Towards a Grand Unified Theory of sports performance

  • Glazier P
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Sports performance is generally considered to be governed by a range of interacting physiological, biomechanical, and psychological variables, amongst others. Despite sports performance being multi-factorial, however, the majority of performance-oriented sports science research has predominantly been monodisciplinary in nature, presumably due, at least in part, to the lack of a unifying theoretical framework required to integrate the various subdisciplines of sports science. In this target article, I propose a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) of sports performance—and, by elaboration, sports science—based around the constraints framework introduced originally by Newell (1986). A central tenet of this GUT is that, at both the intra- and inter-individual levels of analysis, patterns of coordination and control, which directly determine the performance outcome, emerge from the confluence of interacting organismic, environmental, and task constraints via the formation and self-organisation of coordinative structures. It is suggested that this GUT could be used to: foster interdisciplinary research collaborations; break down the silos that have developed in sports science and restore greater disciplinary balance to the field; promote a more holistic understanding of sports performance across all levels of analysis; increase explanatory power of applied research work; provide stronger rationale for data collection and variable selection; and direct the development of integrated performance monitoring technologies. This GUT could also provide a scientifically rigorous basis for integrating the subdisciplines of sports science in applied sports science support programmes adopted by high-performance agencies and national governing bodies for various individual and team sports.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Constraints
  • Control
  • Coordination
  • Coordinative structures
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Self-organisation

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  • Paul S. Glazier

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