HEY COACH, WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
Over the past 15 few years, the world of sports has experienced an explosion in the usage of analytics. The exponential increase in the quantity and variety of data available, as well as the emergence of newer and more advanced data analysis and management strategies, have begun a new era where data-driven processes dominantly influence decision makers at different levels of sport contexts. These data-driven changes have consequently led to the revision of the stereotypical definitions and roles of sport professionals across coaching and support staff. Data and sport scientists have become professional figures fulfilling prominent positions. On the other hand, coaching staffs were required to develop their knowledge and acquire new skills. Their decisions making began to rely not exclusively on gut feelings and visual intuition but more on an objective and quantitative reasoning of “What”, “Why” and “How”. In football, the most representative statement highlighting this changing era is from 2013, when by Sir Alex Ferguson, during an interview for the Irish Times, announced:
Sports science, without question, is the biggest and most important change in my lifetime. It has moved the game onto another level that maybe we never dreamt of all those years ago. Sports science has brought a whole new dimension to the game.
A necessary change
However, having an impact on the coaching dynamics, as a sport scientist or analyst, is far from an easy job. The way coaches and athletes understand, accept and use sport science is not straightforward and is in many ways unpredictable. Among the different components for an effective sport science support team, the two main prerequisites covering essential roles are:
- Useful data needs to address and answer the questions asked by coaches and players.
- Key data needs to be presented through improved visualization strategies and by using informative and easily understandable reports and formats.
The Track160 system proposes an innovative approach for football analytics. The system allows the simultaneous collection of technical, tactical, physical and ball position data whereby football practitioners could obtain a comprehensive understanding of overall performance. It integrates representative physical metrics (e.g., high-intensity running, acceleration and deceleration efforts) with the collective tactical activities of the team (e.g., team formation, team compactness) or key actions individually recognized for each player (e.g., key passes, ball retrieves) (“What”). This approach represents a cornerstone for game contextualization and creates new opportunities for more accurate and deeper performance analyses (“Why”).
Polygon Array Tactical Analysis
The future is already here
With the availability of the most relevant variables (data/datasets/metrics), football coaches also need interactive and user-friendly tools to communicate with the players and transfer effective instructions and feedbacks. In this regard, Track160 offers a variety of data visualisation and reporting formats. Coaches decide what data has to be displayed and choose different visualisation templates between summary tables, dynamic charts and a tactical viewer alongside the real match video. In fact, the way (“How”) instructions are provided should match with the athletes’ attitudes and preferences in order to get the coach’s message across.