A Topic Model Approach to Represent and Classify American Football Plays

Published in BMVC 2013


We address the problem of modeling and classifying American Football offense teams’ plays in video, a challenging example of group activity analysis. Automatic play classification will allow coaches to infer patterns and tendencies of opponents more efficiently, resulting in better strategy planning in a game. We define a football play as a unique combination of player trajectories. We develop a framework that uses player trajectories as inputs to MedLDA, a supervised topic model. The joint maximization of both likelihood and inter-class margins of MedLDA in learning the topics allows us to learn semantically meaningful play type templates, as well as, classify different play types with 70% average accuracy. Furthermore, this method is extended to analyze individual player roles in classifying each play type. We validate our method on a large dataset comprising 271 play clips from real-world football games, which will be made publicly available for future comparisons.


Jagannadan Varadarajan
Indriyati Atmosukarto
Shaunak Ahuja
Bernard Ghanem
Narendra Ahuja

Paper (pdf)



This study is supported by the research grant for the Human Sixth Sense Program at the Advanced Digital Sciences Center from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).