Following an introduction to the discipline of Performance Analysis during my second year of undergraduate studies at Cardiff Metropolitan (formerly UWIC), I quickly found myself drawn to the field, not only as a focal point for my studies, but also as a possible future career path. However, I was faced with the daunting task of finding a way to propel myself into a position whereby I’d be able to challenge for jobs upon completing my studies.
A hopeful, rather than expectant, application to work with England Women’s Lacrosse succeeded, resulting in me finding myself involved in an elite sports environment for the first time on top of my final year’s studies at University – a challenge which took longer to fully appreciate than initially expected. At this point I must note the support shown by my University tutor, Darrell Cobner. He quickly recognised not only my lack of experience, but also a willingness to learn and explore. This combination led him to be a key figure in the coming months both for my own development, as well as that of the environment in which I became involved.
Having very little idea of what to expect, I entered the England setup open to all potential scenarios. A single camcorder, tripod and complete willingness of the coaches to be in my hands regarding the end product still came as somewhat of a surprise! The next couple of months involved a lot of time spent developing my video recording, editing and transferring skills, something I didn’t appreciate at the time and often left me frustrated at the apparent lack of progress being achieved.
At the same time, I had been working on my undergraduate dissertation project with the focus on performance profiles in US college lacrosse following valuable conversations with Keith Lyons, someone who’s experience in the field and specifically in lacrosse was to prove essential. This had progressed my experience and knowledge of StudioCode software enormously and highlighted the assistance provided by timeline-based analysis software, as opposed to systems of work based entirely upon hand notation, such as those I was involved in with England Lacrosse. The productivity I was achieving in my own project was at such odds with the England work that I decided this had to be addressed if the setup with England was to progress to a stage where I felt both efficient and effective as an analyst.
The initial suggestion of investment in software for the England setup was met with a combination of slight resistance and fear – questions were raised over the necessity of it, alongside it’s value for the extensive costs which the coaches and management felt were involved. Although expected, this response provided a challenge for me if I was to succeed in getting the environment to where I felt it needed to be. Around this time, Cardiff Metropolitan were trialling software produced by Nacsport – a company new to me and one who seemed to provide all the answers I needed! The affordability alongside the ease of use and productivity achieved left me wondering why it had taken until now for something like this to have been produced and how long it would take to get a license in place with England.
Following an introductory session with Josh Bryan, it took very little to convince the management that this was the direction we needed to take to progress the England setup towards the upcoming European Championships in the summer. Sure enough a license was soon acquired and I got to work with familiarising myself with the software and developing a workflow which would be appropriate for our needs in the summer tournament. At the same time, we looked to solve the problem of sharing all the new productivity with the players – some being based in USA. Team Performance Exchange (TPE) had been a product I had experienced with a trial use for the university lacrosse setup and seemed to provide all the requirements we had for the England squad –
- Communication with and for all members of the setup
- Capacity for file sharing
- Individual profiling for players
- A positive environment for discussions around video files
Having established that the need for timeline-based analysis software had to take priority, the funds left available for further software was tight. The only feasible way for the squad to realise the benefits of TPE during the lead up and duration of the Europeans would be to utilise a demo option available from the UK Digital Managers, AnalysisPro. The assistance afforded us by Josh Bryan in setting up this trial and developing our use of the software was hugely significant and the level to which the athletes interacted with the software was recognition of this. As a novice in the field, I feel this sort of cooperation and support between users and providers of software is essential if sports without the funding of mainstream sports, such as rugby and football, are to succeed in incorporating our discipline into their setups.
So ten months on from entering the setup, I travelled with the squad to the European Championships in a significantly different position – confident in my role, satisfied that the hardware and software available provided an environment in which I could be effective and efficient and safe in the knowledge that the support available to me should I require it, was not only in place, but had succeeded in getting me to where I was, working with the favourites for a gold medal at a major international sports tournament. England won gold, beating Wales 11-5 in the final.
This journey has been a difficult one at times, with numerous challenges, both expected and unexpected arising. I feel that the introduction of our discipline to the setup at England has been beneficial to the squad, a notion entirely backed up by all of the feedback from the tournament. My personal professional development has been enormous through the year, something which may be expected in the first few years’ experience in any field, but bringing performance analysis to the forefront of a new sport has been of equal importance and enjoyment to me and something I look forward to taking further.