June 8, 2016

What is a Performance Analyst? pt2

Written by:
David Stevenson

Part 2

The aim of this part of the blog is to examine the role of the performance analyst in an applied environment. As outlined in part one, performance analysis is now a pre-requisite for elite sporting organisations. Not wishing to jump on the Leicester City bandwagon, but there has been significant praise for their analysis and scouting staff and the contribution they have made to the team’s success this season. To provide another example, the prominent presence of analysts within the coaching booth at top level rugby matches has been commonplace for a number of years, demonstrating the importance placed on analysis in that particular sport.

In both instances, it’s worth noting that analysis support is typically provided by a department of staff as opposed to a solitary analyst. This is significant when you consider the purview of a modern-day performance analysis department, the range of functions performed by analysts and the areas of the coaching process in which performance analysis can have an impact. The following are neither exhaustive nor definitive but do provide a broad overview of what is now undertaken:

  • Pre-Match Opposition Analysis
  • Live Match-Day coding
  • Detailed Post-Match Analysis
  • Delivery of feedback to staff and players
  • Creation of dossiers and reports on various aspect of performance
  • Interpretation, analysis and dissemination of performance data
  • Performance Information Management
  • Video editing

The range of tasks now being undertaken has given rise to a number of iterations of the role and some synonymous terms for a performance analyst. As was mentioned in part one, there are some terms used to describe a performance analyst which are less flattering. However, there are a number of examples which are both applicable and pertinent such as scouting analyst, tactical analyst, research analyst, technical scout and training analyst to name but a few. With specific reference to football, there is a position being advertised for a dedicated, full-time Goalkeeping Analyst.

Whilst most of these roles have been derived from the traditional notational analysis/biomechanics background, some do represent a significant departure from these roots. As a result, we have no universal definition of a performance analyst. This is reflected by variations of key responsibilities & tasks outlined within job descriptions and a lack of uniformity as to what is required for a performance analyst. This issue is evident both within a single sport and across different sports.

It would appear that performance analysts are deployed in different ways in the elite sporting environment and utilisation within the applied domain is largely dependent on both the service demands and the culture of the organisation. For example, if the emphasis is on opposition analysis, the organisation may look for an analyst with a slightly different skill set in comparison with an organisation primarily focused on data analytics.

Of course, in both instances, the analysis output should be coach and athlete centred. However, given the evolution and profile of the area, coupled with the manifestation of these new roles, it is likely that performance analysis within elite sport is now driven by the analysts so that it can provide the greatest impact for the coaches and the athletes. This is a salient development but the overall ethos of delivering performance insights still rings true.

So, the answer to the question posed in the title of blog is this – a performance analyst is now all of above and probably more. Having considered the various roles of the performance analyst, it does pose another question: what is the development pathway for performance analysts? This will be discussed in part three.

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