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What is a Performance Analyst? part 3

Part 3

(Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t read them yet)

What is a Performance Analyst?

Part three focuses on the development pathway for performance analysis and associated academic and vocational learning environments. As was mentioned in parts one and two, there is a degree of ambiguity as to what is required for performance analysis and, furthermore, there appears to be an evolution of the role. As such, there is a training requirement for both aspiring and established analysts in order to successfully fulfil these new iterations.

Academic Training

In the first instance, we will consider aspiring analysts and the implications on academic training. The first point to be made is this: Where does performance analysis fit within academia? Does it come under the banner of biomechanics or skill acquisition? Given the number of areas in which it can impact, is it part of coaching science? With the evolution of the role and the number of facets it now encompasses, is it a discipline within its own right? If so, what is the discipline and where is the emphasis?  Providing answers to these questions is beyond the purview of this article and, in truth, there probably aren’t any definitive solutions with a number of differing opinions on the matter. However, the point to be made is similar to that made in part two and the role of the analyst in the applied domain. In not being able to operationally define a modern day analyst, how can we prepare students for these demands?

Within the U.K. there are a number of excellent Masters courses on Performance Analysis. These courses appear to deliver a broad syllabus covering a range of facets. Furthermore, the curriculum will provide hands-on experience of hardware and software tools that are typically used in the industry. This may prove challenging given the rate at which technology advances and the resultant changes within high-level sporting organisations. The latter aspect is important as it is imperative that course content is guided by the needs of industry. Taking that a step further, in addition to classroom based activities, courses which provide an opportunity for applied work experience will afford students an opportunity to develop the critical soft skills and the understanding of high performance sport culture, which are critical elements of success.

To answer the question of how we prepare students for a career in PA, the recipe seems to be based on knowledge of a wide range of theoretical underpinning, exposure to a range of tools and experience of the real world environment. Overall, this should develop an appropriate foundation of core analysis and personal skills which can then be applied in a variety of sports and contexts. If the needs of industry have been taken into account during the course design, these training opportunities should provide graduates with the necessary skills to take an initial role should the chance present itself. The next step is then to develop yourself within the applied environment and evolve accordingly.

The last point leads onto the final section of the blog, the development pathway for established analysts.

Accreditation

The obvious starting point for existing analysts is to obtain a level of professional accreditation. The International Society of Performance Analysis (ISPAS) offers accreditation pathways for both applied practitioners and academics alike. Recently, the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science (BASES) launched an HPSA in notational analysis, thus recognising the area within high performance support. This is a welcome development and the recognition does go a long way to addressing the somewhat derisory perception outlined in previous blogs.

CPD

There is an ongoing challenge within Performance Analysis to find suitable CPD opportunities. Whilst there are a number of conferences purporting to focus on performance analysis, there is, maybe, a lack of truly appropriate events when the developments within the area are considered. With specific reference to football, in part two the praise for Leicester City’s analysis team was discussed. Aside from their work with the squad, they were responsible for an innovation around analysis CPD when they organised and hosted the tactical insights conference. This event garnered significant interest as it was an event designed by analysts, for analysts. This is, perhaps, in contrast to other CPD opportunities which may have a slightly different emphasis. As an example, whilst there is no doubt they are beneficial for development, coach education courses, such as the UEFA B and A licences, are primarily designed for coaches. With the recent growth of performance analysis and the developments around accreditation, there is no doubt that we will see more analysis specific events in the near future.

Conclusion

The core of the piece was to answer this question – what is a performance analyst? The answer itself is not the important part. Over the course of the three blogs, we have discussed a number of facets relating to performance analysis. In answering the question posed, the goal was to demonstrate the value, growth and diversity within the area. There is no doubt performance analysis will continue to develop and evolve and, as a result, so too will the analysts.

David Stevenson
Dr David Stevenson is Performance Analyst at the Scottish FA. In this role, he oversees Performance Analysis provisions for the Men’s national youth squads and the Women’s national teams. David has been working as an analyst for over 10 years in a variety of sports.

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