Football academies continue to evolve. What were once basic set-ups are now a key focus for clubs, both big and small. There is pressure to attract the best talent, to provide players for the first team (saving on transfer fees) and to generate income through the sale of academy graduates. But what will the academy space look like in five years? We take a look to the future to consider the possibilities.
Player Empowerment in Football
Player power is nothing new and it has always been those players who were invested in their own development who have made it as senior professionals. New tools that allow for self-analysis, such as sports analytics software, offer another way for players to invest in their own development. Accrington Stanley are a great example of this.
Academy players already have access to their own footage and football data, wherever they are, through mobile apps. The power of these services, in terms of how players and coaches can use them to measure and understand performances, will be immense in the coming years. Interactions with data and video will become effortless, empowering players to review more of their performances wherever they are.
These analysis tools provide a platform where performance content can be exchanged across a club. Thoughts and opinions can be better described and supported through data and video, enriching the player-coach relationship as tactical messages are shared.
In the coming years, these advanced performance analysis platforms will provide summaries of more complex footballing concepts, such as pitch control and actions under pressure, thanks to AI technology, which again will be there to be shared and discussed by players and coaches alike.
The academy space will become even more competitive, with players constantly moving from club to club as contracts end and new offers are put in front of them. Analysis platforms will provide players with a full performance portfolio consisting of video and data. This portfolio will follow them round and grow as they change clubs, providing a customisable, but objective means of showing their talent.
The Rise of the Technical, Data-Driven Football Coach
Today there are still football coaches who lack an understanding of how to use data. Given what’s at stake at the academy level in terms of attracting, developing and retaining the best talent, this won’t be the case in the future. Coaches will need to be able to interpret data and apply their findings to training and matches. Although technology will make this easier to do, the sheer abundance of data will need coaches to be able to identify and apply what is most helpful at a certain moment in time. Being able to handle data will also allow them to create (or at least understand) custom models and metrics based on their specific requirements at a certain time.
Those who do not embrace data will be left behind as their colleagues’ and players' affinity with data only increases. However, those who acknowledge and adapt to this change will be able to take advantage of a wide range of tools that use new technologies, including artificial intelligence, to provide them with tailored performance insights that are difficult to see with the human eye. These can be applied to training sessions and matches.
“Having worked in football in some capacity for going on 15 years, I’m constantly having to learn new skills, especially when it comes to understanding how to use data to measure player and team performances. We want to be the top academy in our category and we feel this (BEPRO) is the future for coaching and I know it can help us find an edge for our players, our teams and our club to take us to the next level.”
Duncan Fearnhead, Head of Academy Coaching at Accrington Stanley
Football data can often feel cold. As such, coaches will need to be able to humanise performance analysis information for young players in order to avoid alienating them or missing out on the vital insights data provides. Coaches will need to translate data into familiar, football language that can be understood and actioned.
Coaches who do make the most of new performance analysis technology will be better informed and be able to perform their roles more effectively and efficiently as technology handles many of the time-intensive tasks that today take hours every week, such as manual video clipping or event coding. (Even though there are solutions for this today, like BEPRO!)
Football Data - Greater Abundance, Greater Regulation
There’s no doubt that data plays a significant role in modern football, having driven change at the highest level over the previous two decades. This will be echoed in academies in the coming years. Although it is essential to find the right level of data to use - depending on the age of the player in question - insights can be gathered through event and tracking data (positional and physical) that allow coaches and players to measure more aspects of performance. Decision making, player load and pitch control will be all objectively measured through data.
Automated insights, derived from multiple data sources, will provide staff and players with guidance to improve individual and team performances. These will make it easier to interpret data, but also demand that those working at clubs have a deeper knowledge of how to use data - we look at this in more detail later on.
The abundance of data will require coaches and players to be able to identify which information is the most relevant at each moment. New analytical metrics will be developed and additional data points collected, providing additional performance information, but also potentially greater confusion.
“Clubs are taking the protection of their young players very seriously, which increasingly includes protecting their performance data. It is a crucial resource that allows coaches and players to measure, understand and improve performances, but it is vital for them to know who has collected the data, how it is stored and how it is shared.”
Luca Bergamini, Senior Sports Lawyer
This increased volume of data will be balanced with greater data regulation requirements. Today, teams often do not know how their data was collected, where it was collected or whether it is stored safely and securely. Over the coming years, teams will need to understand and trust all the processes involved in the data collection, storage and distribution process. This will require those businesses providing data to be fully compliant with GDPR and other regulations, or risk going out of business.
Alongside this, data quality and consistency will become even more vital. Decisions on a player’s future cannot be made based on inaccurate data which has been collected by an individual (or automated system) that does not understand the nuances of the game.
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At BEPRO, we work to develop performance tools that make a real difference to sports academies around the world. For football we bring together a real understanding of the game, the ability to develop intuitive tools powered by advanced technology and a customer-focused approach to help teams measure, understand and improve performances.