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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01232

Is it possible to predict the behavior of an athlete? The use of polar coordinates to identify key patterns in Taekwondo

 Cristina Menescardi1*, Coral Falco2*, Isaac Estevan1*, Concepción Ros3*,  Verónica Morales-Sánchez4 and  Antonio Hernández-Mendo4, 5*
  • 1University of Valencia, Spain
  • 2Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway
  • 3Facultad de Ciencias de la Actividad Física y el Deporte, Universidad Católica de Valencia San Vicente Mártir, Spain
  • 4Departamento Psicología Social, Trabajo Social, Antropología Social y Estudios de Asia Oriental, Universidad de Málaga, Spain
  • 5University of Málaga, Spain

Elite sport psychologists help athletes develop planned competition strategies from a technical-tactical perspective, through the observation and analysis of previous performances. The aim of this study was to analyze the behavioral patterns used to score points in the 2012 London Olympic Games, by using a mixed observational methodology through a polar coordinate analysis. This analysis is a representation made into four quadrants of the relationships found between focal behavior [i.e., giving score points, (SC)] and conditioned behaviors considered as key factors in taekwondo, occurring before and after the focal behavior (i.e., retrospective/prospective behavior as indicated for each quadrant respectively): first (activates/activates), second (activates/inhibits), third (inhibits/inhibits) and fourth (inhibits/activates) of two lags (-2, +2). A total of 151 combats, comprising a total of 24,940 actions were analyzed using the Taekwondo Observational Tool, which consists of 24 categories grouped into seven criteria (tactics, techniques, the kicking zone, laterality, the kicking leg, guard, and score). Our analysis confirms significant associations between different types of scoring actions (SC1: to the trunk, SC2: to the trunk with a previous spin, SC3: to the head and SC4: to the head with a previous spin) and a variety of technical-tactical aspects. A total of 50 significant associations were found (29 in males and 21 in females). For male competitors, eight significant associations were found for SC1, six for SC2, four for SC3, and eleven for SC4. For females, twelve significant associations were found for SC1, three for SC2, six for SC3, and no significant association was found for SC4. The observed relationships provide objective data regarding successful behavioral patterns, constituting an important knowledge base for psychologists to train and develop psychological strategies to prepare athletes for future competitions. The identified associations are useful, for instance, in individualizing and personalizing training sessions, including practicing visualization of specific and real situations that occur during competition. The results can also help in planning tactical training by mechanizing and automatizing tactical situations, simplifying and reducing them to a minimal expression. This is done by first by practicing in slow motion and thereafter increasing the velocity and complexity of the situation.

Keywords: mixed methods, Observational methodology, Behavioral patterns, Taekwondo, Olympic Games

Received: 12 Dec 2018; Accepted: 10 May 2019.

Edited by:

Gudberg K. Jonsson, University of Iceland, Iceland

Reviewed by:

Laura Capranica, Foro Italico University of Rome, Italy
Corrado Lupo, University of Turin, Italy
Cristina Cortis, University of Cassino, Italy  

Copyright: © 2019 Menescardi, Falco, Estevan, Ros, Morales-Sánchez and Hernández-Mendo. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Dr. Cristina Menescardi, University of Valencia, Valencia, 46010, Valencian Community, Spain,
Dr. Coral Falco, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen, 5063, Hordaland, Norway,
Dr. Isaac Estevan, University of Valencia, Valencia, 46010, Valencian Community, Spain,
Dr. Concepción Ros, Facultad de Ciencias de la Actividad Física y el Deporte, Universidad Católica de Valencia San Vicente Mártir, Valencia, 46001, Spain,
Dr. Antonio Hernández-Mendo, University of Málaga, Málaga, Spain,