘notational analysis’ to extend their knowledge of performance.

Notational analysts seek to:

  • Accurately observe performance
  • Collate and analyse observations
  • Facilitate recall of observed performance


The aim of such analysis is to support coaches. In pre-video and computer days, notational analysis relied on pen and paper methods to record events. Some coaches used cine film to provide a visual record of performance. More recently notational analysis has made use of video and computer technology although pen and paper are still used.

Today, all sports are amenable to notational analysis. The notating of performance can take place at the same time as the performance or after the event by making use of a video recording. Information produced in these ways can provide quantitative and qualitative feedback for coaches during, after or some considerable time after performance.

Notational analysis can be either an academic exercise or applied sports science in support of coaching. The former enables an ‘objective’ look at a sport and provides some baseline measurement of what occurs in that sport. The latter is usually undertaken in collaboration with coaches who identify what is to be analysed. It is no less objective than academic investigation but has the advantage of being focused by a coach’s perceived needs.

Notational analysis can be presented in written or visual form. Coaches can use the information to feedback to performers and to evaluate their own effectiveness. It is important to stress that such analysis is carried out in a creative and supportive manner.

Some coaches are blessed with excellent recall but the evidence from research into eyewitness testimony suggests that most of us experience memory decay after an event. Notational analysis can help fill in some of the forgotten elements. Like video, it is a tool for the coach to use.

The exciting challenge for notational analysis is to describe an activity or sport accurately. The next step is to model performance using the quantitative and qualitative information available. With sufficient data and experience it then becomes possible to start to predict performance. The ultimate goal is perhaps to transform performance.

Notational analysis can effectively map the terrain of all sports but it is essential that the guides remain the coaches. Without the insight and intuition of good coaches, any map is less than helpful.

Photo Credit

The National Stadium, Cardiff

Lloyd Lowell Messersmith and the Origins of Notational Analysis


This is a revised version of a paper I wrote in 1994 to celebrate the life and work of Lloyd Lowell Messersmith.

I reproduce it here to share his achievements with a new generation of performance and notation analysts.

This is a copy of the paper for download LLM (1994).

Lloyd Lowell Messersmith and the Origins of Notational Analysis

1. Introduction

There is a growing interest in notational analysis as an academic area of study. In this paper I draw attention to one of the pioneers of notation in sport, Lloyd Lowell Messersmith. Most of his work has been under reported in historical overviews of notation although many of the issues he addresses are of fundamental interest.

The paper reports biographical information, details of his publications and a summary of his doctoral dissertation. It is intended as a contribution to a sociology of knowledge of notation in sport.

2. Biographical Detail

Lloyd Lowell Messersmith was born in Francisco in Gibson County, Indiana on 29 January 1905. He was the first of eight children in his family. He graduated from Francisco High School in 1922 and attended Oakland City College. He taught for two years in a one-room rural school house before he went to DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana in 1924.

At DePauw he represented the University at basketball, baseball and football. He earned freshman numerals and three varsity letters in each of these sports. He was captain of basketball in his senior year and was selected as an end on the first all state team in football by the Indianapolis News in 1927. He damaged his retina in his right eye in a basketball accident in his senior year and was advised to “refrain from all strain and excessive exercise in order to prevent any greater detachment of the retina”.  When he graduated in 1928 he was awarded the Walker Cup for outstanding performance during his time at DePauw.

After graduation Lloyd received a teaching and coaching position at Shortridge High School in Indianapolis. He taught history and coached basketball at the school for two years. Lloyd also ‘moonlighted’ by refereeing basketball and football games all over Indiana. Whilst at the school he married Fae Houston in August 1929.

His coaching ability was much respected by his students at Shortridge where he made “a deep impression during his all too brief stay”. In 1930 Lloyd returned to DePauw University as freshman coach and assistant in the Department of Physical Education. In Shortridge’s last basketball under his guidance the local newspaper reported that the team:

will be at their best in this game, at the end of their bright career because of their regard for their mentor, Coach Messersmith.

