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The Most Important Soccer Performance Analyst You May Never Heard Of

Written by on October 23, 2012 | No Comments »
Posted in Coaching and Sports Science

A few months ago, Manchester City last season’s Barclays Premier League Champions, announced that they were going to release all their match detail and make it available at no charge to fans and statisticians. The match detail consisted of data on every player in every team from every game in the Premier League during the 2011/12 season.

It is the first time a club has taken such a step. City’s Head of Performance Analysis, Gavin Fleig, offered the following explanation;….to read more click on this link.

The National Soccer Coaches Association

Written by on August 27, 2012 | 2 Comments »
Posted in Coaching and Sports Science

I have just returned from the summer meeting of the NSCAA Board of Directors. In another six months I will advance to the presidency of the Association after almost 40 years of membership, some 20 years of various committee work, and the last 3-1/2 years on the Executive Committee of the Board, the route to the presidency.

The NSCAA is primarily a volunteer organization, begun in 1941, “…for the purpose of fostering the sport of soccer by promoting interest in, and education relating to, the game of soccer.” (By-law 2.01) Among those who have preceded me in leadership are some of the most revered names in soccer in the United States, including legendary U.S. World Cup coach Bill Jeffrey, who served as president in 1948.

Icons of the sport in college who I humbly follow include John Brock and Irv Schmid of Springfield College, Glenn Warner of the U.S. Naval Academy, Charlie Scott of the University of Pennsylvania, and Joe Morrone of Middlebury College and the University of Connecticut, also a founder of the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association.

The NSCAA is the group of college coaches who organized National Championship games in the 50s, and were members of the NCAA(National Collegiate Athletic Association) and NAIA(National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) committee the organized the first championships in 1959.

The Association is not just about college coaches, as several leaders have come from the high school ranks. Among them are Miller Bugliari, an icon of school boy soccer in New Jersey, Bill Holleman, a pioneer in the Southeast, and Rob Robinson, a founder of the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association.

All of these individuals have provided visionary leadership to the Association and to the game as it developed in the United States. They and many others have earned recognition. I am honored, humbled and challenged to follow in their footsteps.

Jack Huckel, Founder & Principal of J.R. Huckel & Associates, offers election and induction consulting services to Halls of Fame. Jack served the National Soccer Hall of Fame and Museum as Director of Museum and Archives for 9-1/2 years after more than 10 years as a volunteer. More information is available at the firm’s web site. He can be reached at jack@jrhuckel.com or 518/852-3033.

Jack is a member of the International Sports Heritage Association and is also a member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Board of Directors’ Executive Committee. He will become president of the NSCAA in January of 2013.

 

Note from Bobby – For anyone who isn’t a member I would recommend joining. What’s more everyone should attend the annual convention at least once in their life. It is a great experience – solid football.

The Castrol Index: Is It All About The Oil?

Written by on June 10, 2011 | 1 Comment »
Posted in Coaching and Sports Science, General, MLS

It must be frustrating for those of a statistical inclination that soccer makes it so hard to classify individual performances through mathematical formulas in the way that many other sports do.

Most baseball fans will be able to quote you the importance of OPS versus OBP and ERA versus WHIP without placing themselves outside the mainstream of the sport, and the huge rise of the NFL is partly built on the back of the popularity of Fantasy Football which is wholly reliant on the numbers that each individual player produces on any given Sunday.

For soccer though the task has proven elusive. Listing “goals”, “assists” and the number of “saves” was about the best that it could do for a long while until such basics were largely usurped by the likes of possession stats and (alongside the rise of Barcelona) an increasing obsession with the number of completed passes by a team or player, but none of this made it easy to compare individual performances.

MLS is looking to change all that with the introduction of the “Castrol Index”, described as a revolutionary system that “uses the latest technology to objectively analyze player performance to help you see soccer from a completely different perspective”.

So problem solved?

Not really. There are so many issues with the index that it would probably take a whole series of posts to deal with them individually, but let’s just look at three of the most glaring problems for the time being.

1) “Objectively analyze”- the accompanying video (I watched it so that you don’t have to) states that the Castrol personnel watch every pass and every tackle and then decide how beneficial it is to the team.

I’m not quite sure how an individual making what is clearly a subjective decision counts as “objectivity”, but if the rest of their definitions are as shoddy as this then that doesn’t bode well for the quality of their results.

2) They have decided to place greater reward on a tackle or interception in the penalty area than one in midfield or on the wing.

So, apart from the fact that this pretty much eliminates all midfielders from ever topping the rankings (Xavi was never rated as higher than the eighteenth best player in la Liga last season!), it fails to acknowledge that actually stopping the ball getting into the danger zone might actually be more valuable than a series of John Terry style last-ditch tackles.

3) Finally, the actual formula that they use to achieve the results seems to be so secretive that the results themselves are of no genuine value. The reason that baseball and NFL stats are so popular is because they are understandable and transparent.

If a wide receiver catches a pass of a certain number of yards I know exactly what that means for the players involved from a statistical point of view, whereas if a defender passes a short ball to the central midfielder I have no clue whatsoever how that affects his Castrol Index rating.

Just publishing unsupported results at the beginning of every month does nothing at all to “help you see soccer from a completely different perspective”.

I understand that this shouldn’t be taken too seriously. That what it is really about is getting people to “find out more about Castrol’s range of lubricants” and I get that the index already exists in Europe without even making a pin prick into the consciousness of the soccer fan over there. So why the fuss?

MLS is still growing. It’s still trying to convince the average North American sports fan that it has something to offer, and many of these fans grew up thinking that statistics were an integral part of any game (there is an argument for another day that this belief is severely flawed but let’s just accept it for now) and if MLS is going to offer these potential fans the carrot of number crunching to aid their understanding then it needs to do a far better job than this.

The Castrol Index isn’t going to do any harm to soccer in North America, but I can guarantee that it won’t advance it one iota either.

It’s an opportunity wasted.

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