A Wednesday Unmeeting

Most Wednesdays during the year, I host an unmeeting over lunch in a cafe at the University of Canberra.

No one is obliged to come but pizza is on offer in the context of “an informal type of meeting without the rules, format or constraints of a formal meeting”. The general topic of these meetings is the observation, analysis and coaching. Some unmeetings extend to a dozen or so participants, occasionally it is a monologue with myself.

The unmeetings have their own rhythm and by being held in a public place, people join us as they pass by.

My thoughts about the unmeeting approach are informed by the Boot Room at AnfieldMitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, and world cafes.

Last Wednesday was a delightful unmeeting lunch. There were just three of us: Mitch Mooney, Ron Smith and me. What evolved over the next two hours was the epitome of the magic of an unmeeting.

Mitch has been monitoring the Super Netball tournament and Ron was ‘fresh’ from the live coding of all 64 World Cup football games. I have been keeping an eye on both tournaments so was delighted to connect Mitch and Ron’s work.

We started by looking at Mitch’s visualisation of substitution behaviours in the 2017 and 2018 Super Netball tournaments:

We discussed Mitch’s data capture, data analysis and data visualisation approaches before exploring the coaching implications of the insights he was able to share. We spent some time talking about how patient coaches can be in their awareness of game flow but then went on to discuss reactive coaching responses.

I thought one of the great outcomes of Mitch’s work is that we can use longitudinal data to support pre-game planning and within-game decisions in the context of n > 1.

The unmeetings are also BYOD events so I added two charts from my Netball performance tracking to extend the conversation about what kind of tournament 2018 is in the context of 2017.

After crowding around my screen to view these, we started on a conversation about invasive games and the connections between them.

Whilst Ron was sorting out his computer, we talked about Horst Wein and his involvement with hockey, football and other sports. Ron had hosted a visit by Horst to Malaysia and so we were treated to a first hand account of Horst’s coaching.

We then moved on to Ron’s real-time coding of all 169 World Cup goals from the 2018 tournament. He showed us his timeline:

And his csv file:

After Ron’s explanation of his observations we concluded our conversation with contemplation of transition play in football and netball. This involved addressing what I have come to call the Smith Binary.

Ron’s analysis of goal scoring in open play is defined by a profound basic principle: are there more of our players than opponents in front of me? Yes triggers a transition play that results in a shot at goal within 12 seconds. No triggers a decision about possession retention that will ultimately result in a ball played behind a defender to create a goal scoring opportunity.

We discussed how this binary is manifested in netball.

We had also consumed two large pizzas!

I have asked Mitch’s and Ron’s permissions to share this unmeeting. I have done so in part to celebrate their wisdom and also to promote unmeetings as a most convivial way to have inclusive conversations.

Whilst writing this post I thought about one of Morrie Schwartz’s observations shared by Mitch Albom:

The truth is, part of me is every age. I’m a three-year-old, I’m a five-year-old, I’m a thirty-seven-year-old, I’m a fifty-year-old. I’ve been through all of them, and I know what it’s like. I delight in being a child when it’s appropriate to be a child. I delight in being a wise old man when it’s appropriate to be a wise old man. Think of all I can be! I am every age, up to my own.

… and believe that unmeetings give all of us this opportunity.

A Ron Smith guest post: On The Bench

Introduction

I have invited Ron Smith to write a post about the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) decision to “use of electronic and communication equipment in the technical area”.

Ron has been involved in football for fifty years and has integrated technology into his coaching from his early days use of film loops to share technical and tactical insights with players and coaches.

On The Bench

Simon Austin noted earlier this month:

IFAB, which decides the rules of the game, has announced that “small, hand-held electronic or communication devices will be allowed in the technical area “if used for coaching/ tactics or player welfare. This can include items as large as laptops.

It took years before approval was given for GPS systems to be worn during matches, so the introduction of devices for tactical and coaching information to be received on the bench, in whatever format, is not surprising.

The terms of reference are broad enough for anything to be relayed to the coaching staff so the relevant information will be determined by what the coach wants to know or see during the game.

Physical data could be useful if the weather conditions are different to what the players normally experience, but I would expect the coaches and physiologists to know each players’ physiological capacities and limitations.

Pre-World Cup warm up games could be used to simulate expected adverse weather conditions and identify players, if any, who may have problems.

With regards to the technical /tactical information a coach might want to receive on the bench during the game, I suggest the most useful would be of a quantitative nature rather than qualitative.

The coaches will be watching the game from the touchline and will know what is going on but the benefit of observations made by a colleague watching from an elevated position can be an advantage.

The qualitative information I would like to receive on the bench would relate to how well the team is carrying out our game plans in attack and defence, and if it is not happening to my satisfaction I would like the observations of a trusted colleague who has an aerial view. I would also have the opinion of other coaches on the bench to cross reference these observations.

It is difficult to make adjustments to the team performance during the game so whatever information I receive ought to confirm no change in the chosen strategy or lead to a change in strategy. A change would lead to implementation of Plan B or Plan C, which the players would have had to practice and be able to apply. This approach to adjusting tactics and / or team shape, or a player’s role would come from what I call ‘What If’ training based on game scenarios during the long-term preparation of the team. This is difficult but not impossible to achieve within the infrequent gatherings and constantly changing environment of international football.

I think quantitative data during the game would be limited to precise performance indicators such as attempts to play behind from specific areas of the pitch, which research has shown to have a profound effect on scoring opportunities.

I do not envisage a Head Coach watching replays of events on the bench while the game is in progress but selected passages might be viewed during stoppages in play.  The use of selected clips at half time would enable the coach to communicate visually with the players what he wants them to focus on in the second half, which he cannot do during the game.

Many sports have regulations about ‘time outs’. The availability of augmented information raises some important questions about how the IFAB decision might affect the flow of games. In women’s tennis, the WTA has permitted coaches:

to enter the court to provide tactical advice and support … armed with analytical evidence of what is unfolding on court, delivered via mobile applications supplied by the tour’s software analytics partner.

In IPL cricket,  there are four strategic time outs, each of two and a half minutes: the bowling side can ask for a break between overs 6 and 9 while the batting team can opt for the same anytime between 13 and 16 overs

I wonder if some form of time out will be the next initiative IFAB discusses.

The 2018 World Cup gives us a great opportunity to see how the availability of touch line technology works.

Photo Credit

Chertsey Town v Banstean Athletic (Chris Turner, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Substitutions (Ronnie MacDonald, CC BY 2.0)

The Impact of Managerial Change: EPL 2017-2018

I noticed this tweet earlier today

By coincidence, Ron Smith had sent me a link to the paper too. It is available online at this link.

The paper encouraged me to think about the data I have been collecting from the EPL.

I have been tracking the impact of the eight managerial changes in the EPL this season with a very basic ‘momentum’ metric. This indicates that, after week 28 of the season, Leicester has benefited most from a change (+3) whilst West Brom has struggled (-7).

My maps of routes to safety or relegation, in order of managerial changes, are:

Crystal Palace

Leicester

Everton

West Ham

West Brom

Swansea

Stoke

Watford

Simon Gleave added a fascinating dimension to this conversation in his consideration of how many points are required to remain in the EPL.

He shared this graphic (14 February 2018) of the % chance of relegation this season:

Photo Credit

BFCvFCUM_ENPLPD_041114 (Matthew Wilkinson, CC BY-ND 2.0)