On his arrival at DePauw he coached football, basketball and baseball. His position did not attract a high salary and he supplemented his income by officiating at basketball and football games during the Depression years. Many years later his wife wrote of these times:

The pay was $15 for basketball officials and $25 for football. The fellowship with other officials was good and the extra money was nice. Fae didn’t mind the excited Indiana basketball fans and their boos at the officials as she knew that ‘Messer’s’ decisions were fair; however there were times they hurried away after a game!

Lloyd received a Master’s degree from Columbia University in 1932 after four summer terms there.

He taught at DePauw for fifteen years from 1930 to 1945. Towards the end of his time there he was the Acting Director of Athletics. He had a sabbatical year in 1942 to complete his doctoral dissertation at Indiana University. The original title for his dissertation was A Study of the Comparative Physical Fatigue Engendered by Participation in a Major Sport – Basketball but  ultimately this became The Development of a Measurement Technique for Determining the Distances Traversed by Players in Basketball.

During this period of their lives Lloyd and Fae Messersmith had three daughters Ann (b 1935), Jean (b 1937) and Kay (b 1941).

In 1945, Lloyd was offered the position of Chairman of Physical Education at the Southern Methodist University (SMU), Dallas. He remained as chairman for the next 25 years until his retirement in 1970. Throughout this period he taught handball. It is reported that he reserved an ‘A’ grade for any student that could beat him and that no student had ever gained that grade!

He held a number of offices in Physical Education Associations in Indiana and Texas. In 1961 he received an Honor Fellow award from the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation. In 1969, as part of the centennial celebrations of the game of football, he was chosen as one of DePauw University’s twenty-five outstanding players. His hobbies included photography and he was the movie photographer for the SMU Mustang football team for almost three decades.

Throughout his life Lloyd was an active Methodist and was listed in Who’s Who in American Methodism. He and his family were members of the Highland Park Methodist Church in Dallas. He was a non-smoker and a non-drinker.

He retired from his University post in 1970. All his life he was a physically active person. From 1970 to 1975 he exercised daily and at the age of 70 was still able to do 100 push ups a day! In his more restful moments he particularly enjoyed playing bridge and was described by a friend as “a better partner than opponent”.

He suffered a stroke in January 1975. A second stroke resulted in his death on 27 July 1977. At his funeral service a eulogy by his friend Willis Tate, President Emeritus at Southern Methodist University, observed that:

A giant tree has fallen in the forest leaving a wide empty space in the sky. … He served by being an example of absolute integrity and fairness… Lloyd took great satisfaction from being a teacher. His students admired and loved him.

His funeral on 29 July 1977 in Dallas was attended by a large congregation.

3. Publications

Lloyd Messersmith’s research publications related to notational analysis appeared between 1931 and 1944. His dissertation, The Development of a Measurement Technique for Determining the Distances Traversed by Players in Basketball,  was submitted in May 1942 in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education in the School  of Education, Indiana University.

This incandescence of notational analysis was reported in:

Messersmith, L L & Corey, S 1931, ‘The Distance Traversed by a Basketball Player’, Research Quarterly, II, 2, pp. 57-60.

Messersmith, L L & Fay, P 1932, ‘Distances Traversed By Football Players’, Research Quarterly, III, 1, pp. 78-80.

Fay, P J & Messersmith, L L 1938a, ‘The Effect of Rule Changes Upon the Distance Traversed by Basketball Players’, Research Quarterly, IX, 2, pp. 136-137.

Fay, P J & Messersmith, L L 1938b, ‘The Distance Traversed by College and High School Basketball Players and Effect of Rule Changes upon Distance Traversed in College Games’, Athletic Journal, XVIII, May, np.

Messersmith, L L & Bucher, C C 1939, ‘ The Distance Traversed by Big Ten Basketball Players’, Research Quarterly, X, 1, pp. 61-62.

Messersmith, L L,Laurence, J & Randels, K 1940, ‘A Study of Distances Traversed by College Men and Women in Playing the Game of Basketball’, Research Quarterly, XI, 3, pp. 30-31.

Messersmith, L L 1944, ‘A Study of the Distance Traveled By Basketball Players’, Research Quarterly, 15, pp. 29-37.

