Measuring Team Chemistry Using Player Biology

At SyncStrength, we focus on the human factors that are believed to predict performance but have been largely unquantified. These include the elusive psychological and physiological makeup of players and the team dynamics between them.

Our most cutting-edge analysis to date tests whether the strength of synchrony between players' heart rates during games can be used as an index of team chemistry. To do this, the SyncStrength system transforms the strength of synchrony between players' heart rates into real-time network graphs that evolve on second-by-second basis as players move in and out of sync with each other. This approach is backed by over 4 decades of scientific research on interpersonal synchrony and provides a window into the psyche of athletes and the dynamics between them (see more details about the science below).

In the following demos, you'll see network graphs where a connection between the players indicates that they are in sync, and the closer they are to one another, the stronger the synchrony. For the plays we broke down, you'll see players forge connections when they are involved in the same play, like when running a give-and-go or clearing the way for a shot on goal. In contrast, you'll also see players disconnect from the group when they "shut off", for example, or allow their mark to get open and score a game-winning goal.

Important Note: The players' positions on the network graph do not in any way represent their positions on the field - their proximity to one another is solely based on the strength of their heart rate synchrony.

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The Science of Team Chemistry

The leading expert in synchrony and MIT professor, Steven Strogatz, explains in his book, Sync, that synchrony is a pervasive phenomenon in all of nature. Synchrony may provide evolutionary benefits like protecting against predation. Synchrony has been found throughout history in rituals that tighten the fabric of cultures and communities. Soldiers march in sync to strengthen bonds and promote cooperativity. Sports teams also use sync in their warmups and preparations for battle. It's unknown though whether sports teams also spontaneously synchronize during game play in situations where team chemistry is needed for success. For example, when players swarm to the football, execute a give-and-go, or turn a corner kick scramble into a goal.

Synchrony has been studied in the research lab for over 40 years. In fact, people who are more in sync are better off in many ways. Patients who are in sync with their doctors have better health outcomes. Marital couples in sync are more stable. Kids in sync with their parents grow and develop better. And colleagues in sync work better together.

To measure synchrony, researchers break down a heated interaction between two people. They collect behavioral and physiological data, like heart rate, from both people simultaneously. The researchers examine whether the participants' behaviors and physiological reactions are sync or out of sync. As you might imagine some people share stronger synchrony with one another than others. Although it seems reasonable to apply this science to measure team chemistry, it's never been done before in sports, until now.

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