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)

Vivien Jones

This is a post to celebrate the life of a remarkable woman. Vivien Jones passed away on 26 December 2010 after an incredible battle against illness. I am hoping I have enough hyperbole to acknowledge and revere Vivien.

I first met Vivien in the late 1970s at St Mary’s College in Strawberry Hill. My wife Sue had known Vivien for much longer. I got off on the wrong foot at our first meeting when I called Vivien ‘Viv’. It was made very clear that Vivien was the proper greeting. Thereafter I worked with Vivien and was in awe of what she achieved as a mum, a lacrosse player and as a cherished friend. In the early 80s I acted as an occasional child minder for Sara and Nicola when Vivien attended the Centre of Excellence organised by my wife Sue.

Sue and I last met Vivien in October 2010. We stayed with Vivien at her beautiful home in Hampton. Typical of her she gave up her own room  for us. We timed our visit to coincide with the Southern Clubs and Colleges Tournament and on a very wet day I was amazed at her energy in supporting Centaurs. To my absolute delight I watched her march on to the pitch at the end of full time to galvanise the team for the golden goal extra time. I wondered then as I had done for almost 30 years how one person could have and share so much passion. I do know that she has proved to be an inspiration for me through all that time.

In 1997 I had the special opportunity to work with Vivien at the Fifth Women’s Lacrosse World Cup in Tokyo. During the preparation for the tournament and in the tournament I had the enormous privilege of working closely with her. What I learned from her during that time I have used in my professional and personal life in ways that I hope she would appreciate.

1997 is linked to 1993. I was at the World Cup in Edinburgh and was videoing the tournament for the Welsh team. On a very, very wet day through a very misty viewfinder I saw Vivien attack in the final minutes against Canada. Her shot at goal was from a long way out but as ever was profoundly astute. The shot hit the crossbar exactly in the middle and could have gone either into the goal to win the game or out to await another opportunity. The ball hit the bar with enormous force and rained a shower of water on the Canadian goalkeeper. The ball spiraled twenty feet into the air with the goal shuddering. I felt that if the bar had not been in the way the ball would have kept travelling from Heriot Watt to Princes Street.

In 1997 I reminded Vivien about that moment and saw it as the bond that tied us to perform in 1997. I would go anywhere to support someone who when they were absolutely exhausted in the most wretched of conditions would front up driven by energy that very few people in the world of sport possess. 1997 turned out to be a most wonderful tournament for Wales. Vivien was at the heart and soul of that success.

What I find really wonderful is that the friendships and love forged there in Tokyo continue to the present. The team had its thirteenth reunion in 2010 and typically the number 13 player in the squad was at the heart of the fun and memories.

Vivien will be missed profoundly. Her joy of life, her unequivocal friendship, her love of her daughters and a once in a lifetime resilience are very special legacies.

She did not go gentle into that good night, her raging against the dying of the light has taught me even more than I imagined possible.

I send my love and sincerest wishes to Vivien’s daughters Sara and Nicola, to John and Vivien’s family. Vivien will be with us all as long as we have memories and stories to tell.


The Guardian published an obituary for Vivien on 23 January. Gill Phillips wrote a very sensitive account of Vivien’s remarkable life.

Working with Coaches and Performers


I have been revisiting some of my work from the 1990s of late. In this post I share a paper written in my early years as Director of the Centre for Notational Analysis at the Cardiff Institute of Higher Education.

In 1993 I was exploring some of the issues around a notational analysis service to sport and presented a paper at a British Association of Sports Sciences’ conference. The title of the paper was Working with Coaches and Performers: Notational Analysis as Liberational Praxis?

My background in social sciences had encouraged me to think about the links between liberation theology and Marxist conceptualisations of praxis and how they might enrich an understanding of sport performance. My thoughts were focused by a remarkable victory in rugby union in 1993 when Wales defeated England in Cardiff (there is a video of the game winning try and conversion here). I was working with the Welsh Rugby Union at that time but was in Amsterdam with the Welsh A team coached by Kevin Bowring. The scenes after the game in Cardiff were euphoric. BBC Wales TV replayed the entire game that night and rescheduled its programs for the rest of the weekend.

In the abstract I submitted to the conference’s scientific committee I noted that:

I am conscious that the reality of such theology and praxis is not always positive and developmental and so a second strand in the paper is the use of the concepts of liberation and praxis as reflective tools to explore the limits of notational analysis.

I present the paper here as a contribution to the discussion of the role of notational analysis in supporting coaches and athletes. I present it as an artefact too for a sociology of knowledge approach to notational and performance analysis.

I have added hyperlinks in this post to facilitate access to references used. There were limited opportunities to hyperlink text in 1993.

Working with Coaches and Performers: Notational Analysis as Liberational Praxis?


In this paper I use terms such as ’empowering’, ‘facilitating’, ‘sharing’ and ‘learning’ to characterise the relationships between notational analysts and coaches and notational analysts and performers. I suggest that by drawing on a tradition of research from outside sport science we can conceptualise the role that notational analysis can play in sport. In doing so I am conscious of Arthur Bolster’s (1983:299) comment that “I recall one teacher defining social science as a remarkably complicated way of talking about remarkably common sense notions”.