In order to stimulate interest in and a reading of the papers I have included here a brief summary of them in relation to: keywords; methods; research design; data collection; validity and reliability; results; recommendations; and references.

Summary of Lloyd Messersmith’s Research Reports 1931-1938

Content Messersmith &  

Corey (1931)

Messersmith &  

Fay (1932)

Fay &  

Messersmith (1938)

Keywords Distance Traversed 

Basketball Player

Distances Traversed 

Football Players

Rule Changes 

Distance Traversed

Basketball Players

Methodology 1. Real-Time Player Track in Game 

2.Electric Pursuit Apparatus

1. Real-Time Track in Practice and Game Play 

2. Electrical Pursuit Apparatus

1. Real-Time Track in Game Play 

2. Electrical Pursuit Apparatus

Sample Size A trace of the DePauw University floor guard v Miami University (whole game). Three games (two college and one high school) one player traced in each game analysed. Traced: right half-back; left end; half-back. Data set of several games played by DePauw University basketball team. Three games reported. Tracks of guard, centre and forward.
Data Collected 1. Student estimates of anticipated distance traversed. 

2. Distance traversed noted every two minutes.

3. Recorded changes of possession from defense to offense.

1. Distances traversed in: offense and defense; ‘time in’ and ‘time out’. 

2. All four quarters notated.

1. Distance traversed 

2. Recorded changes of possession from defense to offense.





Different observers used pursuit apparatus with “no noticeable difference”.


Validated scale measurements of the pursuit apparatus. “any inaccuracy in the results obtained would lie in the inability of the operator to duplicate accurately … the movements of the player on the football gridiron.”


Validated scale measurements of the pursuit apparatus “so any inaccuracy in the result lies in the inability of the operator to follow accuratel the movements of the player.”

Results 1. Player traversed similar distances first and second half. 

2. Traversed approx 608′ every two minutes.

3. There were 92 changes of possession in the game.

4.Much greater distances were traversed in attack.

5. The player traversed a distance of 2.34 miles.

1. Distances reported for 3 players in: offense and defense; ‘time in’ & ‘time out’. 

2. Activity pattern was comparatively regular during four quarters of play.

3. Additional data presented from other games.

1. Distances traveled consistently greater than in 1931 data. 

2. No conclusion about effect of rule changes.

3. Distances traveled were up to 3.97 miles compared to 2.50 miles in 1931.

Other Aspects of Report Specific footnote about patterns of attack and defense in the game (footnote 2). No tables of data or reports of practice/ scrimmage data Report intended to explore effects of rule change but seemed vague? Data appears from 1931 that was not reported in 1931 (distance traveled then was 2.34 miles) See
Future Work 1. Modifications to apparatus. 

2. Activities in different positions.

3. Football & basketball.

None suggested.
References None Messersmith & Corey (1931). Note that Messersmith incorrectly referenced this and cited Corey first. Messersmith & Corey (1931). Note that Messersmith correctly referenced this.
Number of Words 800 950 500
Tables etc 4 0 1


The Indianapolis Times carried a report on its sports page on Thursday, 17 February 1938 of the research undertaken for the Fay and Messersmith (1938) paper. The newspaper reports that in a study of  four DePauw University players in four different games:

  • the guard in Boston v DePauw game traveled 3.9 miles
  • the forward in Ball State v DePauw game traveled 3.96 miles (12,138 feet in offense and 8.798 feet in defense)
  • the guard in Franklin v DePauw game traveled 3.87 miles
  • the centre in Earlham v DePauw game traveled 3.97 miles

The report concludes with the note that “Prof. Fay follows the player while Prof. Messersmith does the recording and figuring of statistics.”

