Sports Analysis Simplified (Part 1)
What is a Sports Analyst – without giving the glib answer someone who analyses sport? To analyse anything you need to keep a record of events that can be used after performance to reward behaviour or more frequently try and effect changes to future performances. This process forms the very basis of teaching or coaching.
Coaches have traditionally relied on their sporting experiences and their memory to provide external feedback to athletes. There are several major limitations to the effectiveness of this approach - only the events that have been seen can be processed into information and depending upon the complexity of the sport, only a sub-sample of events that can be recalled are going to form the basis of any feedback. As with any data collection that relies on the human memory, these results can be very subjective and are often moulded (unintentionally) by the biases of the coach.
There are many tools that can be used to keep a more objective record of events. These can range from a simple pen and paper to the complex multi-camera environment used by the television companies. Surprising as it sounds in this age of technology, keeping a record of events using pen and paper can be one of the best ways to collect information during live sport because of its simplicity. The question of what happened during competition can be easily answered in this way however, the how or why an event happened can be better assessed using a visual replay.
At this juncture, our smartphone can take centre stage, as it is the most frequently transported video camera. The spontaneity of being able to record video instantly without any prior planning, the quality of the cameras in the phones and the immediate replay ability make the smartphone a very useful tool. Software apps can be installed to increase the level of detail that can be presented during the review or feedback. So now you have the means to collect the what happened and to compare it with the how or why it happened without having spent any extra money.
This is fine when your sport event lasts for a few minutes, however, try to hold a camera steady when your event lasts longer than a few minutes? Then add to this the amount of space that videos take up on your phone. It is only now that we can start to see the benefits of specialised equipment.
This is also where the occasional video user transitions to the video editor and we start travelling into the minefields of what camera, computer or software to use? But before we journey down that path there are some important questions to ask which pertain to the very foundation of your analysis.
Why are YOU wishing to use video in your sporting environment?
Do not fall for the latest sales pitch telling you how good a product is, particularly in the case of software programs. Sit down and clearly think what am I going to do once I have my video sitting on my laptop? You need to start with simple questions for example, why does my team lose the ball and what can we do to prevent it from happening? Without these questions, you are creating a directionless environment that can have a negative impact on the very people you are trying to assist.
If you are working with a team that can only meet twice a week, what part of the training program can be omitted to create time for a video feedback session?
How much of the video do you share with your players? Limit the sessions to 30 minutes and create an environment where the players have the biggest input.
Do you have information that only needs to be presented to a specific group of players rather than the whole team?
At what point does collecting the information become too big a job for a single person? Do not compromise on the quality of information that is presented, but be realistic about time constraints.
How do you expand and involve another person – do they only report to the coach or do they have a role with the players?
How do they aid this process as a video editor or as a performance analyst?
Please note there is a clear distinction between a video editor and a Performance or Sports analyst. The video editor has a vital role in the collection and production of the video clips and post-event statistical reports but they do not translate this raw data into information that can be used to aid the decision-making processes of the team – this is the role of the Sports Analyst. It is highly probable that the analyst will do the work of the video editor as well in order to collate the knowledge that is needed to inform the decision-making process. To try and give a simple analogy, how useful would it be to you if you visited a GP with an illness had several tests done and were given a print out of results nothing else – well if you like that is the video editor they collect all of the data you need to make a decision but that is where the process ends. The Sports Analyst, on the other hand, will take these same test results, give you a diagnosis and direct you as to the way forward - improved performance.
The questions relating to the person or people that are involved is deliberately placed before the issues pertaining to equipment as the human element is the key to this whole process and will determine how effective video feedback will be in your own environment. A subsequent article will address some of the issues of equipment.
In summary, the use of video technology is highly prevalent in professional sport, however, there is no reason to suggest that this has to be an exclusive relationship. Schools and clubs can benefit tremendously by creating a culture of analysis if it is founded on a question directed approach. Remember an investment in intellectual resources is going to bring you greater returns than equipment of software ever could.