Below is a link to an excellent article written by Sean Ingle, and posted to http://www.theguardian.com back in October of 2014. The article discusses Billy Beane, the revolutionary baseball coach and manager, famous for his role in transforming the Oakland Athletics baseball club into perennial contenders in Major League Baseball, despite having the league’s 3rd lowest annual payroll. In the 2003 best-selling book “Moneyball”, author Michael Lewis made Beane a household name, and his book also brought to light and made famous Beane’s methods of team and player analysis, all of which are based on standardized, objective statistical performance analysis. In this article, Ingle discusses Bean’e new found fascination with soccer, and how he may be looking to get involved as a “Director of Soccer” with an English Premier League club in the coming years.
I have been working as a sports scientist and fitness coach in soccer at virtually all levels of the game in this country for the past 10 years. In that time, I have become a strong advocate of the use of standardized, objective performance analysis in the identification and selection of talented soccer players. If coaches and teams, especially at the higher levels (Provincial, National, and Professional Academy) do not use standardized, objective measurements to assess, track, monitor and evaluate player performance, then they will never be able to ensure that their decisions regarding player identification and selection are truly accurate and unbiased. They will also likely never be able to maximize the development of the talented players they are working with, because they will be unable to truly objectively evaluate their players’ performance, and to give valuable, constructive feedback to players to allow them to learn and improve.
It is for these reasons that the article I have re-posted below stood out to me so much. If Beane and his methods can permeate professional European soccer, then perhaps soon after the same methods will start to take hold here in Canada. Here is a quote from Billy Beane himself, used at the end of the article, which nicely sums up the value of objective performance analysis:
“Numbers are essentially just facts…and ultimately every sport is about numbers. How many points you get, how many wins you get – all numbers. It’s like watching a card‑counter in Vegas playing blackjack. Once you have learned how to count cards, why would you ever go back to doing it on a hunch?”
The ultimate goal of standards-based youth soccer programs, including leagues like the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL), Soccer-Academy Alliance Canada (SAAC), the Canadian Academy of Futbol (CAF), as well as the Ontario Provincial Programs, Canadian National Youth Teams, and professional academies like the Toronto FC Academy, should be to identify who the most talented players are, and then to maximize the development of soccer talent in these players. In my opinion, the introduction of standardized, objective methods of player and team performance analysis into these leagues and programs is the only way to ensure that this goal is achieved.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.