Godmothers of Performance Analysis (1)

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I read Eleanor Dellaway’s report of an interview with Stafford Murray earlier this week.

In it, Stafford refers to the inspiration he received from “the godfather of sport analysis”, Mike Hughes.

The title of “godfather” started me thinking about the epistemological foundations of sport analysis and about the godmothers in the discipline as well as the godfathers.

My sense of the noun “godmother” is of an altruistic mentor and kind critical friend. No matter how hard I try I cannot overcome the connection of “godfather” to Mario Puzo.

One candidate from Mike’s era for the altrusitic and kind godmother is Celia Brackenridge.

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Celia’s papers are archived at Brunel University. The archive contains some of Celia’s early work in notation and computerised analysis that pre-date the publication of her Match Analysis paper, co-authored with John Alderson, in 1985 when both were members of staff at Sheffield City Polytechnic on the Wentworth Woodhouse campus.

One of Celia’s contemporaries was Jane McHeath. Jane had an interest in hockey and tennis. Along with Gordon Underwood she wrote one of the early papers about the use of video recordings in tennis. Their paper (article) appeared in the British Journal of Physical Education in 1976 (Volume 8(5), 136-138).

A decade later, Jane wrote of her work in sport analysis:

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Source: Darrell Cobner, Adam Cullinane and Huw Wiltshire (2012). Seeing and Observing.

I have not been able to find Jane and Celia’s predecessors in primary sources in women’s hockey in the 1920s literature. The Ladies’ Hockey Association had published its own magazine, the Hockey Field, in England from October 1901. The National Hockey Museum holds an archive of the magazine.

Lynne Couturier (2010) has a detailed content analysis of the Sportswoman magazine in the United States of America from 1924 to 1936. This was based on the approach taken by the Hockey Field. She notes that 16% of that magazine’s articles in that period covered technical analysis.

I have found some godmothers in basketball analysis from the 1930s. They are the subject of my next post on this topic. You will be meeting Pauline Hodgson, Nancy, Miner and Anna Espenschade.

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Pauline died in 1983. The University of California, Berkley, wrote in memorium:

“Professor Hodgson is very fondly remembered by students, colleagues, and friends as a model of intellectual excellence and integrity. Through her wisdom and warmth, she made a positive and exceptionally memorable contribution to many persons’ lives.”

Photo Credits

Cheltenham Ladies’ College c. 1921 (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Holstein Girls’ Basketball (Good Samaritan Society, Holstein, no copyright indicated)

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