Performance Analysis in Elite Lacrosse – A 12 month Journey

Posted on 10 August 2012 by Will Oldham

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.

 

Will Oldham

5 Comments For This Post

  1. Darrell Cobner Says:

    Hi Will,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts in the blogging world.

    I look forward to us both learning from and developing your experiences on the MSc.

    BW
    Darrell

  2. Keith Lyons Says:

    Will

    Thank you for sharing such a detailed account of your journey. I think it will be immensely helpful to others.

    CPA provided the video service for the 1997 Women’s World Cup in Japan. I am delighted that the links with lacrosse continue.

    Celia Brackenridge undertook detailed analysis of lacrosse and her work was a vibrant contribution to notational analysis in the 1980s and 90s. She was a national coach for England and was a great example of the integration of coaching with observation and analysis.

    Best wishes

    Keith

  3. Charlie Barwis Says:

    Hi Will,

    My name is Charlie Barwis, I am an undergraduate about to begin year three at Cardiff Met.

    I found your post really interesting to read and your journey from enthuiastic student to competent analyst very motivational. I myself am about to embark on a similar journey, last year I also started studying PA, and from the outset found it an intriguing subject and with the help of my tutor, also Darrell, I started to really think seriously about a career within the industry.

    At first I had no clue about how to go about it or who to contact, however, with a bit of luck and showing people I was keen to learn I managed to start some work experience with the WRU Bureau. Next week will begin my journey into the field working for the WRU bureau filming and analysing welsh premiership rugby matches.

    What I would like to ask is, how did you manage your commitments so well, and what would you rate more important over your work experience and your studies? if that is even possible! I too will be undertaking a PA dissertation along with completing year three studies, what advice could you give that may aid my progress for the forthcoming year?

    I’d like to say again how good it was to read your blog, who knows in 12 months I may be writing something similar!

    Best wishes

    Charlie

  4. Will Oldham Says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Your comments are really interesting to read and I can fully relate to them.

    It seems you’re in a great position and about to start an exciting year, if not slightly manic from time to time! Managing academic and personal experiences at University can be a real issue for a lot of people so I understand your concerns, but my view on it is if you want to do something enough and are passionate about it then maintaining the discipline and time management necessary to succeed won’t be an issue. There will be times when everyone’s out on the town and you’re stuck up in the PA lab all night long working on your dissertation, coursework and bureau work but this is all part of it – I see it as a fantastic opportunity whilst we have these facilities and opportunities available to us, to ignore these or to damage your chances of succeeding for the sake of a few nights out would be representative of your commitment!

    I wouldn’t like to rate either experience or academia as more important than the other because I don’t believe that you can maximise one without the other. Having said this, I do think that it’s vital to go beyond what is simply offered in terms of your course and modules – the work you’re about to start with the bureau is a fantastic example of this and will immediately place you head and shoulders above many of your classmates when it comes to the academic side of things.

    For the coming year I would say be prepared for setbacks – they will undoubtedly happen in one form or another, but their impact can be minimised by good planning and preparation. Make the absolute most of the position you’re in – you’re surrounded by vastly experienced analysts at Uni and it’s a fairly unique situation. Finally enjoy it – there will be tedious and draining points in the whole process but try to sit back and remember what it is that drew you to analysis in the first place.

    Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of any help throughout the year, I look forward to reading your own writings here sooner rather than later!

    Best wishes,

    Will

  5. Darrell Cobner Says:

    This emerging dialogue between a current and transitional (UG to PG) student has coincided with a relevant post from Clyde Street. The mature, open discussion between Will and Charlie should initially be recognised and encouraged by all parties.

    Keith Lyons highlighted a blog “Facilitating collaborative learning: A recipe for success”.
    http://keithlyons.me/2012/08/26/facilitating-learning

    In this article, Jane Hart closes with “You know when you are in a community of practice, if it changes your practice.” Hopefully, the growing number of viewers and contributors in VPA will reflect on this statement for affirmation of its value. Relevant PA content is being co-created by the community through not only the blogs, but equally in the associated comments. This collaboration leads to shared ownership and responsibility. I think the “Members Lounge” represents the “private online group space” outlined in the recipe; where powerful links could be forged.

    A comment quoted by Jane Hart was “When facilitators/moderators help make connections in conversation threads, add content without getting in the way and encourage collaboration… the conversation and learning can be far greater and more satisfying than a f2f conversation.“ This is relevant to educators, lifelong learners and drivers of the PA industry, where alongside the creation of informative resources in this site, voices are heard, identities formed and long-term working partnerships established.

    BW
    D

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