An Open Letter from Darrell



I am delighted to present another guest post from Darrell Cobner. This post is shared as an open letter.
Darrell and I have been discussing how our performance analysis community of practice can share ideas openly. He and I are as one in believing that social media, including slow blogging, are legitimate ways to share, explore and develop ideas.
I hope that this kind of sharing leads to increasingly crowd sourced, peer reviews that give performance analysis a dynamism as an engaged cooperation of practitioners (thinkers and doers).
The letter coincides with my departure from the University of Canberra after four and a half years. Darrell mentions this in the conclusion to the letter.
In sharing this open letter I am hopeful that there will be ongoing discussion about our occupational culture as performance analysts.

An Open Letter to Keith…

The last conference I attended was IACSS in 2009, in Canberra. The prime motive for attendance was to forge closer links with you, Keith.
One of the main take-home presentations from this conference was by Hamish Jeacocke, on ‘The Educational Technologist – a link between coaching and technology’.
This was a pivotal catalyst for me for thinking about Performance Analysis (PA) from a different perspective. Looking back at the presentation, it becomes even more apparent how much importance should be placed on the people rather than the technology.
One of the slides in Hamish’s presentation was:
This ties in closely with a recent blog post from thevideoanalyst where the balance between marginal gains and exceptional gains were raised and a tweet where simple thought processes become the extra 1% differences.
DC Twitpic
So are the keys to develop these processes:

  • Optimise the low hanging, more accessible fruit first, then climb up?
  • Think sensibly, then think differently?
  • Work smart, then work hard?

Becoming an efficient and effective part of the team involves: listening to the conversations within and outside the team (people); identifying the interventions that can impact on preparation and performance (process); remaining alert to progressions in technology and techniques (product).
In one of our many online communications, Keith, I mentioned the term ‘nimble curiosity’ which you thought was a delightful phrase. I was compelled to explore this combination of words on the web, and was pleased I did. I reflected, learned more about the adventure, helped to frame the role of performance analyst and importantly provide more focus on the role a teacher of performance analysis performs.
The first article I discovered was ‘Curiosity almost killed the nimble pine marten’. Within this text, I considered us as pine martens. More nimble in the tree tops than squirrels; but still aspiring to mature to locate and be among the elusive fishers of the performance analysis world.
However, an important learning lesson is to stem the insatiable curiosity by assessing carefully the areas to explore, which forks in the road to take and to be conscious that we are not lured into dead ends or traps. This is a tough balancing act, when time is limited and where technology changes continuously. Unfortunately, sometimes the investment in time/money can be wasted when the destination continues to change, but the journey makes you wiser on the way.
The second hit that drew my attention, and led to further clarification of the role of an academic in PA, likened our role to that of a sustainability officer. One view of the sustainability profession stated:

Perhaps the best lens through which to view the future of the sustainability profession is that of the sustainability executive as explorer, or perhaps better yet, the scout. They must have a solid business sense, typically having served on the front lines of some aspect of the business. They must have an immense and nimble curiosity, able to immerse themselves in a wide range of new issues and topics as they arise, whether from inside the organisation or from outside. Finally, they must be translators and collaborators as they enlist resources from within their organisation while extending their influence and reach beyond the boundaries of the company, typically including suppliers and customers. In short, they must be willing and able to traverse uncharted territory and shifting circumstances, all the while interpreting the current state of affairs to others, and watching the horizon for the unexpected.

I was able to relate to this perspective and picture it within my daily practice and longer term visions for PA. The word sustainability also keeps resounding with me.
Is the growth of the PA industry at threat from a stagnation in the paid roles available to satisfy the demand of aspiring analysts worldwide?
Whose role is it to help maintain the ecological balance and create more paid roles? The individual battling through a cyclic internship? The band of consultants touting their products? The ‘governing’ body of the industry? The academics educating the current students? The graduates employed in the field who understand the need to contribute back to the profession?
Whoever this person/collective is “the success of our hero, the chief sustainability officer (CSO), relies on an immense and nimble curiosity, and they must possess a cadre of skills to capture the attention of their colleagues and become a true leader” (according to the new GreenBiz State of the Profession 2013 report).

A great CSO or VP of Sustainability is someone who can think like a combination of a CMO, a CFO, an early-stage entrepreneur, a politician, and a top strategy consultant, and very specifically understand and apply that to the culture of the firm at hand.

I would add storytelling to the critical talents a CSO must have to insure the survival of themselves and the organisation.

