Sports Performance Analysts Professional Network Meeting

IMG_2152Rob and Stephen Carroll from Toca Sports attended the very first Sports Performance Analysts Professional Network Meeting on the 5th of June.  It was hosted by The Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown and it was attended by a host of Dartfish users from all corners of Ireland.  It was run by Johnny Bradley, Denise Martin and Alan Swanton.

Alan Swanton, lead analyst with the Irish Boxing Team, opened the workshop and outlined how Performance Analysis is a very young discipline in sports science and how there is a need to build a community of expertise in Ireland. He highlighted that despite the many differences between sports, the process for each analyst is generally similar and that there is a lot to be learned from each other.

Professor in Analytics Bill Gerrard, delivered an excellent keynote address where he outlined his work with Billy Beane of ‘Moneyball’ fame. Gerrard also shared the process of his work with Saracens Rugby Club for the last four years. He revealed how after winning the Premiership in the UK they began to benchmark themselves against the best club sides in Europe and how he spent a whole summer studying Leinster – much to the amusement of Leinster analysts Emmet Farrell and John Buckley who were in attendance.

The recommendations from the report were also distributed to delegates for feedback on how to move the discipline forward in the coming years. Some of the comments from delegates included the following:

‘There is consensus among the group that we are prepared to mentor young analysts and give them placement opportunities’Richard Malone, Irish Hockey

‘There is a need to highlight to the national governing bodies that 86% of their coaches want more information and training in performance analysis and put strategies in place to address this’Robert Carroll ‘’

Performance Analysis lecturers from UCD, WIT, IT Carlow, Leeds Met, UCC, Athlone IT and ITB received a resounding message from the analysts working in the field that they need graduates to have practical experience and knowledge. There was a recognition that many graduates would have to ‘serve their time’ through unpaid internships to get into positions but the general feeling was that when sports find someone competent, they certainly try and hold on to them.

Dr Denise McGrath of UCD made the point that the community need to produce case studies of examples for coaches and students showing how performance analysis makes a difference to performance. The key message of the day is that the group needs to start selling the value of performance analysis and what it can add to the coaching process.

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