Looking Back: A 1992 Take on Notational Analysis

In the Autumn of 1992, I was invited to write an article for the Sports Council of Wales’ In Touch magazine for coaches. I had been at Cardiff College for just under a year and had established a Centre for Notational Analysis there with the help of Peter Treadwell, Dave Cobner, Sean Power and Jeff Young. I had started my work with the Welsh Rugby Union as a notational analyst.
The article was titled The Use of Notational Analysis in Sport Performance. I reproduce it here to coincide with the start of week four of the small open online course, Observing and Analysing Performance in Sport.
Coaches use a variety of methods to remember and recall the fleeting moments of sport performance. Video is a particularly effective way of recording events for subsequent analysis and reflection. Some coaches are also making use of what is termed ‘notational analysis’ to extend their knowledge of performance.
Notational analysts seek to:

  • Accurately observe performance
  • Collate and analyse observations
  • Facilitate recall of observed performance

The aim of such analysis is to support coaches. In pre-video and computer days, notational analysis relied on pen and paper methods to record events. Some coaches used cine film to provide a visual record of performance. More recently notational analysis has made use of video and computer technology although pen and paper are still used.
Today, all sports are amenable to notational analysis. The notating of performance can take place at the same time as the performance or after the event by making use of a video recording. Information produced in these ways can provide quantitative and qualitative feedback for coaches during, after or some considerable time after performance.
Notational analysis can be either an academic exercise or applied sports science in support of coaching. The former enables an ‘objective’ look at a sport and provides some baseline measurement of what occurs in that sport. The latter is usually undertaken in collaboration with coaches who identify what is to be analysed. It is no less objective than academic investigation but has the advantage of being focused by a coach’s perceived needs.
Notational analysis can be presented in written or visual form. Coaches can use the information to feedback to performers and to evaluate their own effectiveness. It is important to stress that such analysis is carried out in a creative and supportive manner.
Some coaches are blessed with excellent recall but the evidence from research into eyewitness testimony suggests that most of us experience memory decay after an event. Notational analysis can help fill in some of the forgotten elements. Like video, it is a tool for the coach to use.
The exciting challenge for notational analysis is to describe an activity or sport accurately. The next step is to model performance using the quantitative and qualitative information available. With sufficient data and experience it then becomes possible to start to predict performance. The ultimate goal is perhaps to transform performance.
Notational analysis can effectively map the terrain of all sports but it is essential that the guides remain the coaches. Without the insight and intuition of good coaches, any map is less than helpful.
Photo Credit
The National Stadium, Cardiff


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