Monday, February 24, 2014

Who is the Performance Analyst?

My last work for Performance Analysis this year was to speak about the figure of the performance analyst. We were allowed to use any format: powerpoint, audio, video, essay... everything goes.

This is what I did.


Who is the Performance Analyst (PA)?
From the lessons that I have been attending so far I can tell that you there is not a final answer to this question. There are grey areas where the PA operates and he\she shares these areas with other sport professional, for instance with coaches and psychologists.
Nevertheless, I have been trying to reply to the answer.

Here there is a monologue, written by myself, of a PA that questions himself about his nature. Even if it is a monologue, there are two characters in this dialogue: the PA himself and the PA's mind that guide him to the answer according to the Socratic method “maieutics” (Plato, c. 385–380 BC).

Who are you?
'We are beyond the curtain.
We are away from center stage.
We stay in the darkness.
We are shadows'

Who are you?

'We know what we could be.
We do not know what we are.
We are everything and we are nothing.
We are not born to become.
We are born to be.
Let Him decide who will we be.
We are Proteus'

Who is “Him”?
'He is the Master'
Are you his slave?
'No, I am free'
Do you depend on him?
Are you free?
I depend on Him'
Does he depend on you?
'Only if He wants so'

Who are you?
'I am who He wants me to be.
Be his wisdom
and I shall be Athena;
be his strength
and I shall be Ares;
be his support
and I shall be Atlas'

Who are you?
'I am who He wants me to be'

Are you alone?
'No, I am not'
Who is with you?
'My Brothers'

Who are your Brothers?
'They are who They want them to be'
Who are your Brothers?
'They are everything and they are nothing;
they are Proteus'
Who are your Brothers?
'We are Performance Analyst'

To give a name is power upon the named one;
the Book teaches us (The Holy Bible, Genesis 1:28)
To name is to sort things according to their nature;
the Book teaches us (The Holy Bible, Genesis 2:20-21)

Who are you?
'I am everything and I am nothing'
Who are you?
'I am a Performance Analyst;
I am who Him wants me to be'

Is that the truth?
'There is no truth;
there is no lie.
Everything is relative'

We can give hundred interpretations of a glare in a mirror;
yet, the image that generates that glare is only one.

Look in your mirror.
What do you see?
'A Performance Analyst'
Who are you?
'I am who him wants me to be'
Is that the truth?

Who are you?
'I am a Performance Analyst;
I am everything He can possibly need'

Who is He?
'He is the Master'
Is that the truth?

Who is He?
'He is a Man'
Who are you?
'I am a Man'
Who are you?
'We are One'

There is no general without an army;
yet, an army without a general is not.

Who is One?
'I am a Performance Analyst;
he is a Coach.
He needs me;
yet, without him I am not.
We are One'

Who is One?
'Our nature is different;
yet, we walk the same path'

Who is One?
'I am One,
I am a Performance Analyst;
he is One,
he is a Coach.
Our nature may be different;
yet, we share the same destiny.
I shall think with his mind
he shall see with my eyes.
Two men;
one path.
We are together
we are One!'

Now that I have figured out who (I believe) is the PA, I need to discovery what does he\she do.

I have been trying to think about the absolute performance analyst (it is not a new kind of vodka). The word “absolute” comes from the Latin absolutus, which means: not relative to something else (Chambers, 2000). In a nutshell, I am trying to figure out the PA's activity not linked to any sport, but I want to discovery its nature and essence, or its archetype, if we want to use the platonic philosophical idea (Plato, c. 370 BC).
Tackling the problem from an abstract point of view allowed me to get rid of the tasks of a single sport, such as opposition analysis in football, which is not present or is minimal in other sports, such as in triple jump or in archery.
After reading articles online, from blogs and the SOOC, I came out with this definition: the performance analyst improves and predicts performances based on the information he/she possesses.

There are three key points: improvement, prediction and information.
I do realize that the most important key point is the last one.
Without information there is no PA and an analysis cannot exist without data. Basically, no info no cry, as Bob Marley used to sing.

Data collection is crucial for the the analyst. If he\she collects no data, he\she would have no job; and if he\she collects the wrong data, he\she will end up with no job.
There are a lot information that can be collected and many ways to collect them, but is not my intention to illustrate them. For me, the bread and butter of performance analysis is the collection of data.

The will to know the future is part of the nature of the human being. Heroes in ancient Greek used to visit the Delphi Oracle before a battle and Roman Emperor used to divine, which is to foretell or to predict, before going to war. The verb “to divine” comes from the Latin divinare:to be inspired by a god (Chambers, 2000).
More generally, to know what the future holds is one of the question of life. Now, I do not want to write about life and death; what I am trying to say is that PAs are not doing anything new. They may use new techniques and technologies, but, in the end, they are doing the same that our ancestors used to do five-thousand years ago.
Yet, I would like to go a little further.

In the Art of War of Sun Tzu (6th BC, pp. 96)it is said:
“Prior information
Enables wise rulers
And worthy generals
To move
And conquer,
Brings them success
Beyond that of the multitude”

Basically, to know your enemy before the battle is necessary to win. We can apply the same concept to a PA that does pre-match analysis of the opponent.
However, Sun Tzu (6th BC, pp. 96) states:
“This information
Cannot be obtained
From spirits;
It cannot be deduced
By analogy;
It cannot be calculated
By measurement.”

After the book continues saying that the only way to get “this information” is through spies.
Anyway, it is stated that is impossible to predict the opponent's moves by analogy or by measurement. In other words, the PA's job could be right on paper but on the day of the match it may be a disaster.
Personally, I do agree with this statement.
If we take any “prediction job”, we can see that they are not 100% accurate (and this is why they predict). Weather forecast is one of them.
Meteorologists try to predict the weather condition of tomorrow, but they will never say:”Tomorrow is going to rain”; instead, they are more likely to say:”70% of chance of raining for tomorrow”; and we are going to translate it as:”Tomorrow is better that I take the umbrella with me because it may rain”.
Another example is the broker. They try to predict the market's next move and invest their money based on their data; still, that prediction may be right or wrong.
When performance analysis is working on the opposition, we are talking of inexact science.
Now, I am not giving a qualitative judgment.
I do believe that the accuracy of the prediction relies in the analysis' skills. There is a lot people that made a fortune in the stock market, such as George Soros (The Forbes 2013, online), and this is the point when you bring the inexact science of trading to a state of art.
A PA should aim to this, to elevate his\her science to art.

As there is no much room for a theoretical\philosophical debate about the last key point, improvement, which is quite self explanatory in my opinion, I would like to draw my conclusions.
PAs may play a crucial role to bring a team to success. Coaches should “use” them wisely in order to achieve valuable results as they can make a difference between glory and failure.


Chambers, 2010. Chambers Dictionary of Etymology. Edinbrugh: Chambers Harpers Publishers Ltd.

Plato, (c. 370 BC). Phaedrus. In: Edith, H., Huntington, C., ed..1961. The collected dialogues of Plato, including the letters. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press.

Plato, (c. 385–380 BC). The Symposium. Translated from Ancient Greek by Christopher Gill and Desmond Lee. London: Penguin Group.

The Forbes, (2013). The Forbes 400: The Richest People in America. [accessed 6 December 2013]

The Holy Bible: New International Version, 1996. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Tzu, S. (6th cent. BC). The Art of War. Translated from Chinese by John Minford. London: Penguin Group.

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