Elite Football Player Engagement with Performance Analysis

As an industry performance analysis research has for a long time been all about KPI’s and analysing what happens on the court, pitch or ring. However to truly move on we need to see more research looking at how (if) analysis works, how we can get better at doing it and by that I mean not just finding new KPI’s but better way’s to analyse data, manage it and ultimately feed it back to the people who need to use it.

The methods of feedback (certainly in a sporting context) are massively under-researched. So it was great to see a recent publication in the International Journal of Performance Analysis in Sport titled ‘Elite Football Player Engagement with Performance Analysis’, Craig Wright, Chris Carling, Craig Lawlor and David Collins.

Some bullet points;

  • The majority of players felt sessions shouldn’t be longer than 30 mins. Is this because that is what they are used to or because they genuinely think this is the best length?
  • 54% would like the session to be between 11-20 mins.
  • There is non-sport research to suggest 20 minutes on task is appropriate. Maybe sports stars (future or current) are different?
  • 58% of players preferred feedback to be 2 days after the match. Although some players did feel they wanted it immediately.
  • Many players felt that group sessions were too long, contained too many clips and needed much more relevant information.
  • Some of the players reported how variable the feedback sessions were depending on a win or a loss. While this is understandable it does raise the question of process and consistency. Maybe there is less to be learnt from a win, but this seems like coaches might be more interested in analysing losses than wins. Rather than judging how much is to be learnt regardless of the outcome of the game.

One thing that does need to be considered is discussing performance analysis feedback in isolation from the wider cultural/social aspects of life. Most (all!) people have gone through the current education system which certainly in the British Isles is based on structure, organisation and dare I say a dictatorial style.

  • Although some players reported the benefits of self-reflection and the role analysis can play in that, many players reported that they found self-analysis difficult. Do they know how to self analyse?
  • Previous research has found evidence that performers learn more as a result of ‘engaging in social interaction within feedback sessions’ (Nelson et a;., 2011:9) but are players equipped with the skills to operate in this environment and perhaps more importantly are coaches equipped to run feedback sessions with less structure.
  • Often this can seem from a player point of view that the coach doesn’t know what he is doing and the coach can feel like he doesn’t have control of the room. If structure is how they are taught away from a club how hard is it to implement a more unstructured learning environment?
  • Players felt sessions where they were asked questions had a greater impact on learning (who would have thought!!!). But why doesn’t this happen more?

This study is part of a larger PhD study and hopefully we see more around this are of feedback and communicating with players.

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