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Sports Performance Analysts: Professional Network Meeting

The Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown played host to many of the top analysts in Irish sport as they gathered for a first invite only Professional Network Meeting. Alan Swanton, Lead Analyst with the hugely successful Irish Boxing team, opened the workshop on behalf of the Irish Institute of Sport.Swanton outlined how Performance Analysis is a very young discipline in sports science and the 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.

PA Event

 

 

In the afternoon session Denise Martin of ITB, Johnny Bradley of Sports Institute Northern Ireland and Alan Swanton presented the findings of their research into coaches use and perception of Performance Analysis in Ireland. They reported a huge demand from coaches for education on how to integrate video and statistical information into their coaching to improve performance.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 toaddress this' - Robert Carroll 'thevideoanalyst.com''This is great to start to building a network of experts, a community which can grow and contribute to education around what analysis is and how it fits into coaches programmes' - Michael McGeehin, Director, Coaching Ireland

The performance analysis software industry was represented by analysts from market leading companies Avenir, Preforma and TOCA Sports who heard that access to software was a major barrier for coaches who want to use performance analysis.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 that performance analysis can add to the coaching process - tell people how sports performance analysis can make a difference.

In summing up Alan Swanton revealed that the delegates had the almost 350 years of experience of analysis and thanked them for coming together to form a community and share this learning. He thanked the Department of Business at ITB for hosting the event and said the positivity well for the future development of the discipline of performance analysis in Ireland

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