Asking the right questions

I consider myself immensely fortunate to have been immersed in the area of performance analysis for almost 20 years now. I have seen it grow and evolve from a niche area involving a small minority of innovative coaches to a position today where PA is recognised as having a crucial role to play in any coaching programme.

I have witnessed, and am proud to play a continuing part in, the evolution of analysis technology throughout that period - from the ground-breaking earliest versions of Focus and Sportscode back in the mid-1990’s, through to the advanced optical player tracking and GPS systems that are utilised at the highest levels of our wealthiest sports today.

When analysis is implemented effectively within a coaching programme it provides the opportunity for coaches to make better, more informed decisions through having a more complete and accurate understanding of performance. Just as crucially, it significantly enhances the quality of feedback we can provide for our players – a vital, and often undervalued component in the development process.

The technological developments I referred to earlier have undoubtedly resulted in us having the ability to assess and analyse performance in a far more effective way than ever before and have transformed our ability to visualise key information for players.

The danger though is that because of the way that these analysis software products are designed and promoted they are often seen as the solution themselves rather than as a tool that we can use to generate the information that we want, in the way that we want it. As with any tool, it is how it is utilised in the hands of the user that determines its overall impact and value.

I am of the firm belief that in order to maximise our understanding of performance, any analysis tools must have the flexibility to enable the coach/analyst to determine what aspects of performance they want to analyse and how they want to analyse them. For an analysis tool to have value it must therefore provide the facility for the coach/analyst to be able to ask, and then answer, the questions that they want to pose.

Although our main emphasis has been on developing our own powerful, flexible, affordable video analysis/feedback solutions we are also excited when we see new technologies being developed by other innovative companies that represent a step-change in how performance can be viewed and understood within both the game and practice environments. I came across one such development recently.

Earlier this summer I was asked to present at a performance analysis course being hosted by the Turkish Football Federation. This course was an excellent initiative by the TFF who brought together all of the performance analysts working in the top 2 Leagues in Turkey.

A young company called Sentio who I had not come across before also presented at the conference. They were asked to discuss their new Player-Tracking technology and I was hugely impressed by both their ground-breaking technology and by their approach to development. Sentio have developed a player tracking system that is completely portable (1 tripod, 2 cameras) and this enables a club to also utilise it not only at home games but at away games, during training and within their academy structure. Just as impressively, all of the tracking individual tracking information is uniquely generated and visualised in real-time.

Since its launch earlier this year the Sentio system is already being used by major clubs like Inter Milan who are utilising the technology with their 1st team and throughout their academy development structure. I understand that the Turkish League have also now recently invested in the system for all of their 18 Super League clubs.

I am in no doubt that the Sentio technology does represent a major step forward in Player-Tracking technology. However, what impressed me most was their approach to development. Throughout that process their main focus has been on ‘big data’. It has been on creating a solution that has not only enabled them to generate and visualise invaluable player data but that allows coaches and their staff to analyse and interrogate this information in a way that maximises understanding of performance. In other words, they have developed a solution that provides the opportunity for coaches and their staff to ask the right performance-based questions – and have those answered in a quick, effective way.

We are always open to collaborate with other like-minded, innovative companies and are therefore delighted to announce that we will be working with Sentio as they look to extend the integration of their new technology into other elite level clubs and national leagues and associations around the world.

I admit to becoming a little concerned over the past decade that the advances in player tracking technology have at times reduced the role of the performance analyst to that of a technician. That is why I am so impressed by the key principles that underpin the Sentio technology. Their solution facilitates the opportunity for questions to be asked – a process that is crucial when striving to better understand key aspects of performance. This approach mirrors ongoing developments with our own Focus solutions and I therefore look forward to a long and productive relationship!

Ian Donnelly - Performance Innovation

comments powered by Disqus