How football and rugby entered the data age

Sports performance is in the details. The analysis of personal data, GPS tracking now belong to the vocabulary of professional clubs which analyze and dissect both the game of their opponent but also the behavior of their players in search of a way to progress and improve always and again. . Here are two examples with the Stade de Reims in football and the Stade Français in rugby.

Stade de Reims dissects every action

At the start, there was only video to study the matches … “I started in 2000 in Bordeaux and we worked with VHS video recorders, testifies Cyril Duhal, 40, arrived this season at the Stade de Reims, in quality. head of the game analysis department. We watched matches with Elie Baup, we went back, and so on. Today, I work with a data analyst, graduate in sports analysis science, who has real computer skills, able to chew and digest all the information. “

All French clubs now have a game analyst, such as Cyril Duhal. But not all of them have a data analyst, only a few big clubs, like PSG, Monaco, OM, Montpellier and Reims.

What data are they interested in and how do they collect it? “From this year, clubs can have official data from the LFP (the League) that it pays to a provider, Stats Perform,” said Duhal. We have a protocol in place that allows us to identify and automate all the indicators that we have selected in six to seven very detailed sectors (which I will not reveal), such as offensive and defensive sectors or stopped phases. “

Thanks to their tools, analysts cut their team’s matches. “For example, concerning the attacks placed, for each action leading to a shot, we will quantify the preferential pass network, in which sector and the time necessary to arrive at the shot,” explains Duhal. Regarding the transition phases, which are somewhat in the DNA of Reims, we will quantify in which zone the ball is recovered, by which players, against which opponents, how long is necessary to reach the opposing goal, if it The result was a strike on goal and, if not, why. This requires identifying around ten indicators, for which we try to identify repetitions: recovery areas, movements of our players who are hunted down, the areas to which they move, etc. “

After decryption, the game analyst transmits his observations to the staff, so that the latter can pass them on to the players. “We cannot undertake to improve the movement of a young player, tactically, in counter-attack for example, if we have not precisely limited his movement, specifies Duhal. A boy who runs straight towards the opponent’s goal to retrieve the ball has very little chance of creating a gap and much on the contrary of ending up unreachable by a partner, or even to be out of the game. “

“Thanks to these data, the intervention of the coach gains in accuracy”

“We, thanks to the numbers,” he continues, “we know that it makes sense to reach the goal in 6-7 seconds. We are able to tell him if he is in a hurry, if necessary. Thanks to these data, the intervention of the trainer gains in accuracy. For their part, players are very attentive to remarks based on figures. We illustrate the figures in video interventions, so that they are well understood before any fieldwork. “

The analysis still focuses on set pieces, corners or free kicks. “We observe the natural movements of players in training,” continues Duhal. There are automatisms and recurrences. Then, we provide data, limiting ourselves to informing: such and such player will move towards such or such area. If all the boys tend towards preferential areas at the near post, it can put the way of taking corners into perspective. “

Newsletter Morning essentials

A tour of the news to start the day

Between game analyst and coach, communication is two-way: “My staff regularly come to meet me and ask me to go and explore this or that area. At each international break, David Guion launches me on a particular track, we work and come back to him. “

Stade Français is also studying sleep

The box full of sensors is wedged between the shoulder blades, the computers are on. The session can start. At the Stade Français, part of the training is played on the screens where data scrolls through the entire Ile-de-France workforce sweating on Jean-Bouin’s lawn. The Parisian club, like its rivals in the Top 14, now devotes part of its staff to the analysis of the GPS and cardiac data of its players. Part of the “data” – data in English – used to improve the performance of rugby players.

This sensor inserted in a bra allows all data to be recorded and archived.  LP / Aurélie Ladet
This sensor inserted in a bra allows all data to be recorded and archived. LP / Aurélie Ladet

“We have been using it for several years now,” explains Benjamin Pollard, former member of the staff of the England team now responsible for monitoring performance in Paris. There are a lot of points that we can look at. The risk is getting lost and not going to find the most relevant data. With experience, we now know what to target to help the team progress. “

“Before, we used stopwatches to calculate the speed at which the players were running and it stopped there,” explains Martin Lainé, data manager at the Stade Français. Today, we can know in real time if a player is evolving at 80 or 90% of his capacities. »Data, coupled with questions to find out how those concerned feel about the intensity of their effort, which helps to create a developed physical profile and reduce the risk of injury throughout the season.

The physical trainers can see live the performances of their players / LP / Aurélie Ladet
The physical trainers can see live the performances of their players / LP / Aurélie Ladet

Data shared with the XV of France

Kilometers covered, intensity of defensive climbs, races to support players … The trio of Parisian analysts, also made up of the specialist in physical preparation, the South African Stephan Du Toit, also scrutinizes the efforts made by the Parisians in the gym. bodybuilding. Sensors, placed on the weights, show them the performance of Gaël Fickou and his partners.

“This is information that we share with the technical staff to optimize its follow-up of the team,” says Du Toit. Gonzalo Quesada is not the only one to benefit from their work since the XV of France and all the clubs of the Top 14 use the same brand of boxes, Catapult, which allows the management of the Blues to follow easily the physical evolutions of its players.

The bra which accommodates the sensor in its upper part

LP / Aurélie Ladet
LP / Aurélie Ladet

Some sleep with connected watches

The coaches of the Stade Français also have, via their specialists, live data during matches. But without relying on tactical choices. “Rugby is not a continuous effort, so it’s hard to say that a player will physically drop out in five, ten or fifteen minutes,” describes Martin Lainé. And, above all, we realized that, sometimes, those who were most in the red according to the numbers were also the best performers on the lawn. “

But the follow-up is not limited to the match and its training. “We are also interested in the sleep of players,” explains Benjamin Pollard. Several members of the Parisian workforce sleep with connected watches that study the quality of their night, especially during late returns from certain trips. “That way, we can adapt the intensity of the session if we see that the players have poorly recovered,” slips the person in charge of monitoring performance. Proof that data is everywhere in high-level sport.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.