News of Steve Pearce’s tree project in Tasmania set me off thinking about how we record sport performance.

There is a home page for the project.

The page includes this information:

In 2016 the team spent over 8 weeks in the Styx Valley, 100 km to the west of  Hobart, filming, photographing and climbing giant Eucalyptus regnans trees.

The camera rig for photographing the tree portrait took two weeks to install due to the huge size of these trees, the wide distances they were apart and the frequent bad weather events. 

Despite this, the team have managed to create an incredible portrait of a 84 meter high tree.

We have also produced some stunning photos and videos of the forest, capturing many beautiful photos from a bird’s eye view using drones.

The picture shared here is comprised of 87 photographs that took “more than 3 weeks of full time editing to assemble”.

The team (there were eight members) note “Of the 67 days in the field we had 12 successful mornings of weather and only 5 mornings of suitable fog.”

They add “There is so much more to the story of this photograph and it possibilities”.

The possibilities include a shared virtual reality experience.

This is a link for use on a mobile phone.

The team write of their consideration of virtual reality:

During the Tasmanian Tree Project we experimented with the idea of creating a virtual reality tour of the tree. This presented us with a number of technical and financial challenges. Our biggest consideration amongst these was the setting. A tree offers no secure sturdy platform to shoot such images with a typical DLSR setup which requires great precision. 

A mobile delivery option would mean we could take advantage of the accelerometers on a mobile device providing a infinitely more dynamic experience and opening up the possibility of using more affordable VR headsets. We also wanted very much for the experience to be one that everyone could download for free and take home from the museum. This mobile delivery would allow to effectively transform the viewer into a advocate for these grand trees when showing it to a friend.

There is a 3D model of the tree too.

Throughout my reading about the project, I was fascinated by the desire to share the process and outputs of the project. I was struck too by the roles team members played in data capture.

  • Creative director
  • Project co-ordinator
  • Research climber
  • Lead climber, POV cameras
  • Forestry scientist
  • Support climber and rigging
  • Filmaker and producer

I thought too about the invisible work that teams do. In this project:

The camera rig for photographing the tree portrait took two weeks to install due to the huge size of these trees, the wide distances they were apart and the frequent bad weather events.

All of which left me thinking about aspirations for completeness in the observation, analysis and recording of performance … that might enable us to appreciate the beauty of performance.

The Tree Project Team share this perspective on their work:

We feel that the simple yet profoundly striking vision of seeing a tree for for first time can break down all preconceptions. We believe that this also allows everyone an opportunity to grasp further complexity and deeper ecological concepts.

I can see how this might guide our work in sport too. We might even start conversations about the ecological validity of our analysis process.

Photo Credit

The Tree Project, Steven Pearce.

A letter to the Secret Soccer Analyst

A training session

Dear Secret Soccer Analyst

I have four apologies to make to you.

First, I am sorry I missed your post when you first published it. Fortunately, Richard Whittall, Rob Carroll and Darrell Cobner alerted me to your story.

When I last looked Richard’s tweet had received 918 likes and 255 retweets. Martin Bucheit’s tweet about your post has 19 likes.

Your open sharing has touched many people. I am late to the party but am touched too. Profoundly so.

A picture of a videographer at a training session.

 I have been involved in the analysis of performance since the late 1970s.

In the 1990s, I worked as a performance analyst in rugby union. For most of the decade, I had intense work periods that during competition and overseas tours extended to 18 hour days … week after week.

It was an analogue video world. I was fortunate to have access to host broadcast videos and captured my own game video with the help of colleagues. We thought we had hit the jackpot with S-VHS format.

I have a second apology to make.

When I started the Centre for Notational Analysis in Cardiff in 1991, I hoped to create a career path for young people interested in performance analysis. We were at the start of a movement that has positioned you to feel the way you do.

I am staggered by the creativity of people like yourself. The world you occupy is a quantum shift from the occupational culture of the 1990s.

We do share the same vision though … to provide an invisible service to coaches that records, analyses and potentially transforms performance.

Filming training

My third apology is that despite my advocacy for performance analysis as a service, I have had limited success in persuading clubs and sporting organisations that our work should be valued rather than priced.

Young people are still inducted into performance analysis as unpaid interns or lowly paid analysts. We are encouraged to believe that the status of being connected with a club or team ‘compensates’ for zero or low wages.

Some learning organisations are pro-actice and make every effort to support their analysts financially and through continuing learning opportunities.

Our dilemma is that we have so many people wanting to be analysts and often have the experiences you have.

My fourth apology is to lament that I have not been able to gain acceptance for two fundamental questions:

What is so important we have to share it?

Can less be more?

At the heart of this conversation is a profound debate about frequent augmented information. The availability of hardware and software has led to a surfeit of options for each analyst.

It has created an insatiability that we as a profession must address. We either need more people or automation to help us or we use the two questions above and add two more:

What has changed in performance in training and competition?

How might feedforward transform our practice?

Much of my time now is spent in exhorting our community of practice to share experiences openly. Your post is a very important marker in our conversation about practice and reminded me of that quote in Shadowlands

We read to know we are not alone.

Now that you have shared your thoughts, I hope you realise that you have a world of friends who are just a phone call or email away.

I hope too you will accept my apologies.


Photo Credits

Training day in 38C heat (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

A game of rugby union in 1907

A picture of the Stade Francais rugby union team. 1903.

Thanks to Darrell Cobner, I have another discovery to share.

A photograph of Maurice Martin.Darrell suggested I look at Frederic Humbert’s blog, Rugby Pioneers. (Simon Eaves and Paul Worsfold also link to Frederic’s post in their 2014 review of notational analysis for rugby football.)

In 2010, Frederic shared the story of Maurice Martin and Fernand Bidault’s visit to Bordeaux on 24 March 1907 to record the French Rugby Union Championship final.

Their hand notation records “la marche du ballon a travers les deux camps”. This record of their notation includes a photograph of their observation point on the top of the grandstand at the Stade Sainte-Germaine at Le Bouscat.

A photograph of the hand notation of the 1907 rugby union final.

There were 12,000 spectators at the game so the vantage point would have been particularly helpful in their comprehensive “schema chronometre”.  The notation is recorded with the time of day: kick off 3pm, end of first half 3.43 pm; second half starts 4pm and ends at 4.47pm.

The home team, SBUC, won the game by 14 points to 3 (4 tries to 1). It was 6 points to 3 at half time (2 tries to 1). The SBUC tries were scored by Maurice Leuvielle, Jacques Dufourcq, Marc Giacardy, and Pascal Laporte. Henri Martin converted one of these tries. The Stade Francais try was scored by Charles Vareilles.

I was fascinated to discover this notation. Eighty-four years later, I was perched in the top of the old Cardiff Arms Park using hand notation to record the flow of an international game. I did have the advantage of a stopwatch and a roof on a rainy day.

Photo Credit

Maurice Martin (Wikipedia)

Stade Fracais 1903 (Frederic Humbert)