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1 Sports performance is multifactorial. Due to its complex, dynamic, and multidimensional nature, this phenomena should be considered trough an adoption of a holistic perspective, as proposed by the systems theories. + 369 word(s) 369 2020-09-13 00:49:15 |
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Gomes, T.N.; Thuany, M.; Pereira, S. Sports performance and systems theories. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 15 June 2024).
Gomes TN, Thuany M, Pereira S. Sports performance and systems theories. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 15, 2024.
Gomes, Thayse Natacha, Mabliny Thuany, Sara Pereira. "Sports performance and systems theories" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 15, 2024).
Gomes, T.N., Thuany, M., & Pereira, S. (2020, September 13). Sports performance and systems theories. In Encyclopedia.
Gomes, Thayse Natacha, et al. "Sports performance and systems theories." Encyclopedia. Web. 13 September, 2020.
Sports performance and systems theories

The purpose is to present a brief idea about the understanding of sports performance through the lens of systems theories.

Sports performance Systems theories Performance

Sports performance is a multifactorial trait resulting from the interplay of individual, environmental, and task characteristics [1]. Due to its complex, dynamic, and multidimensional nature[2], understanding the performance variability among athletes requires the adoption of a holistic perspective, that considers the integration of the levels, interacting at different scales during the performance.

The idea that performance is determined by genes, i.e., that athletes are born to be succeed[3] is one of the most complex and enduring controversial debates in sports science. However, previous studies have shown that beyond athlete’s characteristics (such as physiological index and traits, anthropometric variables, training commitment), it should also be considered the pivotal role of environmental constraints when analysing sports performance[4][5].

Indeed, one of the most neglected aspects, when studying sports performance, is the “external environment”, which comprises, for example, the financial support, sociodemographic variables, training facilities, and local public policies. In this context, studies have reported an apparent relationship between gross domestic product, population size, and human development index with international sports success[6][7][8], even in sports where the “economic factor” is not usually signaled as a determinant[9][10]. Bosscher, et al. [11] highlight that sports success is influenced by a set of variables hierarchically organized into three interacting systems, namely: the “micro-level” (individual characteristics), “meso-level” (public policies), and “macro-level” (sociodemographic characteristics, cultural aspects). Focusing on the “meso-level”, a conceptual model composed of 9 pillars was developed, involving factors that can be promoted through public policies in the medium and long term[12]. Such an approach amplified the discussion related to how sports success can be developed. Especially at an international level, the spotlight has moved from “who has more financial resources?” to 1) “how the available resources are oriented for high sports performance?” and mainly 2) “how much, and how is performed the investment of available resources for sport promotion and development?”.

Despite advances in theoretical and practical approaches allied with an increased understanding of variables that predict sports success, the answer for the question “what does determine sports performance”, still remains unknown, meaning that the unpredictability in sport persists as its striking feature.


  1. Cote, J.; Macdonald, D.J.; Baker, J.; Abernethy, B. When "where" is more important than "when": birthplace and birthdate effects on the achievement of sporting expertise. J Sports Sci 2006, 24, 1065-1073, doi:10.1080/02640410500432490.
  2. Sonnentag, S.; Frese, M. Performance Concepts and Performance Theory. In Psychological Management of Individual Performance, John Wiley & Sons, L., Ed. 2005; 10.1002/0470013419.ch1pp. 4 - 26.
  3. Bondareva, E.A.; Negasheva, M.A. Genetic aspects of athletic performance and sports selection. Biology Bulletin Reviews 2017, 7, 344-353, doi:10.1134/s2079086417040028.
  4. Smith, T.J. Variability in Human Performance – the Roles of Context Specificity and Closed-Loop Control. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting 2014, 58, 979-983, doi:10.1177/1541931214581205.
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  7. Neto, E.T.d.O.; Bertussi, G.L. Do que é feito um país campeão? Análise empírica de determinantes sociais e econômicos para o sucesso olímpico. Nova Economia 2015, 25, 325-342, doi:10.1590/0103-6351/.
  8. Jayantha, K.; Ubayachandra, E.G. Going for gold medals: factors affecting olympic performance. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications 2015, 5.
  9. Thuany, M.; Gomes, T.N.; Souza, R.F.; Almeida, M. Onde estão os melhores corredores do Brasil? Dados não publicados, 2020.
  10. Santos, P.A.; Sousa, C.V.; da Silva Aguiar, S.; Knechtle, B.; Nikolaidis, P.T.; Sales, M.M.; dos Santos Rosa, T.; de Deus, L.A.; Campbell, C.S.G.; de Sousa, H.G., et al. Human Development Index and the frequency of nations in Athletics World Rankings. Sport Sciences for Health 2019, 15, 393-398, doi:10.1007/s11332-019-00529-1.
  11. Bosscher, V.D.; Shibli, S.; Bottenburg, M.v.; Truyens, P.D.K.a.J. Developing a method for comparing the elite sport systems and policies of nations: a mixed research methods approach. Journal of Sport Management 2010.
  12. Bohme, M.T.S.; Bastos, F.d.C. Esporte de alto rendimento: fatores críticos de sucesso - gestão - identificação de talentos, 1 ed.; Phorte: São Paulo, 2016; pp. 360.
Subjects: Sport Sciences
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