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What is Performance Analysis – the Technology and Methodology

Ask any number of people involved in the game of Hurling or Gaelic Football – or any other team game for that matter – to define what Performance Analysis is, you are likely to get a variety of answers. Go one step further and ask a number of individuals to analyse what has just happened in a particular game and the range of answers is guaranteed to cover a much broader spectrum, writes Pete Kelly. The very fact that you will get a plethora of responses points to traditional methods being anything less than precise.

Performance Analysis is a relatively new discipline in sport, in Ireland, only really coming into focus in the last ten years or so. However the rapid deployment of Performance Analysis across a range of sports has been facilitated by the advances made in software and video equipment in the past few years.

Essentially Performance Analysis is an invaluable aid to the coaching process. It provides, through the use of video an accurate record of ‘what happened ‘, ‘when it happened’ and ‘what were the consequences’ in terms of either individual or team performance.

Coaching Process Image 1

Video Analysis is the first and most important step in improving your Football team’s performance. Using a suite of SportsCode Video Analysis Software Tools, You can tag games live or in even more detail post match. Avenir Sports is Ireland’s leading Performance Analysis company and they help elevate teams to new heights across a wide range of sports.

Simon Kavanagh the technical support and training manager at Avenir explains “Performance Analysis software is so powerful and easy to use it can be adapted to fit any analysis situation. You can devise your own analysis templates that can include as much or as little information as you need. You decide what you want to see. As it is so easy to use you can code a match in less than real time.” Essentially the process is pretty straightforward. The video analyst films the game, captures the footage, analyses the game based on a predetermined template and subsequently shares or disseminates the clips in line with the coaching strategy of the team.

The extent of the coaching staff will always vary from a fully professional team to tight knit ‘elite amateur’ to player development coaching. However the basic principals will be the same, it is the depth that will change from ‘live in-game’ analysis to post event performance evaluation and gameday strategy preparation. At the development level the emphasis will typically be on skill development and understanding systems of play.

At the professional level in sport the action will be captured from at least two and probably three camera angles. In Gaelic games, this means inter-county level and regularly now the counties have the benefit of using TV footage of their games in the National League and Championship. Additionally they may shoot the game themselves from two further angles – ‘Tactical ‘from behind the goal looking straight down the field and ‘Technical’ from a ‘side-on’. Each angle will be shot from a height to give

two stack image; image 2

Pictured above is a typical view of a ‘stack’ from two angles in this year’s Railway Cup semi final.

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The second step in the process is analysis using a coding template. The ‘coding template’ typical example seen here, is created by the analyst and will reflect exactly what the coach/manager requires in terms of instances of play and individual clips for players focussing on their individual performances.

Sharing of your analysis information is one of the most important (and frequently overlooked) steps in the Performance Analysis process. Currently several inter county team use a web based application ‘YouCoach’ allowing players access to targeted feedback and ensuring that they are fully prepared for training sessions, thus maximising contact time, additionally it allows team members to post questions and answers on their movies to ensure that they have grasped the coaching point successfully.

Performance Analysis is a iterative process, with several ‘stand alone’ episodes along the way. It is certainly an in-depth match day performance, an objective evaluation of what transpired and an opportunity to influence future performances through feedback. This enables an evolving game plan strategic designed based on sound evidence. However video analysis is not confined to game day filming and post mortem evaluation.

The technology and philosophy can be applied to pre-season training, skills development and conditioning with equal effect. “if you can shoot it, you can capture and analyse it” is a good rule of thumb! This is perfectly illustrated by the clip available here showing inter county players working on their conditioning in the gym.

The equipment and technology available today has made it possible for GAA teams at all levels to develop a practice and philosophy making ‘Performance Analysis’ a key element in the development of players and preparation of teams. The leading counties are pushing the boundaries and achieving new levels – the others are catching up fast!

The concluding article in this series will focus on Who uses it in Gaelic Games today and what they have to say about it

First Published by follow Pete Kelly on Twitter  @petekelly54

Performance Analysis in Gaelic Games

The first in a series of  articles that looks at the emergence of Performance Analysis in Gaelic Games, who is using it to best effect and what the future holds. 

There is a common consensus abroad in the world of Gaelic Games and much evidence to support the belief that change does not come quickly. However over the past few seasons there has been a dramatic move at the higher levels of both football and hurling to embrace Performance Analysis, using video and make it an integral of the training regime, writes Pete Kelly.

The pundits have hailed last year’s football championship as ground breaking – “resurrecting  football as an attacking game”. The Kerry Dublin semi final was the best game played in years with Pat Spillane saying it restored his faith in Gaelic Football. It is hardly a coincidence that both Kerry and Dublin make extensive use of Performance Analysis, pushing the boundaries with ‘live’ analysis available ‘to the sideline’ when required.

