Should All Coaches Be Analysts?

I have always found that there is something peculiar about the role of a Performance Analyst. While most other sports science disciplines can be left to their own devices, the role of an analyst is so ingrained in the coaching process that I often wonder should analysis just be something every coach does and not a separate discipline?

A strength and conditioning coach for example can really be left to his own devices when it comes to programme design, implementation and delivery. Yes there will be meetings and input from management but it’s not something head coaches would have to oversee directly. A plan is made and it is up to the S&C coach to oversee -and report on.

Chinese Whispers

But a performance analysts role is different. Analysts (mostly) don’t take team meetings or coaching sessions, often they prepare videos or information and bring it to the coaches attention, and if it’s useful, the coaches pass it onto the players. It’s often like analysts operate with a translator between them and the players – I’m not sure nutritionists, psychologists or S&C coaches operate likewise. All sports scientists get frustrated at times if their ideas are not being heard but other disciplines seem to own their space that bit more.

Who’s Responsibility?

This often brings me back to the point that more coaches need to take on some analysis responsibility. It doesn’t have to be everything, as we have been witnessing over the last few years the role of the analysts is ever expanding. But perhaps coaches should take on more analysis duties. Somebody I follow quite a lot on twitter is Stuart Lierich (@kickcoaching). His expertise is in Kicking but he constantly mentions analysis as a big part of his coaching process. What I find interesting is Stuart doesn’t seem to think the ‘analysis’ should be done by somebody else – he objectively monitors kicks both in game and in practice and develops a training programme accordingly. He is not taking over once the analysis is done by somebody else he assumes responsibility for it. Presumably this allows him go into greater depth than an analyst who must cover the entire game can and he can be more flexible in his use of analysis. Andy Elleray, who contributes to this site, would be another who very much combines his role as GK coach and analyst. Perhaps this combination of skills is better than each one existing separately?

Analysis is relatively new and remember a lot of current coaches grew up pre-technology, I wonder as younger coaches come through, who feel much more comfortable using technology, will they consume some of the current jobs of the Performance Analyst?


  • Aideen Howlin

    This is a good point well made but there is one or two comments that I would like to make. Firstly the two gentlemen mentioned have their expertise in a small section of the game namely kicking and goalkeeping. Coaches in these areas, would in my opinion, have less numbers of players to consider in these positions and have more available time to concentrate on analysis as well as coaching. I would presume that a football team would have more midfielders on the books compared to goalkeepers. Secondly, the point about the role of the analyst being consumed by more technologically advanced coaches is an interesting insight. I would hoe, being in the analysis environment, that this would lead to a more innovative coach analyst relationship leading to the evolution of performance analysis.I believe that if a performance analyst were to begin delivering the feedback and taking over the coach’s role, it would not be taking lightly.It is a delicate balance of knowing each others role within the team environment.

    • thevideoanalyst

      Yes certainly it is easier to be both a coach and an analyst where the playing numbers are low. I suppose I’m not suggesting that coaches should do 100% of analysis but rather take on more responsibility. The analyst might tag the entire game for general events but the Defense/Attack coaches take it a stage further and don;t just leave it to the analyst to find everything.

      Being an analyst myself – I hope all the jobs aren’t consumed by coaches and I don’t think they will be. But it’s an unusual sports science role that traditionally has probably been as much about technical expertise than about sports expertise. I think the role is changing and might become more about data management and statistical analysis than it has been previously.

  • Stephen Finn

    I believe having an analytic mind is vital to be a good coach. Some coaches have great recall of events but it is only when the game is properly broken down does the true picture emerge.

    For me I prefer to be able to go straight to the player with what I’ve observed but it depends where you are in the coaching chain at your club/organisation before you can get the green light to do that.

  • Mark Upton

    Great topic to blog about Rob – only just scratching the surface of something that could be delved into deeply!

    My short summary would be that it all comes back to the point of analysis – enhancing the coaching process. This can be achieved solely by a coach who has an analytical mind and skill-set to match. Or it can involve an analyst, in which case the working relationship between the coach and analyst becomes absolutely critical in achieving the objective of enhancing the coaching process.

    I have worn all these hats at some stage over the years which has been a great learning experience.

    Just my 2 bobs worth :)

  • Manraj Sucha

    I agree with your outlook through the article on the role of an analyst compared to other sports science roles in a football club. However, I believe if the analysis is done well enough and combined with clever use of technology, the analyst can become invaluable to team meetings.

    Very interesting point on young coaches coming through with analytical knowledge. I very much enjoy doing both at the moment, and they both compliment each other. Game sense and tactical knowledge is vital for analysis and presentation, providing lots of stats on everything doesn’t help the coaches.

    I don’t think jobs will be consumed, but agree with your reply in that they will look to work more closely with analysts. But as you know it takes up a lot of time to code and clip events and make good presentations. I’m lucky in my role that I am required to very much align my analysis with the coaching concepts and the team’s style of play.

