How Does a Sport Score Work?

A score is a quantitative measure of the relative performance of opponents in a sporting discipline, and competitions typically feature the goal of attaining a higher score than one’s opponents. The scoring system of most sports is quite diverse, and it is a common challenge for researchers in sports science to develop new models and methods that improve the accuracy of the scoring systems.

Most team sports determine a winner by the team with the highest total score; a tie or draw is also possible, but is less common and requires a different method for determining a victor. Many ball and net sports, such as soccer and ice hockey, use similar scoring methods.

Some sports, such as the events of gymnastics, diving and ski jumping, are scored by judges. These judges are normally assigned a number to represent the difficulty of the task that they are judging (e.g., 6.0 for a vault). In addition to their role in determining the winners of events, these scores are used as the basis for quality control measures for judge performance.

Across college football, professional football, hockey and basketball games, the scoring tempo – when scoring events occur – is remarkably well-described by a Poisson process, in which each second of gameplay produces a scoring event independently, with a rate that varies only modestly throughout the game. In the last few seconds of each scoring period, however, the impending loss of position will encourage riskier action, which serves to dramatically increase the scoring rate.