• Alan Thorpe

How to use data analysis to coach more effectively

We share the the No. 1 thing that splits the best from the rest.

So, you want to find your cutting edge with the aid of data that supports performance insights and analysis. With a dazzling array of sports data analysis solutions available in the market, where should you start? How should you invest your (likely limited) budget to get most ‘points for your buck?’

A quick question then. How many Apps do you have on you ‘phone? How many of these do you regularly use? Got a few pages of redundant Apps? Yet they seemed like terrific ideas when you downloaded them?

We hate remembering how to use different platforms. There’s nothing like multiple systems and logins to kill our interest. It’s slow, frustrating, never really gets to feel ‘familiar’ or ‘just the way we all work together around here.’

What we once believed to be essential can quickly become ignored.

Our experience is that having a single access, shared, platform is fundamental to using data insights to drive sporting performance. Familiarity drives usage.

Shared access creates shared understanding, enables conversations, and supports a shared agenda.

Another question then. Have you got multiple Excel databases on many different machines? Are these restricting access to, and application of, performance analytics and insights? If so, you’re far from alone! Most Elite Clubs and National Governing Bodies (NGBs) we chat with raise this as their No.1 data challenge. Why? They are worried:

  • What happens when a coach or support team member leaves/the strategy changes?

  • How can we speak the same language if our data definitions vary by system?

  • What happens when some cunning new smart kit or a new piece of data? Where does it go? How does it link to what we already know about (say) an individual?

  • Who is controlling data security and back-ups?

  • How can insights that cross data sets be found?

  • How can we scale what we do?

  • How can we drive income by personalising our member/supporter experience?

By some counts there will be 9000+ data points per athlete within just a few years. Then throw in data for fans and coaches...It’s easy to imagine how messy this is becoming!

Just adding more individual ‘point’ solutions is, in our experience, a waste of budget. Asking users to engage with ever more solutions doesn’t recognise how we behave as humans. It’s just ‘too complicated;’ data disorientation rather than helpfulness.

So then, our No. 1 data steer? Think like Google, the BBC, and social media.

The Google home screen stays the same yet can lead us everywhere. The BBC main page stays consistently familiar. We’ve come to love social platforms’ home screens as ‘gateways’ to so much else. In short, none of them tax our brains. They make usage easy.

To make data aided coaching as effective as it can be, invest in a platform and interfaces that enable adding new data sources without turning off your users. Just like Google does. And the BBC. And Social.

Kick off? Capture your ‘as is’ to plan your ‘to be’:

a. Who are your user groups? Among our clients we typically see:

  • Athletes (often multiple age groups, competitions, men’s, and women’s)

  • Coaches and analysts, scouts (that relate to above groups)

  • Parents (particularly where a club has an academy or affiliated clubs have junior sections)

  • Support staff (medical, operational, grass roots & community engagement)

  • Managerial and executive.

  • Data science teams

  • Marketing and Commercial teams.

Each group has different needs. Yet many need access the same data.

b. Capture your ‘data as is today’ for each user group:

  • For each of these groups, how many individual data systems do you already have? For example: match analysis, training analysis & stats, medical records, opposition analysis; training and travel diaries; parent communications.

  • How many logins? Where is your data stored?

  • How often are they using these systems (you may uncover some uncomfortable insights here!)

  • Understand what makes data understandable. For each user group:

  • How do they best understand insights? Is this video, a chart, a table, a graphic, deep data access? Ask them, capture this information.

  • Understand when data is most valuable to each user group:

  • When is new data most valuable? For example, our experience is that post activity (training/competition/game) analysis is most effective where coaches and players have access within minutes of an activity taking place.

c. Agree a shared data language for each user group:

  • What does each data item mean? For example, does ‘speed’ mean one thing in one system vs. another. Agree your standards so that, when new data sources arise, you can ensure data is meaningful.

  • Capture how they like to interact with data. Clue: we spend about a quarter of our waking hours glued to our mobiles…

The result of all of this? You’ll likely already have some terrific data available. And you’ll have a basis upon which to consolidate all your data into one, central and secure, platform. From this you can then build one access point (very often an App) that gives appropriate data access based upon user role.

Outcomes? Your organisation is united. Your data drives this unification. It enables your strategy for success. You can use data to coach better. You can add new data without fear. You can adapt to change.

But look, we know this can all feel a bit daunting. And sometimes political. Very often our clients ask us to complete this initial stage for them before giving them to capabilities to be ‘more Google, more BBC.’ Please do reach out to us for advice. Alan.Thorpe@sportsdata.services

There’s no obligation to buy. We want to be on your radars!

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