    • Mark Upton


      You say “I’m lucky in my role that I am required to very much align my analysis with the coaching concepts and the team’s style of play.”

      Sounds to me like you have a coach(es) who understand the role of analysis in the coaching process. The alignment with coaching concepts and style of play you speak about is one of the first things I convey to coaches if they want positive outcomes from investing in game analysis/analysts. Did the coaches or yourself drive this alignment?

      • Manraj Sucha

        I have a coaching philosophy of my own, but from my experience I knew that doesn’t count for much when going in to work with a new manager – you do what the manager requires first, then the rest afterwards. Thankfully the concepts and style of play was explained during our first meeting and it all went from there. So yes I had an understanding of the idea, but having the manager speaking about it straight away just nailed it really. Then I could begin to look at things from his/coaches’ point of view.

        Where I think my ideas can benefit the team, I have produced stats and footage to back up my claims, which has then affected the team’s/individuals’ style of play. That again shows the openness the coaching staff have and things are constantly improving and evolving.

        Also on the website link you’ve provided, I love the line that says ‘Sports Relations focuses on the “HOW” of coaching, not the “WHAT” – my thoughts exactly in terms of how coach education should be.

  • Eanna Rutherford

    Hi Rob,

    Great post I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the subject. In my experience playing and coaching basketball a lot of coaches would be strongly involved in the analyst process particularly when it comes to reviewing game tapes. When I was playing the US the coaches would have us watch game footage of other teams as well as ourselves and talk about what we would do in the x scenario. However despite this strong emphasis placed on analysis it in no way consumed the need for performance analysts, in fact I would suggest that the more coaches know about performance analysis the more they will realise they need to hire one as opposed to take their position. Having said that in Irish basketball I think analysis falls down way to far on the list of coaching priorities as only a handful of high level clubs even video performances.

  • Stuart Dawson

    A good article and as a teacher and coach of children for 20 years I have recently, as an analyst, asked myself how did I manage to coach before involving myself in performance analysis. The discipline of analysis now informs my coaching and I feel has given it a focus. For example when I work with the children on the topic of shooting we discuss where shots occur, how they are executed and with which part of the body. When this is backed up with clips of goals and shots from the EPL the message gets home to the children and they really take the main points on board.

    With adult players I am fortunate enough to work at a club where the coaches embrace analysis and the data that the team generate is used, by coaches, to plan training topics and help to plan pre match key points. The coaches have not used analysis until now but they are thoroughly enjoying the challenge of using analysis to support their coaching role.

  • John Bilton

    Some interesting discussions. At the risk of being over challenging, why do we as coaches need a match analyst who has a degree in sports science or performance analysis yet they don’t have a deep understanding of playing and or coaching the game and how analysis fits into the coaching process. The first priority if i was interviewing for an analyst would be football knowledge, both technically and tactically, logical thought process and some idea on how to use a computer. The ability to use the analysis software can be quickly learned and used to a high level.
    I know of very very few coaches and no analysts who use MA to 1 Establish the games performance standards for winning matches and developing players, 2 Design a coaching programme to enable the team(s) to achieve the performance standards and finally 3 Use MA to monitor the effectiveness of the coaching programme.
    Why is this not taught in higher education establishments? if it was then the Analyst and the coach would work much closer together instead of in isolation where the analyst is just a glorified video editor?

  • John

    If good coaches adhere to the coaching process of ‘Prepare, Perform, Evaluate’ then by this very nature they should be involved in the analysis

  • Ollie Waldron

    Hi interesting article, I agree at the majority of clubs the performance analyst can act as the secretary in preparing presentations and videos, however you must consider that not every club works in the same manner.

    I work as a performance analyst within the (9-21) set up at Leicester City and we are lucky enough to have built up the relationship where the coaches trust us to deliver the correct messages to players on an independent basis.

    Maybe instead of coaches familiarising themselves with technology/ analysis software – Performance Analysts should take a more pro-active approach in formulating trusting relationships with coaches so they can deliver sessions independently. The processes that are undertaken to provide that objective viewpoint suggests that a performance analyst should feel comfortable in delivering.

  • Carl Cunningham

    A bit late to join the debate, but anyway!

    I think the mention of younger coaches now growing up with a concept of analysis software, will just mean that they will begin to know more what they can expect from their analyst.

    Anywhere I’ve worked, I’ve always had key areas to look out for, but always asked for key input from the manager. At times this is a list of times for clips to be made, other times this may just be the manager/coach telling me that he wants to see an extra on top of the normal, something that relates to that specific game.

    In terms of feeding back to teams, I think a lot more of the academys and younger teams are more open to the analysts getting involved and providing the feedback, but I think this has to be taken into account that this is a learning and development environment compared with 1st team where the manager will present the data/video feedback as he sees fit as its result driven and his neck on the line.

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