Sophie Bone, First Team Performance Analyst for London City Lionesses, shares her story with the APFA. She’s one of the few female analysts working in professional football.
Sophie is no stranger to adapting to change. Originally embarking on an undergraduate degree programme to be a PE teacher, Sophie developed a keen interest in data and the critical analysis aspects of the course, seeing it as the natural progression given her own areas of interest.
Sophie realised it could be a viable career path, one that has since led her to Southampton FC, Woking FC, England’s amputee side and her current role with London City Lionesses.
At Southampton her role focused on scouting and the steps necessary to evaluate players:
“It was a great experience, sharing my findings with relevant staff to see how it could potentially impact scouting processes. Learning my skillset on the job, and watching football every day broadened my awareness and knowledge of the industry”.
Not content with experiencing life as an analyst at the top of the English football pyramid, Sophie volunteered at National League side Woking FC where she continued to apply her academic understanding while learning new skills and accessing new software on the job: “
“This was my first time working alongside an Assistant Coach, with my data impacting on decisions within a match. This enabled me to develop my craft as I began to see what areas I needed to focus on more as an analyst to impact the team’s performance and support coaching staff”.
There’s been challenges along the way, both professionally and personally, but Sophie sees these as opportunities rather than threats:
“The main challenge as an analyst is being resourceful and adaptable. You learn to not see a problem but how to resolve it with solutions. Cameras not working, feeds cutting out, cable issues. Solutions come with experiences on the job”.
She is similarly pragmatic when discussing the lack of diversity within the field of analysis, too. The lack of female role models when she began her journey means that she understands the significance of her progression, it being part of the solution to add much needed diversity in the analyst field.
Despite success stories like Sophie, Natasha Patel and Lucy Rushton, who contributes to APFA education courses, these examples are few and far between. Sophie is one of just a few full-time female analysts operating in the female professional leagues in England.
It is hoped that the next generation of female analysts can be inspired by the platform Sophie continues to build as a prominent member of the analysis community. Last year, she featured heavily in a BBC Sport article exploring the application of Metrica Sports tracking software by England’s amputee side as part of her role as their Performance Analyst.
More recently, Sophie had the opportunity to present alongside Hudl at St George’s Park, discussing pre-match workflows to others within the field:
“The experience was excellent for me – to present our workflow on a stage to others within the field enabled me to network and learn how others do it. The key takeaways are that there is always a solution to a problem with preparation. Allow your players to become analysts themselves, to be part of the journey of problem-solving. Use multiple resources to paint a bigger picture of a team or individual as not all will be on the surface, including interviews on social networks or articles from reliable platforms. This will enable you to see more about a team’s philosophy or ideas they try to go by.“
For London City Lionesses, the immediate target is building on last season’s second-place finish in the Barclay’s Women’s Championship and secure their goal of promotion to the Women’s Super League:
“We’re thinking of winning the league every day and how best to prepare the players for that. As an analyst, I always think about what else I can provide, be it information or footage, to inform decisions that will impact the game. Not all information/trends will be on the surface, so I am always keen to explore what other avenues I can research that could impact the team.”
On a personal level, Sophie’s determined to continue her own impressive development. Alongside her roles for London City Lionesses and England’s amputee side, she hopes to find more opportunities to attend events and conferences, developing her own craft and skillset amongst likeminded peers for the benefit her club.
The APFA openly commits to increasing opportunities for under-represented groups in the industry, and the lack of equal opportunity for women is a prominent example of this issue. Not just highlighting prominent figures like Sophie, but offering tangible support in the form of funding, education, mentorship and opportunities will be coming as the APFA expands and evolves.