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)

The Occupational Culture of the Performance Analyst: Providing a Video Service

In the last couple of weeks I have been discussing an Honours’ project with a student at the University of Canberra. I have been encouraging him to think about researching the occupational culture of the performance analyst in sport. By coincidence I had just reviewed a paper about delivering a performance analysis service to a basketball team in Japan.

We have had almost two decades now of an occupation in sport that can be described as ‘performance analyst‘. Whilst I was discussing the project with the Honours’ student I was prompted to think about how little we share about the tacit knowledge of supporting and serving coaches and athletes with augmented information. Recent discussions of performance analysis as the practice of “recording, processing, and interpreting events that take place in training and/or competition in sport” are further stimuli to explore the occupational culture and community of practice.

Whilst searching through my electronic files to find material to share with the Honours’ student I discovered some pictures taken by colleagues at the Australian Institute of Sport. The pictures were of the video service set up for the 2005 ICF World Canoe Slalom Championships in Penrith, Australia.

As host organiser in 2005, Australian Canoeing provided a video service to competing nations. There were some significant logistical issues to overcome to provide this service. The aim of the team delivering the service was to provide an uninterrupted video feed. The service team comprised staff from the Australian Institute of Sport and the New South Wales Institute of Sport. It was a very young team. The video feed came into the raft shed at Penrith and was distributed to 30 end user points. We had a wired system for the video feed and to ensure minimal disruption ran a parallel back up system.

Given the distance from the furthest camera on the course to the raft shed we amplified all video signals. On the first day of competition the weather was so bad that we lost a number of connections and had to lay out new video lines. We used up a great deal of our redundant equipment in the first day and the proximity of the course to a Dick Smith store and a Bunnings DIY store saved us from running the event without any back up resources.

My role at the event was to oversee the team delivering the video service and to liaise with all nations requiring a video feed. It was a wonderful learning opportunity for me and the service team. My aim throughout was to offer an invisible service that provided uninterrupted augmented information for coaches and athletes. For the finals of the competition we provided a feed from the broadcast coverage of the event as an additional option for the nations using the video service.

Set up and testing of the video equipment for the event took three days. We managed to disassemble the equipment in one day. We kept a detailed inventory of equipment and did not lose one item at the event. We acquired a vast library of DVD, hard disk and DV recordings of the event that were used subsequently for coach education and development resources.

The Control Desk

Looking Out into the Room

Splitting the signals:

The view from the back of the room:

Down Time:

All of the service team have stayed in sport science after the World Championships. I am now searching for a picture of them at the event.

I hope this is the first of many posts about the occupational culture of the performance analyst. I see it as a way of exploring and sharing tacit knowledge. I like the way Wikipedia explains tacit knowledge:

  • While tacit knowledge appears to be simple, it has far reaching consequences and is not widely understood.
  • With tacit knowledge, people are not often aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. Effective transfer of tacit knowledge generally requires extensive personal contact and trust.
  • Tacit knowledge is not easily shared. Tacit knowledge consists often of habits and culture that we do not recognize in ourselves.
  • The tacit aspects of knowledge are those that cannot be codified, but can only be transmitted via training or gained through personal experience. … It involves learning and skill but not in a way that can be written down.

Five years after the World Championships it is interesting to reflect on the learning opportunities available at large scale events. It struck me at the time that such events offer a different scale of event to apply the principles we use in 1:1 services to coaches in training and competition environments.

Clowns and Krumpers

Yesterday evening the ABC in Australia showed David LaChapelle‘s film Rize (2005). The film has been shown previously on ABC in Australia and was reviewed by Margaret Pomeranz and Triple J in 2005.

Rize introduced me to clowning and krumping as alternatives to membership in gangs. A review of Rize gives some background about the founder of this form of dance Tommy the Clown and its social context.

There are few career paths open to the children of these neighbourhoods (South Central Los Angeles) and drugs and gang culture offers a seemingly quick way to earn money and prestige, and as many of their families and friends are involved in gangs it can prove difficult to break out of this way of life. Krumping not only provides a physical outlet for young peoples frustration but can also creates alternative social structures and allows young people to gain respect from their peers and their community. For Tommy the Clown the success of his dancing has turned his life around and dance has provided him much more than just a steady income. After a spell in jail for drug dealing he was asked to perform at a kids party and began a business as a hip hop clown. His art and his business has grown from there to include a Clowning Dance Academy and number of high profile ‘Battle Zone’ dance competitions in huge stadiums with thousands of spectators. Whilst dancing can help people work out their emotions, it can also offer alternative career paths. The Krump dancers featured in the film have gone on to use their dancing to actually escape the ghetto and are starting out as dancers and choreographers. Dancer Miss Prissy choreographed and starred in Madonna’s new video Hung Up and others have also been snapped up by the likes of Missy Elliott and the Black Eyed Peas.

This 2007 video and report provide more information about Tommy and Krump. One reviewer of Rize observed that “By allowing the story of Krumping and Clowning to come from the mouths of those who live and breath it, he (Lachapelle) brings to the fore the relationship between dance and society with startling clarity and inscribed on the body of the dancer.”

There is a Battle Zone within Krump:

The Battle Zone is fierce, kinetic, no-holds bar dancing, where the objective – much like with breakdancing – is to put your opponent to miserable shame. So the krumpers and the clowns dance fast and they dance hard to be crowned the best by an audience of their peers.

There is a Cage version of this battle Zone that is “grimey and reps what Krump was when it started but with the highest levels of Krump. The battles were all in good vibes and even the beef battles brought everyone closer.”

By the end of Rize I was sold on clowning and krumping. Perhaps it was because I had spent part of the day reading Digital Habitats that I saw a wonderful opportunity to explore stewardship from a different perspective. Tommy the Clown has many of the characteristics discussed by Etienne, Nancy and John with regard to the rhythms of togetherness and separation:

Time and space present a challenge for communities. Forming a community of practice requires sustained mutual engagement over time. It takes more than one transient conversation; it does not arise from merely having the same job title in different locations. It requires learning together with enough continuity and intensity of engagement that the definition of the domain, the weaving of the community and the development of the practice become shared resources.

I was thinking too about communication. The evolution of krumping prompted me to think about microblogging and its transformation since 2006. Perhaps I am overworking the issues here but the colonisation of a mode of expression has some real parallels for me with digital authorship. I like the ideas around the rhythm of communication and the opportunities to find the edges around shared interests.

Photo Credits

Rob Helfman D_18278A

Tommy the Clown

Tommy the Clown y’all

Chaz Wags lasgueritas