How might coaches for elite sports teams make best use of the wealth of data available?

There is plenty of data available on the performance of sports teams at the elite level, too much for a coach to use it all. Compounding this issue with big data, statistics can be used selectively to support a particular point of view. How can a coach have confidence that data is both relevant and objective? How can a performance analyst present such data so that coach can gather insights in a valid way?  To answer these issues Hayden Croft has developed a framework for data analysis and presentation that is valid to the coaching team and their objectives. 

The first stage of Hayden's research for his PhD by publication was to capture and analyse comments by coaches during New Zealand netball games, to identify their tactics and strategies. Secondly, Hayden identified sources of data that were relevant to those tactics and strategies and hence aligned with what the coaches were trying to achieve. Hayden used that data to compile normative data tables for netball, which would reveal whether players were performing at, below or above average in any particular aspect of the game. The tables can be updated as more data becomes available. 

Hayden consulted with some elite coaches to determine the best way to present the data. He then piloted the tool, presenting match statistics in real time to coaches, so that he could examine what they were looking at, when and for how long. The tool was refined using this observational data and tested again. Coaches, analysts and conditioning coaches have rated it highly.

The framework that Hayden developed in this way has been built into a Power BI dashboard and made available to Netball New Zealand to use for the Silver Ferns and for the teams in the premier competition. The process of developing the framework provides a valuable precedent that can be followed in other countries and for other sporting codes.

June 2022

Image credit: Public.Resource.Org. Creative Commons Attribution license CC BY 2.0.