Performance Analysis


Over the recent past, football coaches have used performance analysis in gauging and improving the performance of players in the field. According to O’Donoghue (2010, pp 7) it is “the determination of the real sports performance thereby developing an understanding that can inform the decision making process in sports”. The information collected via the process is quite useful in informing the coaching process (Lyle, 2002). Traditionally, coaches and managers used subjective observation of performance to gauge and improve performance thereby subjecting the process to bias and emotions (Hughes & Bartlett, 2008, pp 14). The study therefore aims to ascertain the advantages and disadvantages of the current process of performance analysis and relate it with the traditional methods.

Rationale for the research

The process of coaching players is cyclic and requires that “coaches evaluate the feedback of performers thus enhancing future performance” (Carling et al., 2005, pp 29). The importance associated with performance analysis has always resulted in a scenario where people assume the possible disadvantages of the same. As thus, a study of both the negative and positive impacts of the process is necessary to ascertain the true worth of the process. Moreover, “the limitations that coaches have in relation to traditional methods of assessment provide an opportunity to exploit the advantages of performance analysis” (Laird & Waters, 2008, pp 79). This research adds to the existing literature in that it consolidates both the advantages and disadvantages of performance analysis. This is in contrast with most researches that have focused on only the advantages of the same.

Literature Review

Performance analysis in sports is not a new concept and especially in the football field. Carling et al., (2005, pp 31) posit that it involves the “collection of information regarding the output of players and the feedback is important in the performance of both team and individuals”. The importance of performance analysis is that it weighs off the load from the coach’s personal observation thus reducing bias from emotions and past experiences (Hughes & Bartlett, 2008). This in effect improves the accuracy in decision maki9ng and feedback by the application of unbiased and detailed information (James, 2006).

The recent surge in the uptake of performance analysis has been driven by “the demand for precise and timely feedback in the process of coaching” (Groom & Cushion, 2011, pp 25). The use of video analysis is necessary in enabling both the coaches and players to review their own performance multiple times thereby reducing observer bias while providing many options for provision of feedback (Ives et al., 2002). The beauty of the process is that it can use either quantitative or qualitative methods through statistical analysis and video translation respectively (Stratton et al., 2004, pp 64). Nevertheless, the feedback from the process is not always positive thereby presenting the need for consideration of skill levels of players. This is to say that “less skilled players require less detailed feedback as opposed to the more skilled ones” (Hughes & Frank, 2004, pp 149). That notwithstanding, the use of very detailed feedback may compromise performance by affecting it negatively. “In addition, the ability of players to interpret video feedback into three dimensional images depends on their experience and skill level” (Hughes & Barlett, 2008, pp 17).

The use of performance analysis starts way before a game starts and may involve the collection of data on opponents thus identifying areas of weakness and strengths. In so doing, coaches and players can anticipate a comprehensive scenario of the kind of opposition they expect. The collection of the data further helps not just the players but also the coach in designing a plan that can exploit the opponent’s weaknesses while counteracting their strengths. Moreover, “teams may analyze their training sessions to influence team selection through determination of the usefulness of the aspects being tested in training e.g. formations” (Carling et al., 2005, pp 24).

During the match, performance analysis has the ability to code matches live thus sharing specific video instances for real time review by coaches and by players during half time. Even in football leagues that prohibit transmission of the videos to the technical area, these videos can be shared to other devices within the stadium that the coach can later access. Alternatively, one tactician may be positioned in the dressing room from where they can access the videos and then share the same with the coach during half time to aid in making informed decisions. The information from this video transmission is thus necessary in providing the coach with objective data for making informed decisions during the course of the game.

“The use of performance analysis is also utilized in post match analysis where a lot of time is devoted in analyzing individual and team performance”. (Carling et al., 2005, pp 26). Data from this analysis can help in planning future trainings and identify areas of weaknesses in both players and the team. Thelwell, (2005) posits that feedback used in post match analysis should form a vital part of the process of coaching. However, it should be ensured that the process is effective and does not just detract the time spent in training (Gasston, 2004). Moreover, coaches should be careful to avoid instances where post match analysis eats up the players’ motivation.

The sports sciences are pivotal in enhancing performance and informing important aspects of coaching including designing sessions for training and evaluating performance (Maille, 1999, pp 108). “The use of performance analysis contributes to the medical department through the analysis of movements thus detecting injury and identifying risk factors of sustaining injuries within different players” (Reilly, 2006, pp 71). The increasing relevance of performance analysis is attributable to the fact that football players are at approximately 1000 times greater risk of injury than in other industrial occupations (Drawer & Fuller, 2002, pp 449). The screening of younger players helps in identification of factors that can predispose them to injury while screening of older ones allows them to have a prolonged career. “Performance plans based on the injury risk factors have been used and yielded remarkable results” (Soligard et al., 2008, pp 37; Hewett et al., 2005, pp 85).

Performance analysis can also be incorporated in strength and conditioning whereby the physical data of individual players can be collected and used in devising customized training schedules (Carling et al., 2009, pp 152; Reilly, 2007, pp 169). Moreover, evaluation of physical data may also reveal a decline in the performance of certain players thus help in identifying the time when substitutions can be made (Carling et al., 2008, pp 856). For instance, it is common to notice managers substituting certain players at certain periods of the game to avert the danger of sustaining injury (Kuper, 2011, pp 18).  “The use of video feedback is also important in ascertaining psychological aspects such as lack of attention and attitude in players” (O’Donoghue, 2006, pp 12) therefore helping sport psychologists in advising the players.

Reviewing video performance of successful matches has been identified as having very high motivational influence on players and builds their confidence (Jenkins et al., 2007). “In addition, performance analysis data can be used in the process of recruitment and talent identification” (Williams & Reilly, 2000, pp 661). Most coaches use the process to identify players therefore leading to subjective evaluation before signing of players even without having to assess theme in person (Carling et al., 2005, pp 126). “Further, children’s physical ability can be assesses through performance analysis thus helping in identification of talent while the children are still very young” (Balmer & Franks, 2000, pp 26).


Despite professional football traditionally being lenient in the use of science, the realization that it can improve the process of coaching has resulted in a favorable position (Reilly, 2006, pp 68). Central to this realization is the use of performance analysis and its connection to other sports aspects such as talent identification, recruitment and conditioning (Lyle, 2002, pp 47). Nevertheless, there are many challenges to the application of performance analysis that make its integration to sports difficult. While most of these challenges are out of circumstances such as time and cost implication, others may be as a result of mistakes from the coaches themselves.

The linkage between the coaching staff and other sport science specialists is very important (Lyle, 2002, pp 30) since coaches may not be able to interpret all the results from performance analysis and especially those concerned with sport science. On the other hand, sport scientists require the interpretation of the coach and should therefore provide data in a manner understandable to the coach (Morgan, 2011, pp 68). It is thus important for the coaching process to coordinate support from sports science and integrate it into the process of coaching and enhancing performance (Wrigjht, 2012, pp 47).



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