Catherine Ordway graduated as a PhD scholar at the University of Canberra’s Graduation ceremony on Wednesday, 9 October. For her and her family it was one of those memorable days. I was delighted that she accompanied Finn, Paul and Robin in the procession (link).

I met Catherine sometime before the start of her thesis. She joined me on the Board of Australian Canoeing and provided invaluable independent advice to us. I was very impressed by her. I discovered she was from Canberra and by serendipity learned of her extensive work in equity and integrity in sport. At that time, I was keen for her to pursue a PhD if she could as I thought she had a very important voice to share.

Catherine did pursue a PhD by publication and is now on the staff at the University of Canberra where she is Course Convenor and Assistant Professor (Sports Management).  She lectures in Sports and the Law and Performance Integrity and Athlete Management (link). 

Her thesis title is Protecting Sports Integrity: Sport corruption strategies. Her abstract that summarises her papers is:

Doping, match-fixing and corruption are challenges to the integrity of sport.  Rather than imagining that there is a single “magic wand” solution, drawing on lessons from other industries and contexts, the culture of corruption rife in both Olympic and professional sports can instead be tackled through a range of tools.  Inspired by the idea of “moral repair”, and the Ethics of Care approach, a number of risk reduction strategies, including: engaging in collaborative partnerships with law enforcement, strengthening legislative and regulatory frameworks, prioritising athlete welfare and supporting good governance, including promoting gender equality and ethical leadership, have been outlined.

Catherine’s family joined her to celebrate the day. In doing so, it became one of those forever days.

#RWC2019: Group Games

The Group Games at the 2019 Rugby World Cup concluded with the Japan v Scotland fixture (link).

World Rugby provided data about each game. From these data, I recorded: penalties and free kicks conceded; kicks; passes; scrums: lineouts. My median profiles for the Group Games were:

  • Penalties and free kicks conceded: 16
  • Kicks: 58
  • Passes: 264
  • Scrums: 14
  • Lineouts: 25

I was also interested in ratio of passes to kicks and lineouts to scrums as a dynamic measure of each game (link). My median ratios for Group Games were: 4.55 passes to kicks and 1.79 lineouts to scrums. I used these ratios to derive a single number for each game to describe what kind of game it was. My median ratio for the Group Games was 2.55.

My ratios for the Group Games were:

Blue horizontal line is the median ratio of 2.55

Below the median:

Above the median:

Other data from the official website included officiating:

Passes and kicks in each of the Group Games:

Games with 300 or more passes:

Lineouts and scrums per Group Game:

Games with 30 or more lineouts:

Photo Credit

Japan v Scotland (World Rugby)

Our roots in stories

In sport, we are awash with data. A fundamental challenge for us is how we deal with these data in our everyday practice. We are trying to make sense of exabytes of data to provide a service.

I think an answer may lie in our roots as story receivers and tellers. In analytics, our relationships with coaches, players and other support staff requires us to share stories about performance. Neil Lanham (2013) points out “stories, in their natural setting, are vitally important to human understanding because they are the tools of wisdom”. He adds that the “naturally formed mindset is acutely observational, it sees metaphoric story in almost every happening, and has the language to form and relate it” (2013: 152).

Neil is an analyst and an oral historian. The combination of both domains has enabled him to think carefully about how we share and record messages. Like Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson (2015), Neil has looked carefully at individuals at work and “to see how work connects with other aspects of their lives”.

Our roots in stories enable us to connect with others and establishes trust. Through our story abilities, we are able to connect practice with the innovation and transformation that is going on in the world of sport.

With experience we build our stories with thick description. In doing so, we engage in ethnographic, qualitative activities in which stories unfold. This enables us to make more permanent our analysis and allows us to discuss how we do share and the impact we have as analysts.

Clifford Geertz sees this thick description as an interpretive act in search of meaning. His approach resonates strongly with Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann’s view that reality is socially constructed and that the sociology of knowledge must analyse the process in which this occurs (link).

I see this qualitative dimension as vital as we seek to employ more and more Insights scientists (link). Particularly when we encourage them to produce compelling, insightful reports that can and might be triggered by data visualisations. This is where ‘science’ meets story telling and the impact we have is defined by the ways in which we share.

It is a time when we as analysts become autoethnographers and we are able to link our biographies with the insights we are sharing. As John Tetnowski and Jack Damisco (2014) (link) suggest, it is a methodology “that gets at the inner feelings and interpretations of someone involved in the phenomenon being studied”.

It enables us to transform our practice by celebrating our qualitative roots in stories.

Photo Credit

Appears Backward (Brian Talbot, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Hill and slope (Marco Forno, Unspash)