In order to create an appropriate training process for
team sports, it is relevant to define a
differential paradigm of sport performance. Traditionally, the science
of training for sports has
been developed through the study of the needs of several individual
sports and, in contrast, its
results are applied to team sports. We strongly believe that the
analysis of the dynamic complex
systems theories will provide us the best theoretical basis to construct
a specific science of training
for team sports. Accordingly, it is necessary to modify the systematic
application of the Cartesian
paradigm in such a way that we can provide more adequate solutions to
explain the complexity of
team sports. Our proposal is to build channels of access between these
theories and the different
levels of the training process of team sports.
STRUCTURAL TRAINING, TEAM SPORTS, DYNAMIC COMPLEX
2. Sport in
the 20th Century
Sport in the 20th century is developed by means of its
teaching and its training. The teachinglearning
processes are based on behaviorist theories (“what is observable”) such
pedagogy, didactics and methodology. The training-performance processes
are based on
mechanistic theories (“what is measurable”) such as physiology, physics,
biomechanics. These sciences –through their contributions- have been
useful to construct an
atomist and multidisciplinary sport model; in other words, a model based
on the “mind-body”
dualism that has been the subject of ongoing debate since the beginning
of the human knowledge.
The Classical Paradigm
In the classic paradigm there exists a reproduction of models by ...
“contrasted evolution”. The
model is reproduced depending on:
-The evolution of the rules.
-The evolution of the competition demands.
-The evolution of the knowledge of the coach.
-The evolution of the social and economic valuation of sport.
-The evolution of technology and research applied to sport.
All of them are external, alien to the athlete. The model is made up
from the sport and from
Fundamentals to Practice
Behaviorist and mechanistic theories have developed certain practices to
achieve these goals.
-Practices of global tendency (during the first stages of sport
learning): global training and small
-Practices of an analytic tendency (during stages of sport performance):
technique, tactic and
Both are developed by quantitative practices of linear and progressive
sequences of analytical
The player is constructed in order to fulfill the demands of a certain
model that at the moment
“dominates” a specific sport.
This paradigm, now in recession, has dominated our culture for several
hundreds of years, during
which it has been constituted our occidental society and considerably
influenced the rest of the
Such a paradigm consists of an entrenched set of ideas and values among
which we can mention
the following: the vision of the universe as a mechanical system that is
a compound of pieces, the
vision of the human body as a machine, the vision of living in a society
as a competitive struggle for
survival, the belief in the unlimited material progress of society by
economic and technological
growth... (Capra, 1998).
3. Sport in
the 21st Century
Sport in the 21st century is developing by means of an
integral development of the athlete (“mindbody”)
as a whole. Its teaching and training are a unique optimization process
of the athlete.
Cognitivism and structuralism - supported by organizational biology,
theory, information theory, and ecological theories - achieve the auto-modeling
of the athlete.
Consequences: New Paradigm
The aim is to achieve the auto-structuring by means of “differential
optimization,” and this is
-The establishment of technical-tactical skills in which the player
demonstrates a certain
-The observation of the impact that competition causes to the player.
-The constant acquisition of new knowledge of the player about the game,
training and himself.
-The formation of the own social image.
-The achievement of the knowledge of the player during practice by means
of technology and
All of them are related to the athlete. The proposals are taken from the
If proposals are taken from the athlete, it is necessary to modify our
thought, ideas and values
about the sport/person as a living being that constantly seeks the
dynamic interaction between
what is rational, analytical, reductionist, linear, competitive,
quantitative (for individual sports) and
what is intuitive, synthesizing, holistic, non-linear, cooperative, and
qualitative (for team sports).
The Athlete According to These Theories
Based on the new paradigm, we are able to interpret the athlete as a
hyper-complex structure that
is made up of interactions and retroactive actions between the following
Each structure must be considered as the expression of underlying
This means that the processes - a complete network of dynamic
connections among all the systems
- become apparent through what we call networks.
Also, what we traditionally call capacities are just forms of isolated
evaluation of part of the
processes that occur in some systems which makes up a determined
The 1st Contribution of the Systems Theory to the Development of
This systematic and holistic conception of the player will provide clues
about the conditions under
which the athlete must develop his training activity in order to obtain
his differential autostructuring.
As a result, the own contents of the structural training appear; despite
understanding that it can provide new elements to the training of
“individual” sports, it is much
more appropriate for “team” sports in which the constant interaction
requires high levels of auto-structuring of all constituent components.
Therefore, high variation content and high variability practice are most
As pointed out in the new paradigm, teaching and training are a single
element of optimization of
processes which will become apparent as properties of each
aforementioned structure, because
these properties can only be considered from two standpoints:
-The dynamic inter-activity of all the systems.
-The constancy of their global interactions ...
We must construct specific exercises of structural training that provide
such continuously dynamic
inter-activity; in contrast to the repetitive and analytical training
exercises typically used by
individual sports and based on other theories.
These practice requirements are offered by Preferential Simulation
Situations. This must be defined
such that the conditions of the work are determined to fix a
“preferential” performance on some of
the functional systems of the athlete.
First, are the stable levels that ensure the consistency of the
interactions: Here we will build the
base of the training system. It is implemented through certain movement
forms that the athlete
performs during the practice of his sport. These movement forms must
include basic coordination
elements that support the sport’s technical foundations. They are
practiced in specific situations
containing relevant information that must be processed in order to
perform the proper execution
of the coordination simulation.
Next, are the levels of variability that provide Dynamic Interactivity:
Firstly, the simulated situation
must always make use of the Cognitive Structure. Next, relations with
must be established to feed the Socio-Affective Structure. And lastly,
Volitional Structure must be engaged by living out specific moments of
personal challenge and
The 2nd Contribution of the Systems Theory to the Development of
One of the essential properties of any life manifestation is the
irreducible tendency to construct
multi-level structures of systems inside of systems. These structures
are a consequence of varied
inter-active processes among systems of differential complexity that
take shape as a network in
which no one system is the most important.
This triggers the need to modify the laws of the traditional training,
inasmuch as synergy relations
are more used than progressive training loads and sequential planning is
substituted by differential
priority. Many other principles based on the hierarchical and linear
conception must be substituted
by inter-connected multi-level guidelines.
Figure 1. Model of a Structural Micro-cycle.
Every day of the training week, there are differential
priorities that must be adjusted to the needs
of the athlete. All differential priorities are equally integrated in
the total synthesis prior to
The total contents of each micro-cycle are in relation to previous
micro-cycles, as well as future
micro-cycles. This is based on different inter-connection guidelines so
as to obtain the highest
levels of structural optimization.
The 3rd Contribution of the Systems Theory to the Development of
We know that the function of the components of such networks is to
participate in the production
or transformation of other components of the network. Thus, the output
of these network
processes is self-organization; the differential auto-organization based
on processes of qualitative
production which bring about each unique human being.
On the whole, the so-called improvement of performance cannot be
evaluated by quantitative
criteria that are alien to the person; on the contrary, they should be
evaluated by qualitative
proposals which are based on the interpretation that the own athlete is
able to complete at any
moment and from any perspective of the discipline that he performs.
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English translation by David Ribera-Nebot
English translation reviewed by Tod Herskovitz