Here comes yet another post covering various sports analyzed from a OODA loop perspective. Without further ado, here comes:

  1. Biathlon: This sport combines demands on the practitioner that forces him to make compromises all the time, which makes for a relatively complex OODA loop. Long-distance skiing and rifle shooting are both sports that consist of repeated motions, but their demands on heart rate are diametrically opposite. Skiing is predominantly about cardiovascular ability, which means that the limiting factor on skiing speed is the amount of oxygen that the heart can pump out to the muscles to muscles each minute. That means that the heart must work at a high pulse rate, and that the amount of blood pumped out with each beat must be high. The latter can be increased with training, but cannot be increased during the course of an individual competition – which means that the beat rate is the only factor left that can be influenced. In order to transport all this oxygen to the bloodstream, the biathlete must also have a high breathing rate. However, once the biathlete nears the shooting range, both the high heart and breathing rate are detrimental to his shooting accuracy, so biathletes decrease their speed when closing in on the shooting range. Once on the shooting range, they have to shoot five times are five targets, and for each target they miss they have to take a lap in the penalty loop. They then start skiing a few kilometers again, until they come to the shooting range again. A whole competition consists of two or four visits to the shooting range, with skiing before the first visit, between them, and and a final lap after the last shooting. In addition to the usual OODA loop complexities for cross-country skiing (similar to those of 10000 meter running described in the previous post) the biathlete must Observe his breathing rate when close to the shooting range, follow a complex series of movements designed to make the transition from skiing to being ready to shoot as fast as possible, Observe the wind indicators, and Decide whether to Act upon that information by adjusting the gun sights. At the same time, he might Observe the the other shooters at the range (if any at the same time as him) and Orient himself as to how they are doing, and use that information to Decide whether to go for a high-risk, high -reward choice of shooting quickly, or to take more more time and hopefully increasing the chance of hitting subsequent targets. If a biathlete misses one of the first four targets, he must quickly Orient himself about the situation and Decide whether that was due to a reason that can and should require fixing (and Act accordingly), or if it was due to some unpredictable fluke. In the latter case, he then has to Decide whether to speed up the subsequent shots – and take the risk a high miss probability in the subsequent shots, while saving a few seconds shooting time – or to maintain the same shooting pace. Given that some biathletes are better shooters, some are better skiers, and that there are several different competitive situations, the decision space is quite large. In conclusion: this sport is quite demanding in at least the Orient, Decide, and Act parts of the loop. The fact that biathletes compete at the same time, beside each other, introduces further cognitive demands, as does the pacing aspect.
  2. High Jump: In comparison to the previously discussed sports, this sport is most similar to dead lift from the OODA loop perspective. As in dead lift, each performance is of short duration, there are no other athletes interfering, and only the best performance of the athlete during the entire competition counts. In dead lift, the athlete is limited by the rules to three performances, so pacing is a minor (if any) concern. In contrast, the high jumper is not subject to any specific upper limit of the number of performances during a competition, but he is limited by the rule that three consecutive failed attempts gets him eliminated from the competition. Before the competition proper starts, the jumpers are allowed a few practice jumps. After each practice jump, the jumper Observes whether he cleared the practice height or not, and Orients himself as to whether that was due to bad form, wind, wrong starting point of the run-up, unexpected level of surface springiness, or some combination thereof. He then Decides upon the corrective actions – moving the starting position, improving some aspect of the run-up or jumping technique, or to wait for less wind. Once the competition proper starts, the individual performances work more or less the same. However, he has to Observe how good the competition can be expected to be based on previous competition, and how it is doing right now. If there is a possibility that the extra tiredness of an extra jump will knock him down on or more placement in the end, he might Decide to start at a higher height than some of his opponents. Once the heights get higher and higher, his opponents will start to fail some attempts. He will Observe this, and given the overall pattern of cleared and failed heights for all competitors, he might Decide to pass on an intermediate height. In doing so, he gives up the opportunity to clear that height, and if he fails the next higher heights, his result will not necessarily be has good as what his true ability is. On the other hand, he forces the opponents who jump at that height to spend energy for one or more jumps, while he rests. Also, he might appear very confident of his own abilities, which can cause worry and thus decreased performance by his opponents. Once he is near his maximum capability, it may be advantageous to stop jumping after one failed attempt at a height, and save the remaining two attempts for the next higher height to be jumped. If he clears that height, he then has a clearance at a higher height at the first attempt, rather than a clearance at a lower height at the second attempt. Since the rules have several tiebreakers for jumpers who have the same final result, that can decide the difference between gold and not reaching the medal podium. In order to do so, he must Observe the total pattern of failures and clearances among opponents who have not been eliminated at a lower height than his so far best result, he must Observe any signs of fatigue and anything else that indicates whether those opponents who have not been eliminated will not be able to jump much higher. One he has Oriented himself about the various probabilities and the respective outcomes – in form of final placements – he can Decide whether to save the remaining jumps for the next higher height. The Act, in that case, is simple – just mention his intent to the competition leadership. High jump is uncommon among sports in that there can be a situation in which the all the medals have been decided, but the competition is not yet over. This happens when all but one competitors is eliminated, and that surviving competitor has cleared the last height during an attempt such that he will win the gold no matter whether he clears any subsequent heights. In that case, a large part of the OODA loop becomes irrelevant, the only part left active being the one relevant to an individual jump. From an OODA loop perspective, high jump is at that point almost totally Act. In conclusion, this is a sport in which Observe is the easiest part of the OODA loop (but by no means trivial), and in which all three remaining parts are more difficult, and get more so as the competition progresses.
  3. Long Jump: One might think that this sport is quite similar to high jump from a OODA loop perspective, but that is not the case. As in the case of dead lift, the competitor is limited to a small number of performances (3 or 6, depending on whether the competitor is among the top-8 after 3 attempts) not enough for tiring to be a major limitation, given that there is significant time to rest between jumps. Also, only the best result counts unless there is a really rare tiebreaker. In the beginning of the competition, the competitor must post a valid result that is good enough to ensure that he gets to jump the last three attempts, but the better jumpers in a given competition will often accomplish that in their first attempt. As in high jump, there is an internal OODA loop concerning where to put the starting mark, but since this is a literally one-dimensional problem in long jump compared to the two-dimensional problem in high jump, it is quite considerably easier. Once the jumper has, for all intents and purposes, made it to the final three jumps, then the overall strategy is quite simple: give each subsequent attempt the maximum effort, and hope that the best result is good enough. Since there is no bar to clear, the jumps do not get progressively more difficult, nor do the results tend to get better. There is no way to game the system by saving jumps for a later time. Also, any single jump can become the longest, so there is nothing like the last few jumps of the already clear winner as in high jump. In conclusion, we have a sport in which Observe and Orient are fairly simple, Decide is trivial, and Act is the by far most taxing.

So far, I have only considered sports which are individual. Furthermore, the considered sports are such that there is no interaction between competitors, or at most interaction in which one competitor can goad another into doing too much or too little at any one time. The OODA loop is already far from trivial, but the addition of team dynamics and truly agonistic opponents will make it a whole lot more complex. That will be covered in the following blog post.