On the hurling front both Clare and Cork have used their Performance Analysis capabilities to the utmost. They have transformed their respective styles and play with a mixture of high tempo and cohesion that only comes with meticulous preparation. Both ‘Davy Fitz’ and ‘JBM’ have sought and been successful at maximising their own strengths rather than stopping the opposition.

Virtually all the top counties – defined by championship success – are employing Performance  Analysis using Avenir Sport’s  world leading Sportscode software as a vital cog in the wheel. No longer are teams only using “Stats” noted in isolation and with no objective back-up to inform their playing strategies. Total objective evaluation, whether of success or failure, leads to improved performance.

Avenir Sports is Ireland’s pre-eminent provider of the ‘Performance Analysis Toolkit’, Avenir is the catalyst that ensures that the combination of technology, equipment, software and analytical skills are used to maximum effect.

There have been historical changes,  albeit at a very slow rate,  in the world of the GAA over the last couple of decades, with rule changes,  facilities upgrades and a higher octane commercial attitude combining to move the association forward, most visibly off the field.

However on the field of play, fitness standards have continued to improve exponentially – staggering really for an amateur game and allied to this ‘new movement’ during the past decade is adoption of performance analysis on a more scientific basis, as opposed to the ‘old style’ post mortem. Mostly only losing performances were dealt with based on ‘back of a fag box’ notes hastily assembled during the heat of battle – generally they were inaccurate and subjective.

The use of  video to analyse performance has transformed the approach to game day preparation. It is objective, reflects what actually did happen and not opinions and is relatively easy to use given the advances in technology in recent years.

Virtually all the top teams at inter-county level both hurling and football have embraced Performance Analysis using video footage. It has become a key element in preparing country squads – an indispensible weapon in the armoury.  Classically the leading teams will use it to stay ahead and the aspiring counties will mimic what has brought success to the kingpins as they strive to climb the ladder to success.

By their nature both Hurling and Gaelic Football are hard to follow from the dugout.   The length of the playing field – the longest of any field game and the speed of transfer from defence to attack and vice versa always made ‘in play’ decision making more a of a ‘gut instinct’ thing than a calculated tactical deliberation.

Today’s inter county managers place great store in their backup team – they see them as a vital component to achieve success. Having an ‘analyst’ in the backroom team has become the norm as the more enlightened managers realise that proper analysis of the game can deliver improved performance, which after all is what is all about – at any level.

Follow Pete on Twitter @petekelly54

The next articles in this series will look at;

What is Performance Analysis – the technology and methodology.

Who uses it in Gaelic Games today and what they have to say about it

Performance Analysis at Grassroots level – FAI connection

Start off as you hope to continue is an often used and sometimes abused adage. Until very recently performance analysis, using video, in soccer was only used at the professional level and in the professional academies, writes Pete Kelly.

In Ireland the first exposure young players would get to this methodology would have been at youth level and even then it would have been patchy. However the FAI have taken a huge leap forwards recently when they signed a partnership agreement with Avenir Sports for the provision of a suite of software products to establish Performance Analysis as an integral part of the emerging talents centres throughout the country.

Avenir Sports have been supporting Giovanni Trappatoni’s senior squad for several seasons with software provision, analytical training and professional services at tournaments.

The future generations of Irish internationals at all levels are nurtured in the emerging talent centres. It is the departure point on the great conveyor belt that leads to international recognition. Past accusations about “objective” talent recognition can be a thing of the past – as trial games, training/coaching sessions and friendly matches can now be filmed and properly analysed. Additionally, archives can be built up and promising players progress can be charted and objectively assessed.

The Football Association of Ireland are very aware of changing trends and the need to up-skill their coaching staff and develop their coaching materials to stay current with the best there is. The appointment of Ruud Dokter as High Performance Director is a statement of intent. Another indication of the FAI’s commitment to continuous improvement is decision to in include video footage of the various drills and small side games as part of the Kickstart 1 & 2 basic coaching awards.

Avenir Sports have been working with the FAI recently developing the video material for the new Kickstart programmes, see a sneak preview in the previous article in this series. The advent of video content for the Kickstart programmes and the imminent availability of the analytical technology to the emerging talents centres is seen by the FAI coach staff as a real step forward.

Nigel Keady is Head Coach and coordinator of the FAI Regional Emerging Talent Centre for players U15 to U17 (boys) and Galway League Centre for players aged U12 to U14 (boys) and U12 to U16 (girls) and he sees the collaboration between the FAI and Avenir Sports as a major leap forward. Nigel is seen here speaking to Avenir Sports.

Coach Education – the importance of video analysis

The development of coaching in the game of association football or soccer as it is now widely known worldwide has changed the nature of the game in many respects, writes Pete Kelly.

