Price and Value as a Performance Analyst

Background

This post what I think Mark Upton calls a fragment. It is my attempt to pull together some strands in a debate I need to explore.

It is a debate about valuing people not pricing them.

I have an apology to make at the outset.

In a post written yesterday,  I mentioned that I had been discussing internships with the Australian Catholic University’s  2018 cohort of the Graduate Certificate in Performance Analysis course.

I did not make it explicit (hence my apology) that it was a lively discussion and I used the word ‘slavery’ and talked about ‘minimum living wages’. It started with a question about the Leicester City performance analysis job description.

Thanks to my connector, Darrell Cobner, I learned that this conversation was going on in Atlanta too.

Amber Luzar was one of those who commented in England.

At about the time Lucy posted this, in Strathfield we had reached a Spartacus moment too:

Lance Du’Lac replied to Lucy.

Transformation

During the Strathfield conversation about the Leicester City ‘opportunity’, we discuss the role a cohort of students might play in rejecting an occupational community.

We noted the enormous numbers of people graduating in sport science and performance analysis each year and how a personal portfolio in an application might include experiences in a variety of sport settings.

My argument was that the #ACUGCPA18 Strathfield mob could accept that they are engaged in a transactional relationship with their industry and ‘volunteer’ for unpaid internships with the employer waxing lyrical about the kudos attached to working with for them without pay. And with that dreadful enticement about the possibility of paid employment at some future date should budgets permit.

We discussed the prisoner’s dilemma inherent in this transaction … if I do not do it, somebody else will (namely, “why two completely ‘rational’ individuals might not cooperate, even if it appears that it is in their best interests to do so”).

Our conversation moved on to become a transformational performance analyst. What would it take for all of us not to be complicit in an industry that deludes us?

What if as a collective group we could take a moral stand even at a personal cost? And assert our value rather than our price (or non-price) as sentient human beings who have a passion for the analysis of performance in sport.

I had a three-hour drive home from Strathfield to think about the conversation we had.

On my way home, I stopped for coffee and this job advertisement popped up from a football team in England:

The club is recruiting a performance analyst to implement a variety of analysis strategies/methods to aid the performance of all first team players.

Reporting to First team management the successful candidate will be responsible for developing and implementing cutting edge analysis for the first team. This will incorporate:

Recording and analyse matches

To provide appropriate and effective video analysis sessions for all individual and positional groups within the first team environments

In collaboration with the first team management, monitor and evaluate team and individual KPIs

Maintain a database of games/sessions filmed for future use.

Use a variety of software packages when performing analysis tasks.

Contribute to accessibility of performance analysis support for players and coaches.

Provide motivational or supportive material to be utilised by coaches and players when required.

Liaise with coaches in preparation for analysis sessions.

Assisting with the organisation and training of students and/or interns.

Providing supportive material for upcoming and previous games

The candidate must be able to demonstrate the following:

Essential:

Hold a sports coaching/science related degree.

Level 3 coaching certificate

Experience using coding and video editing software (SportCode, IMovie, Hudl etc.).

Must be completely IT literate (Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and IOS equivalents).

Experience/knowledge of the PMA system

Hold a valid full UK driver’s licence.

Must have excellent communication skills.

Must be dynamic, hardworking and enthusiastic.

Desirable:

Masters or degree in Performance Analysis, Coaching or Sports Science related subject area.

Desire to conduct research to contribute to the development of the Analysis department

Previous experiences of first team football.

Salary: To be confirmed

The successful candidate will be required to work a 6 month probation period.

I thought about driving back to Strathfield!

Dazzled by certification and accreditation

One of this year’s cohort of students in performance analysis does not have a degree. ACU used their recognition of prior learning to acknowledge the student’s twenty years in the sport industry, part of which has been to use innovative visualisation techniques to share information with coaches and athletes. The student’s day job is working with a data analytics company collecting real-time game data.

The student was surprised and delighted that ACU accepted him.