Summary of Research Reports 1939-1944

Content Messersmith & Bucher (1939) 

Messersmith, Laurence & Randels (1940) Messersmith (1944)
Keywords Distance Traversed 

Big Ten Basketball Players

Distances Traversed 

College Men

College Women


Distance Traveled 

Basketball Players

Methodology A continuation of earlier studies: real-time player track with electrical pursuit apparatus A continuation of earlier studies: real-time player track with electrical pursuit apparatus Development of a measuring device for measurement of distance traversed by individuals. Procedures discussed. Sometimes used three boards at a game.
Sample Size Three games chosen from several studied during 1938-39 season: Indiana centre (W Menke); Indiana guard (Armstrong); Minnesota guard (Kundla). DePauw University intra-mural games 1939-1940 season. Twenty games selected at random reported here (10 male and 10 female games) 200 players from variety of ability levels at DePauw University, Indiana University, Greencastle High School. Tracks of players who played whole game.
Data Collected Distances traversed in offense and defense. Distances traversed in whole game Distances traveled per unit of playing time on offense and defense


No explicit discussion No explicit discussion Validity of measuring instrument discussed: accuracy checked. Any inaccuracy “due to the inability of the operator to follow accurately the movements of the player under observation.” “Errors of over and underestimation probably canceled.” 

Reliability of data discussed. Experimenters trained. Checks at one game gave error between observers of 3.5% but then reports different data?

Results Distance traversed in offense and defense similar to games at college level but more than  high school players. Range of Big Ten Players was 3.46 to 3.89 miles. Distances traversed by men were approximately twice that traversed by women per unit of playing time. Discussed in relation to: effect of floor size on distance traversed – a direct influence; effect of rule changes – impact of removal of centre jump. Distances traversed
Other Aspects of Report Referred to high school data (1938). Uses three “representative” games for research report. Big Ten are state teams and might thus confuse term “representative”. Discussed potential of 40′ x 70′ court for intra-mural basketball Noted the researcher’s role as coach and the pattern of play of team.
Future Work No discussion No discussion. No discussion
References Three 

Messersmith & Corey (1931); Fay & Messersmith (1938a); Fay & Messersmith (1938b)


Messersmith & Corey (1931); Fay & Messersmith (1938a)


Messersmith & Corey (1931)

Number of words 400 500 3000
Tables etc 1 1 1 and 1 drawing of apparatus


For a photograph of the pursuit apparatus see The Indianapolis Times report on its sports page on Thursday, 17 February 1938. Professor Paul Fay is photographed operating the pursuit apparatus and Professor Messersmith noting the distances.  His dissertation, The Development of a Measurement Technique for Determining the Distances Traversed by Players in Basketball includes a drawing of the apparatus in the appendix.

4. Lloyd Messersmith’s Doctor of Education Dissertation

In May 1942, Loyd Mesersmith submitted his dissertation to the School of Education, at Indiana University. Its title was: The Development Of A Measurement Technique For Determining The Distances Traversed By Players in Basketball.

The dissertation has 79 pages, 13 tables and cites eleven references. It is divided into 10 chapters.

In Chapter I (Introduction), Lloyd included the following:

Statement of the Problem

1. The development of a measurement technique for determining the distance traversed by basketball players

2. The application of this device in determining the distances traversed by individuals when playing the game on floors of three different sizes.

Purpose of Study

In addition to 1 above

To ascertain, if possible, the relationship which floor size has upon the distance traversed per unit of playing time.

Delimitations: courts of three sizes were studied:

Size of Court Players
94′ x 50′ College teams in Indiana and the Big Ten Intercollegiate Conference
74′ x 50′ (regulation size for secondary schools) ‘A’ & ‘B’ team players in secondary schools in Indiana; intramural games at secondary school
70′ x 40′ (size comparable to that use by smaller secondary schools without access to modern gymnasium) Intramural games at DePauw University (cross court games)

The measuring device used in the study was developed at DePauw University. All data were collected in Indiana. The secondary school data were collected mainly from Greencastle. College team data were collected either at the DePauw or Indiana Universities.

In his review of Related Studies there is reference to: Fullerton (1910) on baseball; Hodgson (1936b) on women’s two-court basketball and (1939) on three-court basketball; and Miner et al (1940) on distances traversed in women’s basketball. He cites five of his own research reports (1931, 1932, 1938a, 1939, 1940).

