The Wider Context of Performance Analysis

Show me the results of notation analysis, not the notational analysis results (Hayes 97).

mic_crowdThe recent edition of IJPAS contained the following paper ‘The wider context of performance analysis and its application in the football coaching process’ (Wright, Carling & Collins). This paper explores the evolution of Performance Analysis (PA) from both an academic and practitioner perspective. The paper is a sort of state of the nation about Performance Analysis, where it has come from and some key questions about the future of this sports science discipline.

Where is PA currently?

The paper outlines where PA has been and the traditional role of an analyst. In summary;

  • PA has been focused on creating a systematic record of performance using match and motion analysis techniques.
  • PA has evolved rapidly over the last decade to a point where most ‘serious’ teams have a dedicated analysts who is an integral member of the backroom team. However, despite the importance of the role it is not uncommon for analysts to have no or limited interaction with players (Carling, Wells & Lawlor). Scary!!
  • There role has traditionally been (and I would suggest largely still is) to disseminate video compilations and game statistics.

The paper gives a very good overview of the current role of analysts and the authors thoughts around Performance Indicators is especially valid. The biggest confusion comes from the terminology, where KPI’s are used to describe simple action variables. O’Donoghue’s (2010) definition of performance indicators is a great starting point ‘A performance indicator must represent some relevant and important aspect of play’.

From my own experience it is not uncommon for coaches to name performance indicators based purely on their own thoughts without any checking of their importance or not. Analysts knowing this and being able to change the coaches opinion are 2 very different things however!

performance-analysis-constraintsPerformance Analysis Constraints

The paper highlights some very important constraints that analysts work under.

  • Short-term appointments: We all know the competitive nature of professional sport and this makes it hard for all sport science staff to operate with any long-term thinking, but can we find a way? One example I really like is Bill Gerrards’ role with Saracens, he effectively operates outside the day-to-day nature of the club and is in place to take a more long-term view. It would be great to see clubs adopt more roles like this but this is probably not a unique issue to PA.
  • Arriving by the front door: Too often having an analyst can be a box ticking exercise. I can speak from experience here and say that when it’s the head coach/manager that brings you in you get a very different level of respect than when you are co-opted onto a team. Wherever possible your relationship as an analyst needs to be with the head coach first and the support staff second. If it’s not your voice will be watered down.

One piece that jumped off the page to me was the following;

The ability of PA to resolve specific performance questions which directly inform the coaching process might be dependent on the coaches’ ability to clearly articulate and operationalise what they associate with success in football. This clearly might be a concept which some coaches will struggle with (Anderson 2013).


This is one of the key issues with PA; it relies so heavily on the coaches understanding and openness. S&C coaches, the medical staff and sports psychologists don’t face the same issues. It’s why I would mark managing up as a key skill set for an aspiring analyst. Again the authors but this very well;

At this point another important question might be to consider where the stimulus for analysis should lie; does the responsibility lie with the coach or the analyst team? Would we expect the coach to be proactive in setting specific performance related questions or is it the role of the analyst to proactively provide insight which the coach has not previously considered…

Compared to other sports science disciplines I don’t think that responsibility lies with the coach as much as it does in PA. Which raise the point is PA a legitimate ‘stand-alone’ sports science discipline or just another tool available to the contemporary sports scientists and coaches?

Questions to Answer

FutureThe paper finishes with some very strong thoughts on the questions that need to be answered and where further research should be focused.

  • What is clear is that we need more evidence based research on the actually effects of PA, not just papers looking at the game actions themselves. One big area of personal interest would be around the pedagogy of learning from performance analysis. Previous research surrounding feedback has suggested that performers can become too reliant on feedback and thus it suppresses the performer’s ability to identify faults (error detection) and correct faults (error correction) themselves (Hodges & Franks, 2008).
  • Clearly, careful consideration should be given as to how and when information might be best delivered to the players to enhance its impact, ‘ultimately, a good performance management and analysis tool is not just a control mechanism but a learning system that effectively communicates and informs’ (Wiltshire 2013:180).
  • As Wright et al., (2013) have highlighted, the performance analysts themselves play a very varied role in terms of the feedback and debriefing of information to the manager, wider coach team and players. What is not currently explored in the literature is to what extend coaches, and analysts understand the complexities in which they might have to consider when and where feedback is or is not implemented. This is an issue which again might be considered as being central to the effective delivery of video and PA analysis process, but again the literature has only just started to unpick some of the pedagogical issues which might need to be considered when implementing PA approaches (Groom et aI., 2011).



Anderson, C. (2013). Football Analytics.The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Boston, March 2013. Available on line at: e-mv V9ELI

Carling, c., Wells, S., & Lawlor, 1. Performance analysis in the professional football club environment. In W. Gregson & M. Littlewood (Eds.), Science in Football: Translating Theory into Practice. Bloomsbury. Publishing, in press.

Hayes, M. (1997). Notational analysis – the right of reply. BASES Newsletter, 7(8), 4- 5.

Hodges, .1. & Frank, .M. The provision of Information. In M. Hughes & 1. Franks (Eds.), The essentials of Performance Analysis An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2008, 21-39.

Groom, R, Cushion, C. J. & Nelson, L. 1. (2011). The delivery of video-based performance analysis by England youth football coaches: towards a grounded theory. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. 23, 16 – 32.

O’Donoghue, P.G. (2010). Research methods for sports performance analysis. Routledge: London

Wiltshire, H. (2013). Sports performance analysis for high performance managers. In T. McGarry, P. O’Donoghue & J. Sampaio (Eds), Routledge Handbook of Sports Performance Analysis. Routledge: Oxon, 176-187.


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