I am mindful that I no longer meet students on a daily basis but I am concerned that job descriptions regard an undergraduate degree as essential and a Masters degree as desirable for a post in performance analysis.

My concern is that performance analysts on different learning pathways in an era of open access, self-directed learning are excluded for sharing their work.

I wondered if this might change if job descriptions were an invitation to audition for the role of performance analyst. At that audition, the employer must share an explicit strategy for analysis and provide details about any mentoring or critical friend support the applicant might require or benefit from.

This dilemma of a mandated qualification is enhanced when formal accreditation such as ESSA’s sport scientist level 1 requires:

Documented evidence of a qualification in exercise, sports or movement science at Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) Level 7 (or an international equivalent) leading to the award of a three-year bachelor degree.

In this context, I find it ironic that ESSA values cultural diversity (“sports scientists need an awareness of cultural diversity to enable them to shape and deliver their services in a culturally aware and sensitive manner”).

A colleague who has twenty years experience of analysis in a national sporting organisation does not meet these criteria despite being acknowledge as an industry example of better practice.

I am not arguing for no standards but want to assert that accreditation and certification are a pathway not the pathway.

Fragments

We are on the cusp of another great wave of development in performance analysis. Few of us remember the analogue era. Most are from a digital world.

My argument is that at the cusp of a post-digital occupational culture in performance analysis, we can support each other by challenging and rejecting unpaid and underpaid work.

We can in my utopian sense, celebrate our shared humanity. Performance analysis is an exciting career but not at any cost.

We should value each other and be valued by sport.

As I was compiling this, a number of other alerts came my way including:

ReGen18

ReGen18 will not be another talk-fest, but a task-force and learning ground with growing real-world impact year-on-year. It will launch a purpose-driven community to share practical tools, powerful ideas, new business models and innovative finance mechanisms to accelerate the change we need at the speed of the problems we now face.

Safe, happy and free (Tarja Halonen):

We live in a cold, harsh and remote place. Every person has to work hard for themselves. But that is not always enough. You have to help your neighbours.

Yesterday, groups in Strathfield (NSW), Atlanta, the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as the Twittersphere were thinking about our neighbours.

We can do this together but not alone.

Photo Credits

Durran Durra Fire (Queanbeyan RFS)

Keith Lyons (CC BY 4.0)

Understanding

Mark Upton wrote a post this week titled KPIs, Comparative Coaching & Classrooms.

In September, Mark and Ric Shuttleworth will begin facilitating conversations about ‘relearn Team Sports’.

I think their six-month journeys with coaches will be fascinating.

In his post, Mark wrote:

My own experiences and observations suggest there can be a disproportionate amount of time analysing, editing and preparing video clips for the “classroom”, in comparison to the time spent thinking about and designing purposeful (perhaps even creative!) on-field activities and sessions.

In October, I am presenting at the HPX 2017 Knowledge Exchange Conference in Dublin. In addition to a one-day hackathon for performance analysts (#abbotsthon17), I am presenting in a technology strand on the topic of ‘Are we there yet?‘. In it I hope to be addressing the issues Mark raises generally in his work and in his post specifically.

His post and the preparations for the October conference have taken me back to work that engrossed me in the 1990s. David Perkins and Tina Blythe from Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education helped me think critically about putting understanding up front in my teaching and coaching.

In a 1994 paper, David and Tina share their performance perspective on understanding. This perspective proposes that:

understanding is a matter of being able to do a variety of thought-demanding things with a topic … and representing the topic in a new way. (1994:5)

And that:

understanding is being able to carry out a variety of “performances” that show one’s understanding of a topic and, at the same time, advance it. (My emphasis.) (1994:6)

They add that “the mainstay of learning for understanding must be actual engagement in those performances”.

An understanding approach in Project Zero comprised four key concepts:

  • Generative topics
  • Understanding goals
  • Understanding performances
  • Ongoing assessment

This teaching for understanding approach:

is meant only as a guide, which keeps the focus on understanding while allowing teachers room to design units and courses that suit their particular styles and priorities as practitioners in their disciplines. (1994:7)

I see this approach to be connected closely with the conversations Mark and Ric will have with the coaches that join them on their relearn journeys. I imagine the conversations might explore how teachers and coaches constructively align how they create opportunities for performances of understanding that are tested in authentic ways in training environments.

