In this column offering, I would like to introduce you to a great rugby man and subject matter expert on video analysis systems. Meet Welshman Jon Moore, someone who has been at the sharp end of professional rugby and the specifically the growth of video analysis systems for the past decade.
Jon has coached internationally with the Welsh Rugby Union and United States National Rugby Team serving as a specialist scrummaging and forwards coach. He was a coach at Bath Rugby Club in England when Bath became one of the first professional clubs to dedicate a purpose built “war room” (more on this in a minute). It was a groundbreaking concept in English sport seeing teams dedicating substantial resources to video analysis, and Jon played a significant role in advancing this aspect of professionalizing rugby clubs. He has distinguished himself in the area performance analysis software especially its development and application to the game of rugby.
Jon had the opportunity to visit us in Berkeley recently, and I want to share with you some of the conversations we had regarding the evolution of video analysis and how top teams around the world are successfully using it to improve.
Tom Billups – “In the last 10 years how have you seen video analysis change in the professional game of rugby?”
Jon Moore – “If you had told me I would be offering consultancy to National Governing bodies for their performance analysis solution and selling and promoting one of the world’s best software systems I would of said you were mad, but that is just what I do now on a day to day basis. I can now talk about the performance analysis industry as a profession with universities such as University of Wales Institute, Cardiff who offer a degree and masters course in performance analysis. We have come a long way in the last 10 years on a technical front and the conceptional use of analysis software.
I had the good fortune to be part of the USA Eagles coaching team on their build-up to the 1999 World Cup. Previously, Head Coach Jack Clark had appointed a full time analyst to travel with the team and requested a search for the best current video analysis system be found. I had a small part in that search by putting the newly appointed analyst in touch with my contact in Wales, Dr. Keith Lyons a leader in performance analysis. This was an innovative move by Jack as the use of such levels of detailed analysis was not common back then. The advice given by Dr. Lyons was taken and Coach Clark purchased the first version of Sportscode ever sold by Sportstec. Over 4,000 elite organizations, across multiple sports and levels now use the software.
Sportscode then, as it is now, is a fantastic product to work with, very intuitive and on a Apple platform requires only a small amount of knowledge about computers to get an immediate result, if you had a good sense of what you were looking for as a way of stats and video clips then it was not too long before we had a good output. In those days, I would call myself ‘a video editor’ as the time factor in using the equipment was restrictive, it was all very bulky and hard to manoeuvre around so the work flows of the team were very limited to where it could have an impact such as being used in team meetings, team previews and reviews.
Having the freedom with the software to create our own coding formats which simulated our language of coaching, the performance indicators and information indicators which were at the heart of our team development (we referred to them as chains of notation), I realized that the software could become so powerful in everything we do, training, motivation and coaching on and off the field.
It was after the 1999 Rugby World Cup (and many sleepless nights) I saw the next change of role for this person, the analyst. I was now at Bath RFC in a dual role of forward coach and video analyst, and was armed with better technology. This was just what we were looking for, the system had “legs” and I could carry all I needed in a rucksack, by the way my rucksack with all my kit is still never more than 5 metres from me today, ready to go. The hardware changes allowed me to become a ‘video analyst’, as we now had more time to prepare textural reports, produce high quality video presentations and create an environment to empower our players and coaches to use the software.
Hence the term ‘War Room’ was brought to England, as this was a room at Bath Rugby where a server was loaded with all the games we had played, games our opposition had played and all the players individual clips of their performance in each game. This room was where we designed our tactical plans and evaluated how well they worked. We also spent a lot of time working to understand the tendencies of our opposition.
In 2003, we started to see the first full time analysts in the United Kingdom. They were a mixture of coaches, like myself, and recently retired players. Soon after, the analyst roles began to be filled by sports science students who had a good understanding of the coaching process and possessed a great understanding of technology.
Rugby leads the way in performance analysis within high-level European sport teams. Soccer and the other pro sports followed rugby’s example when it comes to performance analysis. Teams such as Manchester United all quickly began investing resources in this area. Once a person gets to this level of competition, the video analyst becomes a ‘performance analyst’.
They may have a team of people that sit with the coaching staff to develop the architecture of how the coaches want to analyze their performance. There is also quite a bit of work to be completed in creating databases over many games, looking for tendencies, net gains, and outcomes. Done correctly, this process allows the coaches and players to have access to the same information empowering everyone and thus providing ownership to the process. The coaching staffs filter this information, identify areas for team and player development, and create activities to facilitate improvements to happen. This approach created a long list of high-level processes, which have made the performance analyst role one of the most important appointments in professional coaching staffs.
Here in Wales, for example, the national team is at the top of a structure supported by the regional pro teams and academies, all with full time performance analysts, under these teams are the semi pro clubs who act as feeders to the regional academy, and they would have part time analysts. All these clubs have bought their own software to enable them to share files up and down the chain, not only match footage, but also coaching content as well.
Below the semi pro teams are the amateur clubs, universities and schools that are at the base of the pyramid of player development. With this technology and analysts at work, a huge sharing community is created.
TB – “We use Sportscode Elite here at Cal, what are the latest technological advances in the top-flight rugby analysis?”
JM – “The latest innovations in the software are centred on improving the live capabilities and building an interactive environment with the capability to review information live during the game. This allows coaches to gather information on pertinent issues and effect change during the game.
The process involves a performance analyst capturing the video feed into a laptop, they then create a template based on the issues the coach considers important, which allows them to ‘code’ the events as they are happening in the game. A team may have multiple analysts allowing them to code a greater amount of information live during the game. This may be match events, set piece moves or individual player moments, creating a chain of notation, which coaches can then use to pick out trends in the game. The analyst marks the events as they happen on their coding laptop.
A secondary laptop is networked to review what the analyst is doing, from here the coach can watch any video clips from the match and review issues immediately. As well as being able to review the video the new features in the software allow statistical windows to be compiled live as the game is happening. This gives the coaching staff a great level of information with which to make informed decisions during the game.
One of the latest innovations is the ability to share this video and statistical information to mobile devices anywhere in the stadium. Using an Airport Extreme devise you can create a closed network for the laptop and an iPod to join. Then, using the Air Sharing application, any video or statistical files can be exported to the iPod where they can then be watch/viewed. So, wherever the coaches are they can have access to the key information.
There is also the ability to link multiple camera angles together post game giving a great all round view of the video clips that have been created. There may be a camera behind both goals and one side on view. Sounds like American football, doesn’t it?
All of these advances and innovations have happened rapidly as technology improves. One of the things I always try to remember is that it is still about coaching. Jack Clark taught me that, along with how American coaches develop and prepare their athletes and sporting teams.
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