Liberational Praxis

A variety of disciplines outside sport science have been attracted to perspectives that challenge dominant assumptions about the philosophical basis of research and academic endeavour. The work of Paulo Freire and Antonio Gramsci, for example, has stimulated considerable debate in educational studies and the social sciences. John Southgate and Rosemary Randall (1981:53) observed some time ago that:

Much current research in the social sciences is concerned with being of some direct use to those who are normally considered to be the ‘subjects’ of the research process … and one of the central problems facing its practitioners is the nature of the interactions between themselves and their ‘clients’, particularly where the research aspires to be a liberatory process for all concerned.

Patti Lather (1986) explored “what it means to do empirical research in an unjust world”. In her work she was committed to praxis-oriented research that she construed as:

the development of a change-enhancing, interactive, contextualized approach to knowledge-building … that is provocative in its implications for both theory, and, increasingly, method. (Lather, 1986:260)

More recently Linda Bain (1989:22) suggested that a goal of research is “to empower those being researched, that is, to provide them with the insight necessary to demystify and critique their own social circumstances and to choose actions to improve their lives”.

It seems opportune (1993) to use such approaches in sport science. I want to address some of the fundamental epistemological and ontological issues by linking them to work underway with two governing bodies of sport.

Despite the absence of accreditation procedures, notational analysts do work with coaches and performers to enhance performance in sport. At best, their venture is collaborative and interdependent. At worst, it provides ample specification of what Paulo Freire (1972) termed ‘invasion’ where values, belief systems, ideology, and cultural norms are imposed in an unequal relationship.

The concepts of liberation and praxis strike me as heuristic foci for aspirations and action in sport for sport scientists, coaches and performers. I believe that whilst liberational praxis is vulnerable to the taunt of ‘mere rhetoric’ it can describe an effective working relationship between researcher and practitioner. As Richard Tinning (1992) has indicated, the concept of praxis has a long history. Although central to Marxist analyses of political change, it was employed by the ancient Greeks to describe critically informed action. Such action has an emancipatory, liberational thrust.

Paulo Freire has been persistent in his exploration of the liberational dimensions of pedagogy and from his work I have drawn the importance to be attached to action linked to an egalitarian vision of human relationships. I am aware that liberational theology acted as an important catalyst for change in some cultural contexts and that the very appeal of such a theology was that it addressed the specific needs of the people. It appears to me that the strength of a liberational appeal is that it is action based and brings about local change: “Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it” (Freire, 1972).

The outcomes of relationships developed between notational analysts and coaches and notational analysts and performers can resemble what Richard Tinning (1992) regards as transformative practice. He favours a democratic mode of research in which “the participants work out their own solutions to their own problems (and that they employ their own language and concepts rather than those of the ‘expert’) (1992:203).

Such research raises consciousness and leads to practical action. Praxis is the term used to define the fusion of thinking and practice.

I think it takes considerable social skills to facilitate this kind of research. In the next part of the paper I provide two examples of collaborative work with governing bodies of sport. In particular I want to ground my account in the context of a year in which teams with whom i worked experienced peaks and troughs of performance and exhilaration.

Working with Coaches and Performers

In 1993 I was fortunate to work with two governing bodies of sport in Wales. One of the sports, rugby union, has a cultural significance that gives it a national profile in the media and is a subject of everyday conversation. The other sport, women’s lacrosse, is virtually invisible in the Welsh public consciousness. Both are invasive team field games that have exciting performance possibilities.

In both games the coaches of the representative teams hold honorary positions and earn their livings from other employment. Much of their time is spent thinking about, preparing for and delivering coaching foe elite performance. In the case of women’s lacrosse, the coach of the national team was also a playing member of that team (but not the captain).

The link between the Centre for Notational Analysis at the Cardiff Institute of Higher Education and the two governing bodies was developed to support excellence in elite performance. I was familiar with and had coached both sports. The Centre received the wholehearted support of the governing bodies for the work undertaken. Notational analysis for both sports was defined closely with the coaches concerned and in the case of rugby union with the Technical Director of the Welsh Rugby Union who acted as the point of contact for the service provided.

The fundamental purpose of this work was to provide coaches, and through them the players, with augmented information about performance. Ian Franks and his co-workers (1983, 1984, 1986a, 1986b) and Mike Hughes (1988, 1993) have identified the benefits to be gained from systematic observation and my work with the two sports was intended to build upon some of the foundational assumptions evident in the literature. My analytical work has been based on real-time hand notation and lapsed-time scrutiny of VHS and S-VHS video. From the outset I was keen to provide data for coaches’ and players’ immediate use. Written accounts in a form acceptable to the coach and visual narratives from video recordings have proved to be the most frequent types of augmented information provided. Both types are linked closely with a convivial working relationship framed by conversation, chat and humour.

As my relationships have developed with these coaches I have become acutely aware of my professional commitment to them and my personal links with them. During 1993 there have been very special moments when weeks and months of work have come together to produce information that the coaches found helpful and occasionally has enabled them to recast their knowledge of performance. There have been moments too when similar volumes of work have been less than helpful.

