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So about 3 years ago I took up a combined analyst and senior coaching role at Derby County Ladies FC, who played in the FA Women's Premier League and had just taken on John Griffiths (now England Womens National U17 Coach) who would act as the director of football and senior coach for the season. The team were finishing in the bottom half of the table and had ambitions of becoming a WSL side. Under John's reign, one of the most intriguing ideas was to objectify performance through performance analysis.
My blog post will not necessarily reflect a lot of research but more a case study around my personal experiences with players that I've worked with.
Those who have access to video content and footage from games will appreciate the enormous power that performances analysis has not just at elite level but at grassroots too. Our main aims were to introduce a new playing philosophy (which was 4 simple points):
Each players wrote 2 or 3 bullet points based on the above development aspects. Before I go on, I want to say that this work is largely influenced by top sports psychologist Dan Abrahams. We also used his 3 F's (Fun, Freedom and Focus) as well as eventually adding in the most important F; Family.
Often within games, coaches only typically remember 42% of the events within the game. We wanted to do some basic stats around final third entries, penalty and zone 14 (outside the attacking box), zone 5 entries (inside the defending penalty box) and basic possession stats. Those were our Key Performance Indicators, often known as KPI's. However, we viewed each player within that as an individual project. Each player had their own journey, and had their own idiosyncracies within the environment. Too often, performances are based on what I call Faction. These are ideas that we think are facts, based on our beliefs, experiences and influences without any real substance or evidence.
Our framework was firstly the philosophy, but more importantly the player development plans. At the club, getting players to monitor their own performance on the same night on the YouTube channel was immensely powerful. A few years ago UEFA ran a study on the top european coaches competing in the Champions League and asked them to analyse games. When coaches watched individual players instead of the team or the ball, they significantly saw a lot more key events and insights in performance than attaching their emotions to mistakes, negative events and the scoreline. This allowed coaches to appreciate the game holistically.
So, how else did we implement and monitor these development plans?
Players had their development plans reviewed every 6 weeks in group and 1to1 meetings with coaches. I worked with players to clip up their development points. Players developmental points were used as challenges within training. For example, if a player had a bullet point of not having their back to goal when receiving the ball and had time to adjust their body, then free kicks were awarded against them in training if they were lazy in their learning...! (see my other blog post; Do we really know how to utilise the constraints led approach?). Players also used their development points as match day challenges in their 'match scripts' (which I eventually laminated for each player so they could create their own).
As you can imagine, the results were phenomenal and players' learning accelerated so much within months. Players had a shift in culture and were so committed to the environment because they had ownership of their learning. Performance analysis sessions were beginning to become positively welcomed and players attended even if they were injured. We could see what we deemed success, appearing on so many levels.
Objectively, the team reach their highest finish in the WPL, finishing 7th which was a huge success after battling with relegation. Implicitly, we achieved so many milestones within that season and everyone connected with the club at that time will always hold it as a really positive experience.
Hopefully in this blog I've made what seems the untangible a little more objective at least, and is an idea that can be used at both an elite and grassroots level.
FUN + DEVELOPMENT = SUCCESS
Please see attached documents that are some of the things we used for our players.
Anything that you can personally connect with, or may consider in the future?
If you enjoyed this you can find all my other ConnectedCoaches blogs here.
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