By Enrico Caballero
25-July-2019 on News9 minute read
The evolution of real-time sports analysis
Sports performance analysis is a fast-evolving discipline. Coaches and the athletes they work with, demand ever more precise information in their goal to achieve the marginal gains made famous by cycling guru Dave Brailsford - and a competitive edge against their competition.
In team sports, like soccer, basketball, American football, hockey and rugby it’s a simpler equation. Tag games, learn from your mistakes, adjust future play and your team can expect to win more frequently. Neglect to look at the strengths of your opponents and you simply hand them an advantage - especially as they’re probably doing exactly the same thing to you!
At the core of all analysis is objective information, obtained through systematic observation. In sport, this data is typically collected by watching, tagging and recording a game using specific software - like Nacsport.
This data is stored on a timeline before being presented as videos, graphs or charts. Historically, information gathered during a game would be ‘clipped’, edited and compiled by coaches for delivery after a game finishes.
Changing the course of a game - as it happens
More competition, better technology and an evolution in analytical understanding have resulted in greater demands for information from coaches, teams and athletes, along with a realisation that - in some sports - the influence of analytical observation can actually alter the result of a game.
At its most basic, sports performance analysis offers players and coaches the chance to see where improvements can be made, or to prepare for upcoming games. It’s a methodology that’s traditionally served teams very well.
But while the traditional post-match debrief, or mid-week opposition preview, are still a large part of the coaching process, a growing number of analysts are now sharing their work with the bench while games are being played.
Real-time sports analysis is here to stay
The practice has become so widespread that the British FA recently made a point of ‘allowing’ devices to be used in the dugout - a feature already common in sports like American football and rugby.
As a platform Nacsport lends itself to real-time information sharing between analysts and the bench. Our Tag&View app is perfect for analysing games on the fly, using a tablet or smartphone, while NS CoachStation adds live-streaming to any Nacsport-enabled device.
Inside the software, tools like Category Frequency and Data Pattern recognition filter out irrelevant noise and instantly transform data into meaningful information - that can influence the course of a game.
So who’s live-streaming their analysis - and what do they think?
We wanted to learn how analysts working with Nacsport communicate with coaches during a game, the information they consider important enough to share live and the value it provides to their teams.
So we asked 5 analysts for their opinion, a quick overview of just what they’re analysing in real-time and how they think it’s benefitting the clubs they work with;
Different points of view
Addressing the VIII Nacsport Networking conference, earlier this year, Daniel Muñoz Reina - First Team Analyst at Real Betis - described a system he’s developed over almost 3 years, which involves feeding observations directly to coaches in order to adapt strategy on the field.
“We began at the start of last season (2017) and noticed an immediate difference... We can detect situations which can be corrected, then send that info to the bench, where adjustments are made”, he says.
For Daniel it’s as much about his physical location - high above the pitch - as the data he generates during a game. Combining his elevated perspective with information generated by Nacsport, then sharing it live with coaches had an immediate effect - something that has led the Spanish team to double the number of analysts it employs, rolling out Daniel’s strategy to every level at the club.
The holistic approach
Robin Feenstra is senior analyst at Dutch soccer club FC Dordrecht and describes himself as a ‘big fan’ of real-time analysis. Constantly in touch with coaching staff during a game, he uses Nacsport’s Tag&View app to analyse the action and create a series of mini-reports, which he claims effectively build themselves, to share with players at half time.
A keen student of the game, Feenstra is well known for taking a holistic approach to his work, devoting a large part of his in-game analysis to spotting patterns or sequences that could influence the final result. The same goes for the training ground - and Robin will often tag practice games in order to spot subtle strengths or weaknesses within the team.
Polishing set-piece chances
Fellow Dutchman Mees Soek from hockey club Cartouche is a relatively fresh convert to performance analysis. But for the last 2 years he’s been using Nacsport not just to tag matches for review later, but also to spot aspects of the game that can be adjusted during play and to improve positioning for set pieces.
During competitive matches, Mees’ teammates in the dugout use CoachStation to review his analysis and adjust strategy accordingly. It’s especially useful for set pieces, scoring opportunities and defending, according to Soek. “If the coach wants to review a certain play I can share that data in live, or prepare multiple clips and send them directly to the bench almost immediately.
Soek’s methods have, he claims, “had a very positive effect on the club and been implanted at every level”.
Michael Byrnes is Performance Analyst for Gaelic Sports club Tipperary, who take the whole business of real-time analysis very seriously. On matchdays, Michael leads a team of 4 analysts who work closely with coaching staff.
Using tripod-mounted cameras and an AP wireless antenna to transmit information around the ground, Michael streams live video - and his analytical notes - to the bench, where one coach uses the Nacsport CoachStation program to collaborate via interactive dashboards.
According to Michael, the results have been fantastic - a real game-changer - while working with a dedicated coach makes it easy to relay or reinforce tactics individually with players, or the entire team during the half time interval.
Byrnes is also pioneering new ways to incorporate live-sharing of his analysis in training at Tipperary, using a wide-angle camera to assess lineups and tactical positioning during practice sessions and drilling down on individual development.
As and when it’s needed
Ramon Vazquez - Analyst at Sevilla FC from Spain’s La Liga - takes a more pragmatic approach to in-game analysis. “We always work in real-time”, he says, but how we share information depends on a range of factors.
For Vazquez, who heads up a team of 6 analysts at one of Spain’s oldest football clubs, an important part of the work is striking a balance between quality and quantity. Often analysing as many as 11 games a week, he bases his real-time work on the immediate needs of the team and will only share information with coaches during a game when he considers it to be important.
The future of live, in-game analytics
The increased relevance of real-time analytics in sport is here to stay. The best teams in almost every sport have some kind of analytical input, usually accompanied by a rigorous process of observing and recording data. As technology improves and standards rise, it’s only natural to expect that to continue and for its effects to filter down to lower levels.
Every coach, manager, scout or trainer wants access to information that could help their team win more games. As technology improves and becomes more affordable, the discipline of live performance analysis will expand. And from what we can see, that progression will be in real-time.
To try real-time analysis for yourself, or take any Nacsport product for a free 30-day trial, just follow the link at the top of this page.