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Sadjad Soltanzadeh and Mitchell Mooney

Although systems thinking has been recently introduced as a means to model team performance, the most central and practically valuable question of this modeling tool is yet to be clearly addressed: how can the coaching team go from the level of team performance to the level of individual performance in order to select and evaluate players? In other words, if performance is a holistic phenomenon, how can the performance of individual players be conceptualized in relation to the whole? We appeal to the concepts of ‘objective’ and ‘function’ to show how team performance is linked to, and based on, the performance of individuals. We first describe team performance in relation to a set of objectives that are aimed to be achieved at different levels. Then we define the concept of function and break down this concept into three types, namely, positional, tactical, and interpreted function. We draw conceptual connections between different types of function and different levels of objectives. These connections show how each type of function links individual performance with team performance and how a team can be engineered as a coherent whole. We finish the paper by discussing some practical implications for coaches.

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Sadjad Soltanzadeh and Mitchell Mooney

Systems thinking has been developed and used in many fields such as management, economics, and engineering in the past few decades. Although implicit elements of systems thinking may be found in some coaching biographies and autobiographies, a critical and explicit work on systems thinking that examines its principles and its relevance to sport sciences and coaching is yet to be developed. The aim of this Insight paper is to explore systems thinking and its potential for modelling and analysing team performance by (a) explaining how systems thinking is used in other fields, (b) highlighting the importance of conceptual analysis and critical thinking next to data collecting practices, and (c) contrasting systems thinking with the common approaches to modelling and analysing team performance.