Chapter II reports the Measuring Instrument for his study. The electrical pursuit apparatus is described. It was built to scale and was used to trace a player’s movements. Observations of players were made from above from “a clear and unobstructed view of the entire playing surface at all times”. Nine floors were created – three for each size of basketball court to be studied. It was described by Lloyd Messersmith as a compact, portable piece of equipment. Sometimes it was placed on a table in the press box and at other times on the observer’s knees with the batteries between his feet! An assistant recorded data from an impulse counter.

The validity of instrument was tested. Measurements of known distances on the courts were checked. For short distances measurements were reported to be exact but for longer distances there was some variance. A measurement of 300 excursions up and down 94′ court produced a result 1.75% less than the actual distance (6.29 miles rather than 6.40 miles)  but the apparatus consistently measured known distance thus:

any inaccuracy in the results obtained was due to the inability of the operator to follow accurately the movements of the player under observation. Errors of over and underestimation probably canceled so that the final result was, in all probability, a reasonably accurate record of the actual distance traversed.

The reliability of data collected was discussed. Experimenters were trained to secure reasonable uniformity in technique in handling the tracing wheel. Differences between experimenters tracing the same player were approximately 3%.

Game Operator A Operator B Difference
1 3.20 miles 3.25 miles 1.56%
2 3.10 miles 3.22 miles 3.87%
3 3.26 miles 3.32 miles 1.84%

Lloyd Messersmith reported the procedure in collecting data. If the player tracked was substituted the track continued with the substituted player. Data collection focused on playing positions and those players who were on court for whole game. “In a large number of cases the player under observation did play the entire game.”

There were two operators at each data collection event: a tracer and a recorder. An apparatus illustration and a tally sheet were included as appendices to dissertation.

Data collection started in 1931 but the majority of material covering secondary school and intramural players was collected 1938-1941.

With regard to the applicability of the measuring instrument to other sports it was noted that the pursuit apparatus was applicable to a range of sports and had been used in football  (Messersmith and Fay, 1932).

Chapter III reported the Distance Traversed By Players On College Teams. Data were collected on 57 college positions in Indiana Intercollegiate Conference (data collected at DePauw University) and the Big Ten Intercollegiate Conference (data collected at Indiana University). Lloyd Messersmith regarded this as a fair sampling of the type of game played by representative college teams in the United States of America and represented “a typical basketball situation as could be found in any section of the country”. Twenty-five of these 57  played entire games.

Data were collected over a decade from 1931 to 1941. Distances traversed ranged from 2.12 miles to 4.22 miles per game with a mean distance of 3.38 miles for 57 positions included in the study.

Centre Guard Forward
Average distance traveled per game 3.44 miles 3.33 miles 3.28 miles

All positions travel approximately equal distances. There appeared to be no difference in the distances traversed by Big Ten players compared to teams in Indiana Conference.

The introduction of  a ’10 second rule’ and the elimination of the centre jump appear to have increased distances traveled by approximately a mile during the course of the study. The removal of the centre jump after a basket was scored increased actual playing time and speeded up the game in majority of cases.

Lloyd Messersmith collected information about distances traversed in offense and defense. Of the 57 positions observed the average distance in offense was 9,043.41 feet and in defense 8,810.38 feet.

With regard to change of possession it was noted that: Big Ten averaged 3.3 per minute, Indiana Conference 4 per minute. The removal of centre jump made it mandatory to change possession and thus the 75 pre-rule change became approximately 130 post-rule change.

Of the 25 out of 57 who played whole games: distances traversed ranged from 4.23 to 3.15 miles per game (mean 3.40). Players of whole game traveled as far as those sharing a positional responsibility.

The distances traversed in final quarter were greater than in previous quarters and Lloyd Messersmith noted that:

The distance traversed in any segment of the game appeared to be a function of the score and style of game employed by the competing teams rather than the physical condition of the players.

Chapter IV discussed the Distance Traversed By Players On Secondary School ‘A’ Teams. Data were reported from games on courts 74′ x 50′. In all 63 positions were traced. Distances traversed  ranged from 1.79 miles to 2.88 miles.

Chapter V discussed the Distance Traversed By Players On Secondary School ‘B’ Teams. 32 players were observed.

Chapter VI discussed the Distance Traversed By Players On College Intramural Teams. 42 players were studied on a court 70′ x 40′.

