Why many athletes don’t benefit from video analysis – and how to fix it
Top-level coaches and athletes across all sports and disciplines have one thing in common – almost all of them have been involved in or subjected to video analysis.
For the past decade, video analysis has become an essential tool for elite clubs and top performing coaches and athletes. This is especially true in technique-driven martial arts like Judo, BJJ, Taekwondo, Karate and Fencing.
Today, one simply can’t afford not to utilize video analysis as a part of the training regimen. It’s also a key component in scouting opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own. The more knowledge you have, the more time you will spend training and practicing on the things that really matter.
But despite its popularity, video analysis is no magic bullet.
The problem with video analysis
With our background in martial arts and software development, Athlete Analyzer has been in the center of this evolution for over half a decade. We regularly meet martial arts athletes, coaches and clubs across the globe that use video analysis without success.
Many coaches, federations and clubs spend hours on recording and collecting data with expensive and advanced software, without seeing clear benefits. Often, the cause for this lack of results is due to what is called the black box problem.
The black box problem and why it impacts your video analysis
A 2012 paper from the University of Cumbria explains the black box problem as:
“…raw data, processes which are complex and often contingent, but which are also often opaque to those not directly involved in them”.
– Bampouras, Theodoros, Cronin, Colum and Miller, Paul K. (2012)
In other words, the subject of the analysis does not see the results for themselves, nor do they benefit from it. This is something we often experience when talking to the athletes themselves.
The traditional way of doing video analysis is for the team to have one or several video analysts responsible for tagging match events like scores and penalties. It’s often done in a highly theoretical way, aggregating lots of detailed data points.
The video analysts then report their findings to the coach or team staff. Some information may be passed on to the athlete, but most of it doesn’t. The coach becomes the gatekeeper. From the athlete’s point of view, both the video analysis and the results of it, become vague and lost in the “black box”.
This is validated by our own research and interviews with athletes in teams, clubs and national teams across the globe. Many of the athletes are indeed aware of the team staff working with video analysis but have never seen the results of it. Even less so, received training advice or insights based on the analysis.
Much of the data is collected in a “good to have” fashion, rather than focusing on key performance indicators for athlete development, like when and how matches are won and lost. Too much data consists of sweeping metrics that are of no immediate use for the specific athlete.
This is a big contradiction.
While video analysis is, undoubtedly, one of the best and most crucial tools available to improve athlete performance, the subject of the analysis – the athlete – seldom experience the full benefits. Hence, some view video analysis as expensive, overrated and unpractical and used this way, it certainly is.
The secret behind performance-enhancing video analysis
The power of data lies not in the datasets themselves, but in the implementation of the knowledge they bring.
The opposite of the Black Box is what is referred to as the “Immutable Mobile” – a concept described by French sociologist Bruno Latour meaning, essentially, to package information in a way that makes it useful for the ones that benefit the most from it.
According to the same Cumbria study it is not unusual for coaches to express concerns on behalf of the athlete, one example from the study states:
“…no, no, no… the athlete, it is too much for him, it is too over him, we can’t give the athlete all the information we gather because he is not going to cope with that.”
– Bampouras, Theodoros, Cronin, Colum and Miller, Paul K. (2012)
This greatly reduces the potential for performance. By excluding the athlete, one also reduces the athlete’s intellectual understanding of the sport as well as the technical development. Granted, not all athletes are interested in the nuts and bolts of sports performance. But one can argue that all elite level athletes are very much interested in how to become better athletes – which is what it’s all about.
A collaborative mindset for better performance
Not letting the athlete be a part of the analysis to protect them from information overload is a blessing in disguise. To empower the athlete and include them in the decision making almost always affect the performance in a positive way.
It also improves the athlete’s understanding of what works and what doesn’t, since visual feedback paired with verbal is much more effective than verbal feedback only. It also increases the autonomy and motivation, making the athlete part of their own development, creating a productive collaboration mindset where ideas flow both ways.