The important element that connects these sentiments to emergent themes within Clyde Street is the importance of narrative and narration for the dissemination of knowledge through more animated and interactive methods, such as visual demonstrations and blogging. This affirms for me that this is the right track to pursue for the next stage of the development as an academic and a teacher of performance analysis.
Along the way I will continue to look for check points and keep our conversation going, because “each location sparks Luiselli’s nimble curiosity and prompts imaginative reflections and inventions on topics…
I will share these ideas with current students, graduates who maintain correspondence, aligned associates and people who are active contributors to our industry. This allegiance is the community of practice needed to develop the industry in a sustainable fashion and allow it to grow healthily.
The moral embedded in this blog post is that the spontaneity of conversation can lead to exploration and reflection, which in turn can help provide direction and build further knowledge. I hope it serves as an affirmation of the excitement of the journey so far (and that remains ahead), a preparedness to divert from the road map and the importance of creating conversation along the way.
For reinforcement of your choice of the open route, the abundance of permanent resources you have curated, abbreviated and shared within Clyde Street will continue to act as a stimulus for thought, conversation and action for the avid audience (both current and future).  The working example here shows how a spark from one simple remark can kindle more thought… “ What a delightful phrase ‘nimble curiosity’ ”.
Thank you for providing this inspiring platform. I look forward to our future conversations and reflections. I wish you all the best with your retirement; I hope it transitions to be the most productive and exciting phase of your ‘career'(?) 😉
“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.” ― James Keller.


I am fascinated by Darrell’s thinking and practice. He and I share ideas and links on a regular basis. Why my ‘retirement’ is so comfortable is that I am in awe of the new generation of performance analysts. I regard Darrell as a Postillion of this generation. You are all taking performance analysis to a remarkable, exciting future.
May I offer an open invitation to comment on Darrell’s letter and to encourage anyone who would like to write a guest post for Clyde Street to contact me … in the spirit of nimble curiosity?

Photo Credits

Candles (Roger Glenn, CC BY-NC 2.0)
Pine marten (flickrfavourites, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Postillions (Kay Wrathall, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


  1. Thank you Keith. Thank you for sharing Darrell’s letter. Maybe I am exploring the idea of the sustainability officer too…I like all of the ideas, about people, about conversation and storytelling for the dissemination of knowledge summed up by ” a spark from one simple remark can kindle more thought”. Even though Performance Analysis, in essence, is a little different to the world I find myself travelling in, I can find some synergies in the thoughts expressed in this post. One candle clearly can light many.

  2. Nimble curiosity is a great phrase; to me it implies being open to new ideas yet not afraid to move on rapidly if necessary.
    With a background in professional motorsports and vehicle engineering, I am relatively new to the sports performance analysis community.
    My curiosity is in discovering how different sports approach what is in essence the same problem(s); that of developing both performer(s) and equipment to deliver maximum performance, within the specific context of a given competition.
    It is hard but there in lyes an opportunity to discover something new which can give your team an advantage, even for a moment.
    My view is that a lot can be achieved with a pragmatic approach to the use and application of readily available tools and technology. The application of creativity and improvisation through necessity is what drives transformational change, in my opinion.
    For me step one is about mindset, so I’m curious to discover how different people think in sports.
    Looking forward to contributing to the community in the future.

  3. Hi Keith
    I really enjoyed this post and it reminds me of some early advice you gave me way back in the day when I 1st joined Kevin Bowring’s coaching team and took my 1st step into performance analysis, you said become an expert of each process and the whole picture will unfold.
    The message in this post of nimble curiosity ( which will make a good hash tag #NimbleCuriosity) represents a measured applied approach of listening, interacting and responding ( process, people, product,) if all the strands of our new exciting industry of performance analysis applied this moral and intuitive approach conveyed in Darrell letter we have a exciting opportunity to ensure a very progressive development of cutting edge processes highly developed people and innovative industry solutions.
    I continually enjoy the opportunity to work with you all in these exciting unfolding chapters of this growth industry, thank you for this encouraging post and look forward to keeping in touch during your next chapter.

    • Jon, how delightful to read your comment.
      I think you embody #nimblecuriosity.
      Thank you for posting. You have very powerful experiences to share.
      Best wishes

  4. Thanks for the post (Keith) and the content (Darrell).
    Firstly, I’m very happy that you got so much out of Hamish’ presentation, I thought it was great too. The idea of Low Hanging Fruit is something which needs to be a foundation in any sporting organisation. Michael Flynn presented something in a different conference around the same time, talking about ‘The Foundation is the Edge’, which investigated the idea that by maintaining a focus on the fundamental needs of the organisation, you can gain an advantage over your opponents.
    My background is both as a coach and an analyst, and so my focus has always on a practical assessment of the needs of my team/s. However, when I was working within a scientific community I felt that, at times, there was too much focus on climbing the difficult route to the top of the tree, forgetting that no one else was there to pick the low hanging fruit (and at times knocking the low hanging fruit off the tree in the process). Often the coach gets the blame for allowing this to happen, but I don’t think this is reasonable.
    In my current position I do very little analysis because I believe the priority of my role is to teach the fundamental skills to my athletes. After that there is no time left for deep analysis. However, even though I currently do little analysis, I still consider myself an analytical coach.