In Chapter VII Lloyd Messersmith discussed the Relationship Between the Size of Playing Floor and Distance Traversed. It was concluded that the size of the court has a direct bearing on distances traversed:

Size of Court Average Distance Traveled
94′ x 50′ 441.86 feet per minute
74′ x 50′ 404.63 feet per minute
70′ x 40′ 345.92 feet per minute

In Chapter VIII it was noted that there was no significant difference in the distances traversed in relation to the Effect of Position Played Upon Distance Traversed. Big Ten players traveled furthest at an average of 3.34 miles per game.

Chapter IX discussed the Effect of Certain Rule Changes Upon Distance Traversed.

In Chapter X a number of Conclusions and Recommendations were made. It was concluded that:

  1. Individuals in good physical condition are able to play a complete game of basketball without noticeable signs of physical strain.
  2. Distance traversed were a function of style of game employed and floor area.
  3. All players on a modern basketball team travel approximately equal distances.
  4. Rule changes increased activity as measured by distances by approx 50%.
  5. College A and B teams less cautious in ball handling than Big Ten teams.

Most of the recommendations were game focused but did include a link between distances traversed and muscular strength. It was suggested that consideration should be given to energy requirements in the game.

5. Publications by Lloyd Messersmith’s Contemporaries

Lloyd Messersmith’s dissertation cites 11 references: five of these are to his own work. The remainder are:

Blake, R (1941) The Distance Traversed by Basketball Players in Different Types of Defense, Athletic Journal, XXI, January, 18-20.

Fullerton, H 1910, ‘The Inside Game: The Science of Baseball’, The American Magazine, LXX, 1, pp. 3-13.

Hodgson, P 1936a, ‘Studies in the Physiology of Activity: I. On Certain Reactions of College Women to Measured Activity’, Research Quarterly, VII, 1, pp. 3-25.

Hodgson, P 1936b, ‘Studies in the Physiology of Activity: II. On Certain Reactions of College Women Following Participation in Two-Court Basketball’, Research Quarterly, VII, 2, pp. 45-55.

Hodgson, P 1939, ‘Studies in the Physiology of Activity: II. On Certain Reactions of College Women Following Participation in Three-Court Basketball’, Research Quarterly, X, 1, pp. 53-60.

Miner, N, Hodgson, P & Espenschade, A 1940, ‘ Study of Distance Traversed and Time Spent in Active Play in Women’s Basketball’, Research Quarterly, XI, 1, pp. 95-101

In order to get a sense of the range of literature available these references (with the exception of Blake (1941)) were examined. The references cited by Lloyd Messersmith’s contemporaries were:

Hugh Fullerton (1910) does not cite any other sources. Pauline Hodgson (1936a) cites 21 references from physiology texts. She cites 6 references in (1936b) – one to 1936a, one to unpublished data prepared by A Espenschade, J Falconer and N Miner in 1935 and four physiology texts. Her (1939) paper cites one reference – her (1936b) paper. Nancy Miner et al (1940) cite three references: Hodgson (1936b, 1939) and a psychology text.

What is interesting in this cluster of research is that two research groups appear to have been working in the study of distances traversed. Lloyd Messersmith and his co-workers did not refer to Pauline Hodgson and her co workers. Nor did they refer to Lloyd Messersmith.  Both groups used the Research Quarterly of the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation as the prime vehicle for sharing their research reports.

6. Conclusion

Lloyd Messersmith’s work in the notational analysis of sport has received comparatively little attention. The purpose of this paper has been to bring his work to the attention of a wider audience and to stimulate interest in the forging of ideas about notational analysis. In doing so I have sought to link his academic endeavour to a biographical  context. Such an approach emphasises the personal construction of knowledge in notation and the gains to be made from retrospective study.

Photo Credit

Championship Basketball Game

Basketball Team

Basketball Wins My Heart Again

Analysing Women's Lacrosse Performance: Some Historical Data


In 1994 I attended the 10th Commonwealth and International Scientific Conference in Victoria, British Columbia. There were 600 delegates from 33 countries at the Conference. The central theme was ‘Access to Active Living’ and around this 15 strands were organised. I attended five different strands: Sport and Coaching Education; Teacher Education; Sociology; Exercise Physiology; Motor Learning and Control.