Photo Credits

Over there (Dean Donaldson, CC BY 2.0)

relearn Team Sports (Mark Upton)

Times Square tilt-shift (zonalpony, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Mechanisms and Machineries

Mark Upton has posted his eighth fragment in his compelling discussion of sport systems.

I am fascinated by Mark’s insights. His latest post coincides with the end of my visit to England (and Ireland) after a month of conversations with coaches. Mark’s theme resonates powerfully with the direction of our conversations.

In his post Mark quotes Carol Black on schooling and notes ‘the fallacy of social engineering ’ that is:

the false belief that it is possible to institute a top-down, mechanical structure, impose it on a complex living system, and expect predictable results.

Mark observes of this:

it is unfortunate yet not unexpected that this influences the approach taken to designing “learning”, “education” and/or “development” of coaches, players and other roles in sport.

Mark contemplates how this might be different if we explore an organic approach that Carol proposes:

The key to the development of human intelligence and learning is that it is an organic process, in which a myriad of elements – some seen but many unseen – engage in a dynamic interplay to produce results which are stubbornly unpredictable in both timing and ultimate outcome. (Original emphasis.)

Mark concludes his post with this paragraph:

I’m looking forward to discussing this topic tomorrow with a coach who has been involved in one of the most successful player development environments for the last 20+ years. I sense he is unsettled by the mechanistic approach that sport academy systems are increasingly disposed toward.

I am keen to learn how that meeting went. By serendipity, each of the twenty-four conversations on my current visit have touched upon and sometimes explored in animated depth coaching processes. Our conversations have been five years in the making.

I think I have been exploring Mark and Carol’s juxtaposition of mechanistic and organic approaches to learning, being and becoming. My guide has been Karin Cestina and her thoughts on epistemic cultures:

those sets of practices, arrangements and mechanisms bound together by necessity, affinity and historical coincidence which, in a given area of professional expertise, make up how we know what we know. Epistemic cultures are cultures of creating and warranting knowledge.

She adds “the focus in an epistemic culture approach is on the construction of the machineries of knowledge construction”. (My emphasis.)

I take Mark’s work to be exploring these machineries.

I have not mentioned Karin to the coaches I have met but I have been using two catalysts as variations on this theme for conversation. One was the concept of everywhen and the other was Nigel Redman‘s conception of coaching as a Michelin star experience (discussed recently in another context by Kurt Lindley).

I take everywhen to be the connectedness of all time in the present. Who we were, who we are and who we will be are focused in our present and presence.

I think this allowed us to discuss coach as coach and athlete experience in terms of a Michelin system.

One star: Very good cooking in its category
Two stars: Excellent cooking, worth a detour
Three stars: Exceptional cuisine, worthy of a special journey

The combination of both ideas helped us to talk about the processes of coaching and how the coaches in the group might advocate for coach learning environments to address the rich diversity of practice that can emerge from shared and contestable experiences.

I am in Belfast at the moment and am looking forward to exploring the city today. I am particularly interested in the mural art.

Many years ago, a friend at Dartington College of Arts, suggested that the murals had two dimensions: territory and aspiration.

Without pushing this connection too far, I do think Mark’s most recent fragment encourages us to contemplate the pictures we paint about coaching and learning. Mechanisms and machineries have territory and aspirations.

My hope is that by considering how we might frame both differently we can transform coach and athlete experience by creating the opportunities, in Carol’s words, under which “human brilliance may unfold and flourish”.

Photo Credits

The three pictures shared here are:

1. Looking out to sea past the Titanic Museum, Belfast. (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

2. Guido van Helten’s mural at Coonalpyn, South Australia (CNN)

3. The advocate: a Belfast mural. (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)