    • Hello, Alexis
      I was hoping you might comment and am delighted you did in such a comprehensive way.
      I think the combination of coach insights and analysis is very powerful. I started in performance analysis to improve my coaching.
      Both careers have helped me to enhance my gaze and systematic observation.
      I wondered if this gives us the ability (under ideal conditions) to see a single match burning from 70kms away (
      Thank you for commenting. Darrell and I hoped the post might lead to this kind of conversation.
      Best wishes

  5. Darrell, thank you for the post.
    I was excited to see that the thoughts discussed during the IACSS conference still resonate. I think the slide you highlighted remains a key concept in my work however your exploration of the ideas took it directions I’d not considered!
    I think in Performance Analysis we sit in an interesting position as our work with technology is often framed by an imperative to innovate. Expectations around innovation can be difficult to manage in situations where the more significant opportunities to impact performance are observed to be in more fundamental aspects of our work – data management, the right tools, workflow processes.
    The presentation I gave in 2009 reflected upon our work with the Women’s Water Polo team. It is an example I still refer to today and our work with the team continues to evolve.
    Having developed my Performance Analysis philosophy under Keith, I have always tried to understand the way in which our personalised approaches to coaches may identify opportunities to impact positively on their performance. This helps me to identify a balance for the work at the cutting edge and the development of good foundations.
    Sometimes it’s providing decision-support through analysis and sometimes it’s doing little things to help them get an extra hour of sleep during the most important event of their career. Knowing what to do in which situation is very much about the relationships and softer skills we develop in our work. In fact it was these thoughts that contributed significantly to our support for the Australian Olympic Team in London 2012.
    Your reference to the sustainability officer struck a chord and the quotes regarding the sustainability profession touched upon many aspects of my work and that of my colleagues. In my work I feel I’m sometimes in the role of a translator, a collaborator, a scout and an explorer. This diversity isn’t something I’d thought of recently and your post helped highlight the people skills required in this environment.
    Your comments regarding the continued growth of the profession is something I’d like to consider further. I think opportunity is a key but supported opportunity is even more valuable. These two videos I’ve seen in the last week have been relevant for me – this post on Daniel Coyle’s blog ( and the Goldie Blox advertisement (
    The last line referring to watching the horizon left me thinking about posts on this blog regarding Spotting.
    I look forward to further discussions in this space.

    • What a delightful response, Hamish. Thank you. I have tweeted news of your reply at
      This is a first … you, Alexis and Darrell commenting together. I like the skils you describe: translator, collaborator, scout, explorer and sustainability officer.
      I wonder what PA position statements might look like from now on.
      Best wishes

  6. Hi Keith/Darrell,
    Firstly I would like to apologise for my absence from discussions over the past two months I have been working on a project that is taking up the majority of my working and spare time at that moment. Having said that, I have continued to monitor conversations through social networks and blogs such as Clyde Street and can’t thank you enough for sharing your experiences, questions, advice and ideas in these online communities of practice.
    I have had the good fortune to meet Darrell at the CPA where he introduced me to colleagues and students that enhanced my personal gateway to sharing practice and ideas. We all had one thing in common with the Pine Marten ‘insatiable curiosity’, never satisfied with what we know, curios to understand what others were sharing, did one or other have an idea or practice that could enhance our own practice?
    It is these types of open approaches and hosting open online conversations for this community that will hopefully see the emergence of a more open sharing network of practitioners. I can’t thank yourself, Darrell and many other conversation leaders enough that have committed to help lead these discussions. While there is much to learn about the impact of these open conversations on actual practice I can confirm they have without doubt had a significant positive impact on my own continuous professional development.
    I look forward to re-joining the community discussions in the coming weeks.

    • Hello, Jason.
      Thank you for writing such a thoughtful response.
      One of my hopes in participating in open sharing is that we reap the benefits of connectivism … we access information when it is a good time for us.
      I admire immensely what you do. You are one of the pine martens I follow with great interest.
      I see open sharing as key to our flourishing as a community of practice.
      I do hope your project is going well. I think it is very rewarding when you give full attention to a task.
      A connected community makes it possible to support each other as each of us in turn becomes focused on a particular time constrained activity.
      Best wishes

  7. In the spirit of nimble curiosity:
    The impact of transformative change in Performance Analysis. Some highlights listed:
    • Transform to keep pace with technology
    • Challenge conventional norms
    • Extend innovation through curious and creative collaboration
    • Empower teams
    • Agility to rapidly evolve organisational structures
    • New ways of working
    • Vision, purpose, values
    • Neutralise egos to dynamically engage
    • #Socialera is creating universal culture
    • Increased pace of knowledge transfer
    • A close-knit community, both digitally and physically
    • Add value as an individual
    • Achieve great things, collectively
    Any other Performance Analysis take homes?

    • Hi Darrell
      Great link, love the key points and useful management tips essential tools to take on the challenge of innovative change.
      I sat yesterday with a young analyst who impressed me so much with his alertness curiosity to research and develop new and innovative ways of dealing with a particular performance analysis challenge, he had taken off-the-shelf products strip them back changed and integrated them to a number of other accessible and easy accessible tools and created a high-end innovative process until now not achieved. embracing this nimble curiosity of people like him will drive our industry to produce the right solutions.


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