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Taking time to review

July 7, 2020

Video analysis has become part and parcel of the coaching tool box in recent years with technology advancing apace. From simple match recordings of a team’s overall performance, to specific patterns of play; from an individual’s skill deployment to an in-depth analysis of behaviour in certain situations. The amount, quality and breadth of data that can now be collected is astonishing.

Different nations are at very different stages when it comes to how much of a role video analysis can play in team preparations. For some nations, video analysis underpins much of the coaching practice. There will be dedicated video analysts, the coaching team will pore over minute details and the players will be provided with targeted information to take into their next training session or game. 

For other nations, where resources are fewer, video analysis may involve retrieving a recording of the game and then going through, re-winding and replaying the significant pieces of action to a massed group of players.

This was exactly the range of experience among the participants on the recent FIH Academy online course: ‘Analysis for Coaches: A collaborative approach to learning'. Hockey coaches tuned in for the course from as far afield as USA, Belgium, UK, South Africa, Egypt, Botswana and Nigeria. 

Course leader was FIH Educator James Culnane, who is part of the England Hockey coaching team as well as Head of Hockey at Surbiton High School and assistant coach to top English Premier League side Surbiton.

The session was facilitated by international goalkeeping coach and FIH Educator Graham Mansell-Grace.

As with all FIH Academy online courses, the session was as interactive as possible. Culnane is highly knowledgeable and his teaching background means he can get the message across succinctly. Mansell-Grace was an effective facilitator as he encouraged the participants to share their thoughts and marshalled the operation of break-out groups so that everyone could get their points across.

Among the messages that this course delivered was a realisation that even when we think something is very simple and straightforward, there is usually another perspective that has probably not even crossed our minds as coaches. And in a  group setting such as a hockey team, there can be many, many perspectives. 

For a coach who is seeking to empower players, this could mean occasionally conceding that someone else within the team group has arrived at a better conclusion or has had a better idea. Culnane quoted the approach taken by Head Coach to Netherlands men’s team Max Caldas, who insists ‘the best idea wins’, no matter whose idea it is.

Another strong message to come from the session was the importance of enabling players to think for themselves. The temptation as coaches is often to feed the players the necessary information to achieve a target. Culnane’s point is, if you want players to think for themselves and make good decisions, then they have to be given the skills to do this. By showing video clips and asking questions, you are supporting the players as they develop a deeper understanding of the game. Rehearsing the process of reviewing is now as much a part of the coaching process as rehearsing skills on the pitch. 

Part of the course also answered some of the practical issues of using the Coach Logic video technology. For under-staffed coaches, much of the coding can be done by an injured player or supporter. The built-in communication tools are simple to use and coaches and players can use them as they choose – within training session or in their own time at home or when travelling.

Practising what he was teaching, throughout the course Culnane encouraged the group to ask challenging questions and to delve into deep discussions around topics. His message throughout, and one that coaches can apply to their own coaching programmes is: "it takes time to develop ideas."

Reflecting on the online course, Culnane says: "It always blows my mind on these FIH workshops that we have such a global audience. Different and diverse minds that can think about the game is such different ways. In group discussion we realise that leveraging the strength in those different thought processes will only add benefit to the collective experience. 

"My question to all coaches therefore is, are you providing that culture of co-creation? Are your athletes able to add value to your plans? This workshop provides us the opportunity to look at the 'why' of these ideas and offer some simple solutions to help everyone in your group contribute. I think the course went well and some seeds were sown in these ideals. We appreciate the contribution that everyone made on the workshop."

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