What separates successful teams from less successful teams? One can make a case for a number of underlying variables. For example, some may attribute success, or lack thereof, to training and conditioning methods. Some may argue that reducing injuries and therefore enabling key players to accumulate more playing time is a key contributor to success. A strong case can be made for recruiting strategies as the teams who bring in the most talent are at a major advantage. Likewise, coaching may explain differences in success among teams as it seems that some coaches just “know how to win” regardless of what team they’re with. Or, maybe it has something to do with a team’s budget? All of the above factors likely play a role, but what remains to be determined are objectively measured differences in on-field performance among successful and less successful teams.
A new study published ahead of print in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance evaluated differences in both physical and technical performances profiles among a successful vs. less successful professional rugby league team. GPS data from 24 games (n = 29 players) from a successful team were compared with GPS data from 18 games (n = 25 players) from a less successful team. The researchers statistically compared performance variables among groups, such as playing time, distance covered, high speed running, collisions, accelerations, deceleration, possession time, errors and tackles.
The results revealed that total playing time and distance covered did not meaningfully differ among teams. The less successful team experienced greater high-speed running demands and more physical collisions than the less successful team. The more successful team performed a greater number of accelerations and decelerations. The successful team gained more yardage offensively, possessed the ball longer and committed fewer errors than the less successful team. The less successful team attempted more and missed more tackles than the successful team, resulting in a lower effective tackle percentage. Therefore, the authors conclude that differences in successful vs. less successful teams do not depend on higher running outputs or more collisions, but rather differ based on proficiency in technical performance aspects.
Kempton, T. et al. (2016) A Comparison of Physical and Technical Performance Profiles Between Successful and Less-Successful Professional Rugby League Teams. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. In press.