There is a new way of looking over soccer tactics, conducting team practices, and giving management a better understanding of their soccer club and players: Performance Analysis. We are starting to see more companies provide information in regards to performance analysis — companies such as StatDNA and Opta provide club teams or fans information on how a certain player is performing and/or look at the team overall.
One company that is working with clubs around the world is Prozone. I recently interviewed Prozone’s U.S. Operations Manager Stewart Mairs, and discussed the company and the services they provide.
So who is Prozone? Prozone was established in 1995 and has been pioneering performance analysis for 19 years and have set the standard in performance analysis industry. Their mission is to deliver insight that has an on-field impact, through their technology and expertise in consultancy. One of their goals is to move into media, rugby, and multisport. Prozone’s U.S. office is located in Chicago, IL and run by Mairs who wears a number of different hats from being in charge of sales operations to account management to consulting.
Mairs has been with the company for 10 years and has seen first hand the change in the ways they use performance data. Mairs studied at Hull University in the area of Sports Science. Coming out of college he worked for Virgin Active Gym, in which, he applied for a position at Prozone. The only position available at Prozone was to be stationed out in the Middle East. Mairs moved abroad to Abu Dhabi and worked with Al Jazira FC for five years.
The main reasons why Mairs likes working for Prozone is because, for him, he believes they have always tried to be one step ahead of the game and work with hard working individuals who have been with the company for a long time. Most of the individuals have worked at soccer clubs and are driving to move the industry forward.
Prozone is changing and helping soccer’s management in three key areas: classroom, training, and in games. Prozone can track the movement of profiles, focus on attacking ends, and help find a defensive balance. The way they are able to do this is by collecting data. However, Mairs is a purist, and stresses the importance of how to collect and deliver the data. “There is a lot of talk about the use of data, but it needs to be applied correctly from the top down,” states Mairs. Prozone and Mairs focus on having reliable and accurate data in order to provide consistent services to their clients.
Prozone has contributed to different aspects of the game of soccer. Tracking data, predictions in future performances with goal expectancy, asset management and recruitment are areas that Prozone focuses on. They have the ability to examine characteristics and understand gaps in the teams’ rosters. “This can help a team value a player and put a price to his name,” said Mairs, thus giving the team a soccer decision on whether or not to sell the player or help improve his/her skills.
Over the years, Prozone has been growing in the US. When the company first started out, they were only working with one MLS team and four colleges. Now the number of teams have grown with some of their clients including Real Salt Lake, Toronto FC, Columbus Crew, DC United, and the Women’s U.S. National Team. One of their booming areas is the college game with roughly 150 universities all across the AAC, Big East, Big Ten, and SEC conferences using Prozone’s services.
However, there is still some resistance from MLS teams in using performance analysis. Mairs states that, the “majority of teams see the value in performance analysis, but there are several reasons why teams are holding back. Some of those reasons have to do with the cultural, economics, and the team’s main priorities on their agenda with performance analysis not being on the top of the list.”
Not all managers believe in the value of performance analysis and have their own methods of coaching. However, there are managers who do value the data, such as Sam Allardyce and Roberto Martinez. Mairs states that “Liverpool is doing some great work with the data being collected and Manchester City have up to 10 analysts working for the club.”
As mentioned before, Opta provides their data to the media and fans. Prozone is in the process of releasing a licensed software to the general public. With this affordable software, smaller colleges, high schools, amateur club teams, and fans will have the ability to analysis soccer games of their liking. Giving the general public access to this type of product can help change the cultural of U.S. soccer that is holding back the current MLS teams who are not taking advantage of performance analysis. Just as the U.S. coaching system is changing by generation to generation with different philosophies, so can the acceptance of using performance analysis and the back room staff.
Performance Analysis will not automatically make a soccer club successful. It is important to understand that when collecting data that a soccer club knows what to collect, how to breakdown that data, and present that data in a media that both the coaches and the players understand. This will better execute the ideas of a manager on the pitch and start to see some results taking the club to the next level. Prozone is helping and changing those clubs in the right direction.
One of the ways Prozone is leading in the industry is by offering courses using their technology and software for people like you and me. Prozone is offering courses both in the U.K. and the U.S. If you would like to get more information about taking the courses or more information about the company please visit them at prozonesports.com