Gone are the days when the game was played ‘completely off the cuff’ with a more organised approach to team play being the norm. The notion of a group of gifted individuals being able to get the better of a well drilled outfit is virtually unheard of today. It would be highly unlikely that any professional club for instance to indulge in the tactic of Fulham in the mid 70’s when they signed Bobby Moore, George Best and Rodney Marsh and just played ‘off the cuff’.

In those days club managers were the norm and club employed ‘trainers’ rather than coaches, as the manager made all the decisions and players were traded on their individual ability rather being able to fit into any predefined system. Perhaps Sir Alf Ramsey was one of the first of a new breed when he essentially introduced a new system to England’s world cup winning squad in 1966 – they were known as the ‘wingless wonders’.

The Dutch set the world alight when the great Johan Cruyff was in his heyday with their ‘total football’ concept and anyone who was lucky enough to be alive and witness the Brazilians in 1970 was in awe of the individual prowess. These three squads of players however, while possessing iconic players had one thing in common- “The whole was greater than the sum of its parts.”. This implies that they played to a predetermined system, with each player understanding their role with the good of the team being their primary objective.

Roll the clock forward to the modern era and with ever increasing money being available to the top clubs, the demands for success is almost overpowering. Video analysis is now a vital aspect of prepare teams at the highest levels – Manchester City have committed significant resources to video analysis at all levels.

Manchester City match day setup video

There is also now a big push among national associations to ensure that video is a key element in the coaching education programme.

The Football Association of Ireland are no different. They are in the process of revamping their ‘Kickstart programme’ with all drills and small sided games available on video, where previously they would have been depicted diagrammatically in printed volumes. Avenir Sports are producing the video footage for the FAI for the new programmes – get a sneak preview here.

The importance of video analysis in coach education increases as an individual progresses through the levels.

At the basic level the coach is using video for demonstration purposes as young players grapple with varying systems of play. At youth and adult level the emphasis is more on the analysis of performance in games or training. The professional game, operating at the highest levels will be using ‘live analysis’ where competitive advantage can be balanced on a knife edge.

The coach must have an in-depth understanding of what they want the analyst to produce and to do that they themselves should be au fait with all the analytical technology and practices. Growing your coaches through the levels with an ever developing understanding of the importance of video analysis and an ability to use the technology will only increase their effectiveness.

Performance Analysis at elite level – Trapattoni connection

Almost all of the world’s leading clubs and International teams use video analysis as an integral part of the match day preparation. It has become one of those ‘under the radar’ activities that underpins everything the spectators see on the field of play, writes Pete Kelly.

More than half the current Premiership clubs employ at least one video analyst at the highest level, with other resources deployed in their academies. Virtually all the championship clubs, many of whom have also played in the premiership in recent seasons also use video analysis, exclusively using SportsCode software.

Middlesbrough for example has long been regarded as having a very ‘go ahead ‘academy, headed up by former teacher David Parnaby. They have seen the value of using the Sportstec Gamebreaker as this brief Case Study shows.

Moving further afield some of the iconic European clubs are heavily committed to video analysis. Pep Guardiola the legendary manager of Barcelona and a former star player at the club himself created the FootballLab for the first team of FC Barcelona. We all know what impact his great squad has had on the Champions league over the past few seasons on the field of play. Experience teaches us that none of this success would have been delivered without exhaustive work at the training ground where video analysis was vital cog in the well oiled ‘Barca’ machine!

Given the outstanding results of the ‘FootballLab’ Barcelona expanded the project to embrace the Recruitment department, the Academy and the second team. This venture was paralleled with their basketball section with the BasketLab.

Giovanni Trapattoni

Giovanni Trapattoni took over the Ireland job just over five years ago and he has made the use of Video Analysis a corner stone of his preparation for games. Trap’s emphasis on using video analysis is carrying on the work done under previous Irish managers in that area, but in reality he has embraced it with both hands and is a firm believer in the technology and the value of it.

Brian McCarthy braving the elements in Malahide at an Ireland session earlier this year.

Brian McCarthy the FAI analyst with the senior squad has worked with all the Irish managers for the past 12 years while also working with the elite underage squads as well. He has been the ever present link and has developed an excellent working relationship with Avenir Sports the Galway based company that supplies the world leading Sportstec software.
On the home front the Airtricity League of Ireland is a microcosm of the world game with its ups and downs, financial challenges and a never ending struggle to succeed. Innovative coaching methods, evolving attitudes towards better preparation and a realisation that performance analysis can be a useful tool in your kitbag is beginning to gain some traction in the league.

Limerick FC, recently promoted and making every effort to become established see performance analysis as key element in the game preparation. Moving their home games to Thomond Park, while being an initial risk seems to be pay dividends with good home attendances. They see using Performance Analysis as an investment rather than a cost and their leap of faith deserves success. In addition to Limerick, Bray Wanderers are also using the technology, while Salthill Devon from the first division have also invested and will use the software throughout the club for both match analysis and coach education.

In the next article in this series we will look at how video analysis is used in coach education.

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