Friday, 20 January 2012

Exploring the game of canoepolo

Of course we all have an understanding of how canoepolo is played, since we play this game. There are some websites and books that describe tactics and most of us have some ideas about tactics ourselves. This is enough to start practicing, but your view will always be from your own position. One step further is having a coach. Someone who can look at the game from the side, that way having a better view of what the whole team is doing and can also see what the individual does. This person can give tips on how to perform better and point out the things that went well. Problem is you can't see everything and also can't remember everything, so your mind starts filling gaps with what you expect had happened. You can't just go back in your memory when you missed something or to have a better look at it, that isn't how our memories work. Every time we recall a memory there is something we've forgotten, so we just make up something without really noticing or we don't notice at all. This website gives some excellent examples with videos of how bad our memory really is. Next video is also great:

So to counter this effect the next thing we do is add a camera. This way we can watch matches and situations over and over without the danger of distortion. We can even analyze what went good and what needs to be improved. This might sound like you have everything you need, but this still has some limitations. You still watch the match with certain expectations and when something doesn't go wrong or isn't very obvious you might still miss it. An example of this is the movie/book moneyball, based on the story of some people in baseball using different statistics than were used traditionally and this way changing the way people looked at the game. You can read another example in the article “Can irrational decisions be corrected? A football case study” by Jonah Lehrer.
This brings us to a couple of things I want to do this season. I really want to how canoepolo works. How are people involved in play? Do some people tend to pass more to each other or more from certain positions? What happens to the amount of passes and positional play if we change tactics or instructions? And more. So I thought that I would make a list with questions and put it online so other people can come up with some more.

  • How does a smaller pitch influence the amount of passes? Other sports use small sided games to increase the number of ball touches someone has (or movements someone makes), so ball handling in game situations improves. It is also said to increase game awareness because of more involvement in play of everyone. If this is also the case for canoepolo we need to incorporate this in our youth training or even let youth play on a smaller pitch/with less players.
  • What is the effect of different tactics on the amount of passes? And does this result in more/less ball losses, more/less goals etc.? This of course is very hard, as the quality of the opposition is an important variable influencing these results.
  • What tendencies do our players have considering position and other players they pass to?
  • From which positions do we take shots at goal and at which success rate? How many times do we pass before an attempt at goal and does our success rate improve or decline after more passes? Same for our opponents, basically answering the question if our defense can perform like a brick wall or we need to get the ball fast.
  • What influence do the amount of substitutions have on this? A hard question to answer as well. If you could you would want to see if the work your team does changes with the amount of substitutions per minute. You need GPS data and pressure sensors in paddles for this if you want to have some certainty. But you can count sprints by hand to get a rough estimation. Influence on the amount of passes and position is easier.

The first question is most important for me at the moment, because this influences the way we teach the game. Allowing children/beginners who start canoepolo to have more ball touches and be more involved in play would be a great achievement.

After reading this, does anyone have any ideas, suggestion or feedback? Maybe someone wants to do some tests themselves and report them later? Would be great if we can share knowledge this way and improve the game of canoepolo. I will write about this again when I have gathered the data.

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