“I think the transparency between the coach and the athletes is the key to success. As a coach I love to have my athletes well informed about their strengths and weaknesses and that we together can plan for the needed development ahead”
Artur Klys, Head coach of UKS Judo Kraków
This can be hard to stomach in hierarchical organizations, but it’s the right way to do it, looking from a performance perspective. It also greatly improves the relationship and trust between the coach and the athlete.
A key to achieve this is to collect better data – the right data. Focus shouldn’t be on collecting vast amounts of data, just the data you need to improve. In short: it’s not the size of your database, it’s how you use it.
Collecting better data – 4 keys to performance enhancing video analysis
Athlete Analyzer is built with collaboration and athlete performance in mind. We are firm believers that coaching, and training based on facts and analysis, holds the key to unlock the potential of every coach and every athlete.
As a result, we have built an easy-to-use video analysis tool that prevents black box thinking and miscommunication between coaches and athletes. In our view, a better (and more affordable) alternative to expensive, complicated and do-it-all video analysis tools.
We have focused on four key features to help you get the most out of your video analysis with Athlete Analyzer.
1. Fast set-up
Point, shoot and record with your smartphone. No expensive cameras or rigs are necessary. The videos are easily uploaded in our intuitive interface. By making the recording and uploading process quick and easy, you always have the power of video analysis at your fingertips. One of our most used features is the possibility to use videos directly from competitions and tournaments on Youtube, making it even easier to analyze video content.
2. Pre-set tagging and relevant data points
Collecting useful data has never been easier. With our pre-set tagging systems, specifically built for Judo, Taekwondo, BJJ, Karate and Fencing, you can quickly identify and tag important events and create a database of relevant data points for analysis.
The tag system has been developed together with multiple international coaches from each sport, to make sure each tag is relevant for the sport and contributes to the following analysis.
3. Visual interpretation of data
All data is collected and presented in visual and easily understandable charts and graphs. The visual presentation of the analysis makes it easy discover strengths and weaknesses, both for the coach and the athlete, creating a great base for discussion and development. The visual nature of the feedback also makes it easy to understand across language barriers.
4. Better communication
Athlete Analyzer is built to facilitate the spreading of information between coaches and athletes. But also between the different levels of where the athlete is active, like the home club and the regional or national team.
Every coach connected with the athlete can access comment and feedback directly in the platform. This creates a common base for feedback and development, with everything gathered in the same place. This is key to harness the power of video analysis and to make it a part natural part of training and competition.
Conclusion: video analysis is dead – long live video analysis
The rise of video analysis has revolutionized scouting, coaching and training in elite sports. Suddenly, data was everything and nothing was too insignificant to analyze. But as all new techniques, they develop and mature.
As it turns out, data itself isn’t the magic bullet. It’s what you do with it that matters.
Traditional systems for video analysis, like Dartfish and Sportscode, are built around the idea that more data equals better results. An analyst is responsible for extracting, compiling and making sense of the data, often in the form of excel and long charts.
Because of this complicated process, this is often the work of designated analysts that are disconnected from the everyday training and coaching. This can create a discrepancy between what data is extracted and analyzed and which data is actually useful for the progression of the athletes.
This way of working with video analysis is no longer relevant for most teams and clubs. The technique and the methods have matured and become more focused on the initial purpose: athlete development. Video analysis is no longer lost in data.
By focusing on key metrics and ease-of-use the power of video analysis has become available for everyone. By placing this powerful tool directly in the hands of coaches and athletes, the focus has shifted from “analysis” to “development”. The analysis is no longer a mean to itself, it is a useful tool for athlete development. Exactly as it should be.
We are happy to be a part of this democratization and evolution of one of the most powerful tools to help coaches and athletes gain a better understanding of their sport. Just as in the digital age where everyone is a content creator, we have just entered the golden age of athlete development, where everyone can be a video analyst.
Take the first step – try Athlete Analyzer for free
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Bampouras, Theodoros, Cronin, Colum and Miller, Paul K. (2012) Performance analytic processes in elite sport practice: an exploratory investigation of the perspectives of a sport scientist, coach and athlete.