I presented a paper at the Conference on the notational analysis of women’s lacrosse performance at the International Federation of Women’s Lacrosse Associations’ (IFWLA) 1993 World Cup. I used an overhead projector to present some key aspects of my paper.

My hope was that the content would be relevant to a number of the Conference strands. I contributed to a Symposium of Notational Analysis of Sport with Mike Hughes, Ian Franks and some of Ian’s research students. The symposium was entitled ‘From Counting to Prediction’.

I found a report about the conference that I submitted to my head of department at the Cardiff Institute of Higher Education back in 1994. In it I observed:

I do feel that the ongoing inclusion of the Institute in a world system of scholarship requires a creative use of information networks. Many delegates actively use E-mail to share research and ideas. I think we must do this and recommend that E-mail and Internet use be an urgent theme for staff development.

The title of my paper was Analysing an Invasive Team Field Game: A Case Study from Women’s Lacrosse.

I present the paper here with the benefits of 16 years hindsight. I have included hyperlinks to support the 1994 text.

Analysing an Invasive Team Field Game: A Case Study from Women’s Lacrosse

1. Introduction

I attended the IFWLA 1993 World Cup Tournament held in Edinburgh at the Heriot Watt University campus. My role at the Tournament was to provide a performance analysis service to the Welsh Lacrosse Team. This role required me to make video recordings of all games played and to provide post event analysis to support the coach and players in the Welsh team.

All games in the Tournament were played on the same pitch. I used a Panasonic S-VHS camera (Panasonic, Japan) to record all the games played. I filmed each game from the same half way line location on an elevated bank (I marked the tripod position) to ensure that post event notation and analysis of the video record used the same perspective. I did not stop the recording of each game until the end of each half to ensure that all stop clock events were included. I used a 180 minute Panasonic SVHS video tape for each game. All games were notated post event with pen and paper whilst using a Panasonic S-VHS video recorder (Panasonic, Japan) to enable frame by fame observation of each game tape.

I did not conduct intra- or inter-observer tests for the reliability of the data recorded (Darst, Mancini and Zakrajsek, 1983; Darst, 1989) and note it here as a limitation of the study. I had been working as a full-time performance analyst for two years at that time and was confident that my knowledge of the game and the availability of a complete record that could be investigated without time constraint would enable a high degree of accuracy in my data capture. I stored the videos of the World Cup until my departure from Cardiff in 2002 in case anyone was interested in the data.

In this paper I seek to share:

I do so through a case study approach (Stake, 1978).

2. A Case Study

The paper reports a notational analysis of the Fourth Women’s World Cup Tournament held in Edinburgh in 1993. It is presented at a time when Women’s Lacrosse will be a demonstration sport at the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

3. Aims

The aims of the paper are:

  1. To say something about notational analysis in sport
  2. To present some empirical data from the 1993 IFWLA World Cup
  3. To consider the appeal of women’s lacrosse as a potential Commonwealth Games sport.

Three games are used to discuss the performance characteristics of teams and game at the World Cup: the final (England v United States of America (USA)), a game to determine final classification (crossover game) (Wales v Canada) and a play off game for the two newest teams at the Tournament (Japan v Representation of Czechs and Slovaks (RCS)).

4. Methods

Data were collected post event for three games from video recordings. The video recordings were a complete record of the duration of each game. The camera was turned on prior to the centre draw that started each half and turned off immediately after the umpire’s whistle to end each half. The games were recorded on 180 minute Panasonic SVHS tapes to ensure that sufficient tape was available should any game have extensive stop clock events.

All three games were analysed using the play, pause and slow motion controls of a Panasonic SVHS video recorder. The games were viewed on a large screen Panasonic monitor. Despite using SVHS as a recording medium there was some blurring of images when the video was paused. In all instances any uncertainty about events were resolved by repeated playing of the video until an action or time could be confirmed. Each game took approximately twelve hours to analyse. Time measures were collected using a EA Combs stopwatch 235 3750 (EA Combs, London, United Kingdom) whilst the video was playing in real time and checked against the video recorder’s time code to compare accuracy to the nearest second.

