By Enrico Caballero
01-August-2019 on News7 minute read
There’s no doubt that women are underrepresented in sports coaching and management. But the parallel world of sports performance analytics is evolving into a more balanced and equal field, with a growing number of women taking up positions within leading clubs and organisations.
In our second review of the most influential female analysts working in sport today, we welcome 4 new names to the list and catch up with 3 of our last selection who continue to set new standards and drive the discipline forward.
So here they are; in no particular order, Nacsport’s choice of 7 women playing a significant role in advancing their chosen sports and performance analysis.
Susana Ferreras - Data Scientist at Arsenal Football Club
Quite possibly one of the most influential women in sports analytics today, Susan’s day job is working alongside legendary Arsenal analyst Víctor Mañas, as part of manager Unai Emery’s well-established backroom team.
But when she’s not steering the Gunners to glory in London, you’re most likely to find Ferreras travelling the world with Spain’s national women’s basketball squad, where she’s employed on an advisory level. As she freely admits, the two positions are very different:
At Arsenal her role is to use data to develop long term strategies for the club, something not possible in the shorter, more frantic world of international basketball competitions.
Ferreras must be doing something right. In her first year at Arsenal the team reached their first European final in more than a decade - and when she returns to the club this season she’ll be in possession of a gold medal after helping Spain’s women become the first team in almost 30 years to win back-to-back European basketball championships.
Rosalind Chou - Head Coach Life University Women's Rugby
After a successful playing career, followed by a spell managing the Atlanta Harlequins Women’s Rugby team, Rosalind Chou was chosen by Life University to launch and lead the university’s new women’s rugby program in 2014.
She made an almost immediate mark on the game, taking the newly formed Life women’s team to a string of finals and top 3 finishes, which earned her the title of 2016 Female Coach of the Year. A keen advocate of women’s sport in general, Chou is now in her fifth season at Life where she believes they have ‘an outstanding program, with great facilities and a fantastic culture. I couldn’t be happier’ she says.
Jodi Cossor - Biomechanist at High-Performance Sport New Zealand
For a country of fewer than 5 million inhabitants, most people will agree that New Zealand is a nation that consistently ‘punches above its weight’ in sport. That success is partly down to the Antipodean nation’s ferocious appetite and love of sport, but it also has a lot to do with the way New Zealanders prepare for competition - in just about every game they play.
We first came across Kiwi Biomechanist Jodi Cossor when the country’s elite sports performance unit - HPSNZ - got in touch with Nacsport as part of their search for an analytical system that could help deliver the ‘fine margins’ demanded of athletes competing at the very highest levels.
As the head of HSPNZ’s swimming program - working with both able-bodied and paralympic competitors - Jodi wanted a software that could readily adapt to her chosen sport and deliver accurate, swimming-related data such as turn rate, stroke count, velocity and split timings.
The next time you see yet another New Zealand champion in the pool, chances are they’ve worked with Jodi Cossor and her team.
Anna Montañana - Assistant Coach at Fuenlabrada Basketball
A basketball legend in her own right, Anna enjoyed a glittering playing career that saw her spending time in Turkey, Spain, the Czech Republic, France and most famously the USA where she played for the Minnesota Lynx.
After retiring in 2015, she’s gone on to become one of the leading female basketball coaches in the world. After signing as Assistant Coach for the Fuenlabrada club Anna has also become the first woman to coach at the highest level of the man’s game in Spain.
A devoted Nacsport user of many years, Anna describes her current role as ‘revolving around individual player scouting’.
Gemma Davies - Lecturer in Performance Analysis, Cardiff University
Now a senior lecturer at the hugely respected Cardiff Met University sports department, Gemma has a long and varied career in sports analysis.
After passing her master's degree in Performance Analysis, Gemma’s spent time with the Welsh men’s rugby team, 2 stints as video analyst for the British Commonwealth Games squad, an ongoing role with Wales’ national netball federation and strong links to the country’s Squash and Racquetball organisations.
A former international squash player herself, Gemma is a proud Welsh woman who manages to juggle her day job - delivering Cardiff Met’s Performance Analysis modules to under and postgraduate students, with out of school duties which include training camps and lending her vast experience to Welsh teams playing in worldwide competition.
Eneritz Lizaso - Tactical Analyst at Real Sociedad in Spain
Having recently completed a masters degree in Tactical Analysis & Scouting, Eneritz began life at Real Sociedad as an intern, researching youth players and upcoming opponents. Lizaso’s influence has steadily grown during almost 3 years with the Spanish club, where at just 27, she’s become a core member of their 8 strong analytics team, heading up its tactical division.
Dr. Bobby Willcox - Director at Point 9 Analytics
As if to underline our point, that it enjoys genuine sporting powerhouse status, New Zealand has a second female analyst on our list this year, in the form of self-confessed Netball obsessive Dr Bobby Willcox.
A former analyst for the national team, Willcox freely admits that while she loved the game growing up, she wasn’t that good at it, a fact that ultimately led to her pursuing a support role within the sport after graduating with a degree and PhD in Statistics.
Working closely with club and international coaches, Dr Willcox is widely credited for her pioneering work over the last decade on Cluster Analysis within netball, where she’s developed a unique system that classifies different playing styles within each position.
Although she left the national squad to launch her own netball analytics company - Pont 9, Bobby’s pioneering approach to the game is widely credited for the Silver Ferns' dominance of the modern game and their victory at the 2019 Netball World Cup.