Back in April the First Irish Performance Analysis eXchange catch up took place in the Irish Sport Institute in Dublin. The purpose of this meeting was to grow the Irish performance analysis community and build a platform for applied analysts to share ideas, experiences and learn from each other.
We both thoroughly enjoyed the day which began with a fantastic presentation from Wal McConnell on how powerful a tool the R programming language can be to provide effective and engaging analysis for coaches through it’s powerful statistical and data visualisation capabilities. Daragh Sheridan then delivered a thought-provoking presentation on how to develop a strong community which was then followed by a group discussion about the future of IPAX. We have both recently finished sports science degrees and will outline in this post how IPAX could benefit us as we start out on our careers, how we would like this community to develop from our perspective and hopefully encourage more performance analysts from around the country to participate.
As we previously mentioned, the first IPAX catch up was a great experience and we hope that more talks and meet ups will be organised to continue to grow the community. The inclusion of the open discussion at the end of the day was very helpful as it allowed us all to actively engage in the planning of IPAX’s next steps and share ideas and experiences with one another. We believe this ‘open floor’ segment should become a staple of all future events.
One other great aspect of the catch up was Wal’s presentation on R programming and statistical analysis which is becoming a more important component of performance analysis year by year. It certainly felt that the presentation sparked a lot of interest from those without a strong background in data analysis and encouraged attendees to continue upskilling and exploring modern methods that can help enhance performance. We hope to see more presentations from experienced professionals that can empower those new to the field, in particular, to continue developing and learning.
Another step in the development of these events could be to adopt a practical component during meetups. The details of this can be discussed going forward but even asking people to bring a laptop along to the event so that certain programmes can be used (e.g. R) – so the community could have a go at learning the basics and the witness the benefits involved. Attendees could also be split into small groups and given a theoretical problem to solve or encouraged to bring along video footage from a variety of sports to analyse with others. These events could even be organised by members of the community on the side through something like a Google Hangouts group – again helping analysts stay in regular contact strengthening the community.
IPAX should also serve as a platform where analysts can contribute if the community is to continue to grow. We think a good way to start would be to set up IPAX as a platform for analysts to collaborate and share video and data with each other. This will allow analysts to provide better quality analysis for the clubs and perhaps more importantly, allow analysts to push themselves out of their comfort zones and continue to develop their skills. Both of us have worked or are working as performance analysts with League of Ireland clubs and although we have taken a lot from those experiences – we did find that the lack of video and data to work with impaired what we could achieve in some capacity. Another way to help others contribute and grow the community could be to use the IPAX website as a medium where aspiring analysts could get exposure by publishing research or public analysis they have undertaken, driving traffic to the site.
We would also like to see the community allow integration with other disciplines of performance science as with more staff, information and data in sport than ever before. Whether you work under the moniker of an analyst, strength and conditioning coach or sports science you are all in pursuit of improved performance. For example, a performance analyst can show how a footballer’s passing has improved and an S&C coach can show how training loads have changed, but it is only through communication between the two coaches that the relationship between these two metrics can be understood. Therefore, individuals from areas outside of performance analysis itself could be invited to future forums to give different perspectives, opinions and share their experiences of working in sport. This would help develop a culture of continuous learning which will be beneficial for performance analysts from a wide range of backgrounds. At the end of the day, we are all working towards the same goal of improving performance, so cross-disciplinary collaboration and integration are desirable.
Finally, it’s no secret that performance analysis is a relatively obscure profession, particularly in Ireland. Most of us can name friends and family who are nurses, bankers, builders and barmen, but performance analysis is one that most people aren’t familiar with. Therefore, the importance of networking is important for those of us aspiring to pursue a career in this area. IPAX can provide the opportunity for young hopefuls to rub shoulders with those who are at the top of the tree, and in doing so gain invaluable advice and guidance on how to upskill and avoid any obstacles or pitfalls in their fledgeling careers.
We hope this post serves as an introduction into what IPAX can offer recent university graduates with an interest in performance analysis as well as experienced practitioners, and hopefully encourage more analysts to participate, learn and help the community to grow.
Authors: Ferdia (@FerdiaOHanrahan) and Stephen O’Hanrahan (@ohanrahan1995)
Author: Ferdia O’Hanrahan & Stephen O’Hanrahan
Ferdia is a recent Health and Performance Science graduate from UCD with a particular interest in coaching, data and performance analysis in sport. He is currently working as an applied sports science intern at Kitman Labs and is also a football coach at schoolboy level in Dublin. Previously, Ferdia was a coach and performance analyst with the Shelbourne U19s and a match analyst for StrataBet.
Stephen is a 22-year-old recent BSc Sport Science & Health graduate (Dublin City University), with a keen interest in sport science, strength & conditioning and performance analysis. He recently finished an 18-month stint as video analyst for the Bohemian FC SSE Airtricity League team. He has prior strength and conditioning experience with the FAI, Bohemians Academy and a brief period with the Crystal Palace FC U18s, as well as schoolboy football coaching.