If I was to evaluate honestly my work over the year I hope I could claim reasonably to have been involved in some for of praxis. Notational analysis can be a ‘pure’ academic endeavour. It can be a most exhilarating form of applied sport science too. This latter form can fuse thought and action. For busy coaches and players the support offered by a notational analysis can liberate by providing information pre- and post-event. In the case of women’s lacrosse team I was fortunate to attend the World Cup in Edinburgh and was able to work with the team during the event as well.

Karl Marx’s eleventh thesis on Feuerbach (Feuer, 1969: 286) is that:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways: the point, however, is to change it. (Original emphasis.)

My feeling is that, at best, notational analysis provides coaches and performers possibilities of change by providing relatively objective information that is over and above any intrinsic information available as a result of the ‘normal’ conduct of their coaching or playing. As such this augmented information (Schmidt, 1991) can ‘liberate’ coach and performer and contribute to enhanced performance.

At worst, notational analysis can block action. By preparing for events with detailed analysis of opponents, for example, coaches and players can be disempowered and their decision-making can be rendered ineffective. I am conscious that in my own work there have been times in the last year when analysis has become an academic exercise and that the liberational potential of the work has been illusory and rhetorical. It is this point I would like to develop in the next section of the paper.

A Word of Caution: Mere Rhetoric?

I am keen to stress that a reflexive approach to notational analysis as a form of liberational praxis must be sensitive to its limits as well as its possibilities. Notational analysts are invisible at present in the structure for accreditation in BASS/BASES and have considerable inroads to make on the established orthodoxies of sport science in the United Kingdom. As a sub-group there are important epistemological and ontological issues to be developed. I do not think that these can be helped by snake oil sales’ pitches by exponents of notation particularly if we profess messages that are vacuous either in intellectual challenge or practical application. Liberation zealousness falls into both categories.

However, I am concerned that notational analysts avoid the pitfalls of scientism identified by Bryan Appleyard (1992) in his discussion of science and the modern person. He contends that:

An important part of any case is that, whether we or more modest scientists like it or not, science possesses an intrinsic domineering quality. This kind of triumphant scientism is built into all science. Opposition tends to be subdued and demoralized to the point where we can no longer identify the damage done by these populizers. (1992: 2)

I believe that praxis is a touchstone for the flourishing of notational analysis and an antidote to ‘triumphant scientism’.

A Pragmatic View

Raymond Williams (1976: 203) notes in his discussion of the term ‘pragmatic’ that its meanings include “practical and useful” as well as:

a dignified alternative to unprincipled or timeserving, especially in political movements which profess a set of beliefs and which decide, under pressure, to neglect, discard or betray them, but with a show of skill and intelligence.

In this paper have suggested that notational analysis is practical, useful and a dignified activity. It can offer liberational praxis in close working relationships with coaches and players. There is always a danger that as notational analysts we can take ourselves too seriously and that ‘scientism’ renders liberational praxis mere rhetoric. Without a reflexive approach to notational analysis we might just become the antithesis of what we want to achieve in sport science.


Appleyard, B, 1992. Understanding the Present. London: Pan Books.

Bain, L, 1989. Interpretive and critical research in sport and physical education. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 60(1), 21-24.

Bolster, A, 1983. Toward a more effective model of research on teaching. Harvard Educational Review, 53(3), 294-308.

Feuer, L (ed), 1969. Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy. London: Fontana.

Franks, I & Goodman, D, 1984. A hierarchical approach to performance analysis. Science Periodical on Research and Technology in Sport. Canada.

Franks, I & Goodman, D, 1986a. A systematic approach to analyzing sports performance. Journal of Sports Sciences, 4, 49-59.

Franks, I & Miller, G, 1986b. Eyewitness testimony in sport. Journal of Sport Behaviour, 9, 39-45.

Franks, I, Goodman, D & Miller, G, 1983. Analysis of performance: qualitative or quantitative? Science Periodical on Research and Technology in Sport. Canada.

Freire, P, 1972. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Herder & Herder.

Hughes, M, 1988. Computerised notational analysis in field games. Ergonomics, 31, 1585-1592.

Hughes, M, 1993. Notational analysis of football in T Reilly et al (eds) Science and Football II. London: E&F Spon.

Lather, P, 1986. Research as praxis. Harvard Educational Review, 56(3), 257-277.

Scmidt, R, 1991. ‘Frequent Augmented Feedback Can Degrade Learning: Evidence and Interpretations’ in J Requin & G Stelmach (eds) Tutorials in Motor Neuroscience. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Southgate, J & Randall, R, 1981. ‘The troubled fish: barriers to dialogue’ in P Reason & J Rowan (eds) Human Inquiry. Chichester: J Wiley & Sons.

Tinning, R, 1992. ‘Action research as epistemology and practice: towards transformative educational practice in physical education’ in A Sparkes (ed) Research in Physical Education and Sport. London: Falmer Press.

Williams, R, 1976. Keywords. Glasgow: Fontana.

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Scotland v Wales 1983