All data on time measures were captured in real time as the video played at normal speed. All data for possession of the ball and use of that possession were captured through slow motion play and replay.

Data were tallied with pen and paper. Data collected were:

  • The elapsed time duration of games
  • Time in possession of the ball
  • Ball in play time as a percentage of elapsed game time
  • Passes made and passing errors (unforced and forced)

5. Performance Data

5.1 Elapsed Time Duration of Games

The operational definition of elapsed time duration of a game used in this study is “the time from the first centre draw to start of the game to the umpire’s whistle to end the first half and the time from the centre draw to start the second half to the umpire’s whistle to end of game”. Elapsed time measures the total time of the game and is measured by a running clock that does not stop regardless of official ‘stop clock’ events.

Table 1

Elapsed time (minutes and seconds) by game type, by half and game total

Game Teams First Half Second Half Total
Final England 



28m 18s 31m 20s 59m 38s
Crossover Wales 



31m 40s 33m 20s 65m
7th/8th Playoff Japan 



35m 42s 37m 18s



5.2 Time in Possession

The operational definition of possession used to quantify data here is “that time when a player has the ball under control in her crosse and the transfer of the ball to a member of her team that provides a continuity of possession by the team”.

Table 2

Time in possession by team, by half and by game total



First Half

Second Half


Final England

9m 34s

6m 18s

15m 52s


7m 32s

10m 13s

17m 45s


Crossover Wales

7m 57s

6m 47s

14m 44s


10m 06s

11m 25s

21m 31s


7th/8th Playoff Japan

7m 30s

12m 45s

20m 15s


7m 29s

6m 16s

13m 45s

5.3 Ball in Play Time as a Percentage of Total Elapsed Time

In contrast to the running clock measure of time used in 5.1, ball in play time is measured by a stop clock. The operational definition of ball in play time used here is “the time the ball is in play between umpires’ whistles to start and stop the game”.

Table 3

Ball in Play Time as a Percentage of Total Elapsed Time

Game Teams First Half Second Half Total



England v USA










Wales v Canada








7th/8th Playoff


Japan v RCS







5.4 Use of Possession: Passes, Unforced Errors, Forced Errors

A pass is defined as “the successful transfer of the ball from one player to another player in the same team without an opponent disrupting or intercepting the path of the ball”. An unforced error is defined as “a pass that does not reach another player of the same team without any pressure from an opponent to disrupt the pass”. A forced error is defined as “a pass that does not reach another player of the same team with evident pressure from an opponent in close proximity to disrupt the pass”.

Table 4

Use of Possession by Team, by Half, by Game Total: Passes, Unforced Errors, Forced Errors

Final: England v USA

First Half Second Half Game Total
Passes 89 94 56 110 145 204
Unforced Errors
9 9 6 8 15 17
Forced Errors
7 7 10 8 17 15

Crossover: Wales v Canada

First Half Second Half Game Total
Passes 96 73 80 75 176 148
Unforced Errors
8 6 11 8 19 14
Forced Errors
15 4 10 8 25 12


First Half Second Half Game Total
Passes 59 53 128 36 187 89
Unforced Errors
14 17 20 19 34 36
Forced Errors
6 15 3 7 9 22

6. Conclusion

The aims of this paper were:

  1. To say something about notational analysis in sport
  2. To present some empirical data from the 1993 IFWLA World Cup
  3. To consider the appeal of women’s lacrosse as a potential Commonwealth Games sport.

The case study presented data from three games and provided a cursory profile of the performance of: the two leading teams in the tournament; two teams that played a highly competitive crossover game; and a game from two new teams in the World Cup Tournament.


Darst, PW (ed.) 1989, Analyzing Physical Education and Sport Instruction, Human Kinetics, Champaign IL. (Link)

Darst, PW, Mancini, VH & Zakrajsek, D 1983, Systematic observation instrumentation for physical education, Leisure Press, New York. (Link)

Stake, R 1978, ‘The Case Study Method in Social Inquiry’, Educational Researcher, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 5-8. (Link)