Performance analysis has become a big part of professional soccer, in both the senior game and at academy level. But, with a relatively modest setup, we can also utilize the benefits of analysis and analytics in grassroots environments. In this Q&A, we explore how to capture worthwhile video footage on gameday, use that footage to gather data, and effectively make use of the results to support player development.

In This Article

Can You Implement Performance Analysis in Grassroots Environments?

What is performance analysis in sport, and can we use tools like video analysis in grassroots environments? According to Zaheer Shah, Analyst at a Premier League club, effective analysis doesn’t necessarily require sophisticated technology: “Make the most of what you have,” says Shah. “If you can acquire a camera and a tripod, set up an elevated platform, and get somebody to film your games from it, that’s a great start.

“At ground level, you can’t see too much. But from an elevated platform you can see the other side of the pitch and have a more complete view of the game. It’s more tactical. Then you can use a free software like VLC Media Player to upload the footage to your computer, enabling you to view and analyse a game. In a grassroots environment, that’s already very innovative.”

This access to game footage is not just useful for coaches; self-reflection is a crucial skill for players to develop, and allowing them to watch themselves back and consider a different perspective can provide unique and invaluable learning opportunities.

How Can I Supplement Soccer Video Analysis with Analytics?

Even in a grassroots setting, it’s still possible to supplement soccer video analysis with analytics. “There are free coding softwares, such as Focus and Kinovea, which allow you to easily clip the footage,” advises Shah. “For example, you might clip out all of the shots, corners, and times that the opposition crossed the ball in a game. Then you have your footage from an elevated platform, your clips to review a game, and your code which you can tally up to show how many times each of these events happened.”

Research into the effects of self-monitoring on sports performance has shown that “the more control we have over what we choose to pay attention to in the act of learning, the better we learn,” suggesting that there could be considerable benefits to offering this kind of targeted performance analysis to our players.

“It isn’t complicated, but it gives you numbers in addition to your footage,” says Shah. “You have analysis and analytics.”

How Can We Make Performance Analysis and Data More Accessible?

“In the world of soccer coaching, there are often misconceptions around analysis, analytics, and hard data,” says PDP Co-Founder Dave Wright. “We often promote messages about trying to escape the machine metaphor, particularly in youth soccer. So it’s important to overcome some of the misconceptions and explain how we can use analysis to add value to our coaching.”

“How do you make someone like numbers?” asks Shah. “If someone says they don’t like stats, it’s normally because they’ve been brought up in an environment where stats were used to berate them, or where they were never taught how to use them. So we need to help those people understand the advantages of using data correctly.”

“The key is remembering that it’s more of a reflection tool,” adds Danny Barham, Professional Development Phase Coach at Birmingham City FC. “The data we analyze within the academy is not a stick to beat people with; it’s for asking questions of performance in order to try to measure development. It’s only one small part of analyzing performance. You can’t just rely on the data.”

How Can I Use Soccer Analysis and Analytics to Add Value for My Players?

“Data should always be used as a tool to highlight a particular area,” says Shah. “So, if you have a game-to-game report and you’re noticing that an area isn’t as you’d hope, take it to video. That, for me, is the best use of analytics.

“The next step is analyzing the footage itself. Once you use it longitudinally and you have monthly reports, or six-monthly, or however long it may be, you’ll start to see much deeper trends within your team and with individual players. Then you can go to the video again to see if it’s what you think it is, and look to correct it if necessary.

“But performance analysis and analytics aren’t things to be used in isolation when making decisions. Because if you’re watching a 30-second clip, you might not know what’s happened before it, what’s happened after it, the state of the players, or how many times that action has already happened. You won’t know the context of the game.”

When using data with players, it’s also important not to get bogged down in analyzing uncontrollable factors, such as the environment or opposition, at the expense of the factors they can control, like their preparation and intent on the pitch.

“This is because, ultimately, it’s all part of player development,” concludes Shah. “Whatever the environment you’re working in, analysis is all about making the players better; improving the individuals so that the whole becomes stronger as a unit and as a team.”

Image Source: Unsplash

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