Analyst Spotlight - Dr Bobbi Willcox

By Enrico Caballero

18-September-2019 on Users

10 minute read

After featuring in our recent post on influential female analysts in sport - and with a fast-growing list of international clients, we wanted to ask New Zealand netball analyst Dr Bobbi Willcox about the unique work she’s doing with teams around the world.


Point9 Analytics is a special kind of consultancy. Formed by two former analytical buffs, from very different working backgrounds, joined by their love of netball, Point9 works with national squads, club sides and even school teams, delivering their pioneering analytical packages and collecting new fans around the world.


Do note that this interview - which was carried out by email - includes the comments not just of Dr Willcox, but also her 2 co-collaborators at Point 9 - fellow founder Dessi Broughton and experienced analyst Jade Shaw.

When and how did you discover Nacsport? Were you using any other software before? 

Bobby first heard of NacSport in 2016/2017 when she was still with the Silver Ferns and was looking for a more affordable alternative to SportsCode.  She made the switch to NacSport with the Silver Ferns in 2017/2018 and then, when we started up Point 9 Analytics, we decided NacSport was the best option for our business model.

What layers within the organisation are using Nacsport? (Only first team, full squad, women’s team, academy players, junior teams etc) 

We use Nacsport for all layers, particularly Tag&View.


Approximately, how many games do you analyse every week?

During the domestic season, approximately 10 games per week. Not all games require us to use Nacsport though. 


How do you use Nacsport? What does a ’typical’ analysis involve for you?

We work with a wide range of teams, from younger age groups and school teams through to international squads, so how we use NacSport depends on the requirements of the particular team we’re involved with.


In some cases we use Tag&View to video the game and provide simple analysis, which is then uploaded and shared online with players and coaches.  In other cases we use our NacSport Pro license to do a more complex coding of the game to produce presentations for the players - depending on what the coaches want to look at.


Do you work in real time during games? If so what kind of information are you sharing and have you seen any benefits?

We do produce real time information in games but at the moment not with NacSport. It is something we’re looking at for the future though.


How many people do you work with - as part of your analytical team and who do you report to?

Point 9 Analytics has 2 co-directors (Dessi and Bobby) and 1 intern (Jade).  Sometimes we all work together on particular games or teams, sometimes we work independently. It all depends on the team requirements.  


For example, Dessi is the lead analyst for the Central zone teams we work with (Central Pulse and Manawa Beko), but Bobby and Jade provide support when needed either remotely or when the teams are up in Auckland.  


Dessi and Bobby attended the World Cup with the Fijian team, while Jade was the lead analyst for the Manawatu U17 team at the recent U17 National Champs.  


Generally we report to the team coaches, but again in some cases we are immersed within the team and so have a high level of interaction directly with the players as well.



How is your work used? Do coaches and team managers work with your presentations?

When we are immersed within a team we present our information directly to coaches and players ourselves, and tweak the method of that delivery to the needs and level of the players we are working with.  


We also share footage and discussion online with players and coaches so that they can lead and grow the analysis process themselves.  Some of our more in depth/complex analysis is delivered directly to the coaches and they then decide what (and how) they will communicate our findings to the players - and what they will use for their own knowledge and game plan development.


Do you focus on any particular areas of a game to analyse? And if so, which ones? Do you also look at opposing teams?

We have a system that captures stats from all areas of the game, and then we can use those numbers to focus in on particular areas where needed.  Similarly with our video work, we have a basic code which captures key moments of a game, but then we may need to look at specific areas depending on what has happened and what is needed for the next match.  


This could be player/coach driven, or highlighted by something we’ve found in the basic analysis.  But yes we definitely do look at opposition teams!  



How do you think the team benefit from your work? Are there long term benefits to club mentality?

The various teams we work with at different levels I think get differing benefits from our work.  


With the Central Pulse, for example, who are well versed in analysis we were able to provide some pretty specialised investigative analysis, as well as broader intelligence, and we think (hope!) they found good value in our information.  


With the two Central teams winning both the ANZ Championship and the Beko Championship this year, hopefully we were doing something right!  


At the other end of the scale, the Fijian team had never been exposed to any analysis before, so with them it was more about introducing them to the discipline, showing them a new way to look at and measure their performance, and introducing them to a robust review process.  


We got fantastic buy in from the players, and by the end of the World Cup they were able to interpret stats, do video reviews and completely own their performances.  Hopefully they will take those learnings back with them and continue with the next generation of players!


Are you achieving your analytical goals? What would help you be more effective or what frustrates you about your work?

Yes and no.  We are happy with what we are able to produce at the moment, but there is always more we can do, and new ways to do things!  With the way our business works, we are often working remotely with teams all over the country/world, so at the moment the most frustrating thing for us is finding the best way to share our work online in the best possible format for player buy in.  The ability to share interactive dashboards online easily is definitely something that would help us be more effective!


Have players and coaches ‘bought-in’ to your analytical work?

Yes, we have been very lucky to work with some incredible coaches who buy in to our work 100% and help pass that attitude onto their players.  We have found that the players we work with who are new to analysis are generally very open to learning, while the more experienced players we have been working with at Central Zone understand and appreciate the value analysis can offer.  


There will always be players and coaches out there who prefer to operate more on an instinctual basis, but they don’t tend to be the ones who engage our services!  


That was part of the motivation behind starting up Point 9 Analytics - to work with people within the industry who really wanted our information and the insights we can offer.



Do you use any other tools in your analysis or presentations? (KlipDraw, Tag&view, Sharimg)

We use Tag&View as well as NacSport Pro.  Then we use excel for stats, and Coach Logic for online sharing.


Are you using external data providers?

No, we collect all our own data ourselves. 


How do you see the role of analyst developing in your sport?

There are many netball teams out there now that engage analysts, but I still think analysis is lower down the priority list when budgets are stretched, so a number of teams are using volunteers or interns, or nothing at all.  


It would be great to see analysis become more common among lower ranked international teams, and potentially also high performing school teams - as we believe there is huge potential for growth in those areas and that analysis could be of benefit to them.  


In terms of the actual analyst role within netball, we think there is huge variety in how the role is currently filled and utilised - sports science focus, video focus, coaching background, former players, the list goes on!  


At Point 9, the three of us all offer differing views and strengths as we have all come from very different backgrounds, and we believe that gives us a very unique approach to the discipline!


If you could add one new feature to Nacsport, what would it be?

The ability to share interactive dashboards online easily without having to purchase multiple licenses.

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