featured, Performance Analysis

Are You Really A Performance Analyst – A Follow Up

30 Sep , 2013  

Despite some poor grammar and spelling the article Are you really a Performance Analyst got quite a big reaction both on twitter and with some people who contacted me directly. Some of the points made were really good so I thought it was worth doing a follow up.

Moneyballitis

moneyball-movie_jonah-hill_brad-pitt

This was a point made by Matthew Wylde and it really got me thinking. We all know the story of Moneyball and when it was brought to life in Film the relationship between Brad Pitt and Johan Hill (Billy Beane & Paul DePodesta) comes to life. We see many many scenes where Pitt and Hill spend hours together in offices with printouts and charts discussing all the merits of statistics. There is even a scene where Pitt is doing a trade and Hill is sitting right beside him, looking up his laptop and deciding who should be brought in. I wonder has this imagery given us an unrealistic image of the coach-analyst relationship. Are we striving for something that only exists in Hollywood??

Matthew who has worked as an analyst for the Met police before moving into sport made this point.

I don’t feel it is essential that we be involved in the decision making process as long as we are adding value. We are not coaches and therefore it may be unrealistic for us to have much direct impact in the decision making process. Where we can contribute is through the quality of our analysis and the support materials that we produce, this being our area of expertise. If this enables the coach to make better decisions and the athletes / teams to perform better then we are making a worthwhile contribution.

Coach or Analyst?

Mark Brunkart from MatchAnalysis.com made an interesting point that from his experience in the US;

…all members of the technical staff (from head coach to assistant coach to players) are more likely to be using analysis tools than in most countries. This creates a different dynamic where everyone is more directly engaged in analysis as an ongoing conversation. In Europe, we’ve found a more ‘top down’ control structure where the ‘video guy’ (regardless of title and particularly in the bigger leagues) is dying to be able to do real analysis but is largely relegated to a ‘cut-these-clips-for-me’ role. This is not the case at every club, but there is a clear trend.

This overlaps quite a bit with the point I have made before about all coaches being analysts and I wonder is this why we see more coaches in the US progress from the Video Guy to Head Coach. Even though they start as the video guy they see see themselves as coaches first, I’m not sure that’s the case this side of the pond.

Pushing Boundaries

pushing-rock-up-hillOne common theme from all the correspondence I got was the need to push the boundaries. Again Mark put this really well:

My suggestions for how to go from video editor to true analyst: Make your job 90% validating what the coach is saying and 10% raising questions. The 90% is editor. The 10% is analyst. When presenting the 10%, tread lightly. Ask questions rather than give recommendations. Have conversations privately with the coach and ask him what he thinks rather than telling him what you think. Direct the coach’s attention toward something but let him make the conclusion. Do not ‘educate the coach’; instead, bring things to his attention. Make sure to spend 90% of your time proving your coach right (even if he’s only right 80% of the time); otherwise, he will be too busy arguing with you and trying to maintain his authority to value the 10%.

Over time, the coach will come to value the 10% more and more until it’s the majority of your job.

listenOne of my strategies for this is to hang around the coaches as often as possible. Without forcing yourself into meetings or uncomfortable situations its important to build a relationship with all the coaches. If they have the players in a huddle at training try and hear what’s being said. Often they might say something in that huddle that you can pick out in your analysis later. If the coaches have meetings ask can you attend, even if you sit quietly in the corner for the first few you will get an opportunity to chip in with some comments and slowly build your credibility. Just having a seat at that table can help you be a better analysts (or editor). You get a better understanding of what issues the coaches are having and what the need to improve on – this information can all help you build that 10% Mark talked about and ultimately make you more valuable to the team.

As ever if you have any thoughts on this subject please share them.


  • Carl

    Good first post and follow up. And both are something I can relate to. My current position started as an internship, and I was working with two of the younger age groups with another analyst at the time with the seniors, so I was following his lead. But he was simply just making videos for the manager, which frustrated me for the majority of the year. I have now since stepped up to the senior role and have a match report in place for every game, across the 3 age groups. Like the piece above, I will be in the majority of meetings, and I don’t normally have much of an input (but that is also through my own personality), but the manager will at times ask my opinion, or after games / the day after ask what it “looked like from up there”. From my own point of view people over this side have a big thing about whether they are presenting the information to the players or coaches, which I don’t think is an issue as you will have given all the information to the manager anyway, and can of course reconfirm/clear things up during the meetings if needs be.

  • Chris Carling

    Interesting the comment about analysts not been coaches, at the same time I’ve seen job adverts for analyst posts asking for coaching awards…
    a bit of feedback from coaching staff on how much of the work done by analysts is used or not on the training pitch would still be appreciated from time to time, good for motivation and also to make us think what we could do to improve or adapt our work

    totally agree about the Europe club situation, problem also stems from the sports science degrees (here in france anyway) in which no or very little time is spent on analysing performance so perhaps coaches think we have nothing to offer apart from editing a few video clips!

  • ko

    I enjoyed this and found it contained some very useful info I’d never thought of.

    I still find it fascinating that as general trend it appears US sports teams use an analyst who often has an analyst background and are employed for that reason. Where as Euro countries (including the UK) seem to have a hybrid video/analyst person.

    This to me gives rise to the same question, how many of these people are actually analysts and also why do some many analyst roles send advertised require a sports science degree? If analysis is the prime role of the job would some kind of data analysis/mining experience not serve the role better ?