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)

14 thoughts on “An Open Letter from Darrell”

  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.



    1. 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