Like Adding Another Coach’: How Hudl Assist Strengthens Gretna Soccer Club

Video analy­sis has giv­en this coach­ing staff brand new ways to see the game, and it’s trans­lat­ing well on the pitch.

Like Adding Another Coach’: How Hudl Assist Strengthens Gretna Soccer Club

Video analy­sis has giv­en this coach­ing staff brand new ways to see the game, and it’s trans­lat­ing well on the pitch.

Before inter­ac­tive reports became so read­i­ly avail­able for soc­cer clubs, coach­es had to be indus­tri­ous with how they chart­ed their sta­tis­tics on the pitch. For broth­ers Jono and Darren Callaghan at Nebraska-based Gretna Soccer Club, that meant chart­ing every con­nect­ed pass with pen and paper and using a com­pli­cat­ed phone app to mea­sure pass­ing percentages.

Enter Hudl Assist. The sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments in pass strings and pos­ses­sions nur­tured more salient con­ver­sa­tions about ways to improve the fin­er details. 

In fact, the Gretna coach­es found a direct cor­re­la­tion between Assist and coach engage­ment. For the Callaghan broth­ers, who coach togeth­er on Gretna’s 04 boys and girls squads, the whole process has been more streamlined.

We couldn’t go back and do the work alone,” Darren said. It’s like adding anoth­er coach to your staff.”

With a more flu­id work­flow that’s both more com­part­men­tal­ized and nuanced, they were able to think up some new ideas on how to improve — and bring them to life on the pitch. 

Possession metrics lead to good tweaks

The new reports illu­mi­nat­ed a brew­ing prob­lem: pos­ses­sion in the final third was ter­ri­ble. They were com­plet­ing as lit­tle as three per­cent of their pass­es at times. Once they saw that, the Callaghans set new goals, such as a 30 per­cent com­ple­tion rate. This knowl­edge also stoked their imag­i­na­tion for how they could get there.

A sea­son ago, Darren and Jono’s teams were using a 3 – 5-2 for­ma­tion, with the wingers play­ing up almost the entire game. That left them too exposed at times, with the back three out­num­bered or not get­ting back in time to track down the ball. 

You can’t get any worse than what hap­pened in the boys’ first game of the sea­son, tak­ing a 7 – 0 loss. Game two saw them come out in a 4 – 5-1, after a heavy empha­sis in prac­tice on build­ing up the attack­ing for­wards, before adding a sec­ond strik­er to the final third. 

By putting in a sec­ond strik­er, see­ing what was work­ing on that field, it was night and day,” Jono said. We came off the field and par­ents were like, Wow, this is a brand new team’.”

They’re going to con­tin­ue the sea­son with a more straight­for­ward 4 – 4-2 look that evens the strength out. With the types of play­ers they have, it’s sure to max­i­mize their offen­sive ability. 

Seeing what was work­ing on that field, it was night and day,” Jono said. We came off the field and par­ents were like, Wow, this is a brand new team’.” Jono Callaghan, coach, Gretna Soccer Club

Take your shot

Shot charts influ­ence the way teams attack the net — and how they defend their own.

For Darren, look­ing at the trends of shot dis­tri­b­u­tions over an entire sea­son helped him diag­nose a prob­lem in the back end. The amount of goals with­in the six-yard box, an area of the field that the goal­keep­er has to real­ly own, sug­gest­ed there were some com­mu­ni­ca­tion issues going on with the cen­ter-back and keeper. 

Sometimes the advanced stats tell you a dif­fer­ent sto­ry than your eyes do. Like when the analy­sis showed the Callaghans that they were giv­ing their oppo­nents a ton of scor­ing chances on the right-hand side. 

We nec­es­sar­i­ly didn’t know all this with­out the data — what spe­cif­ic loca­tion, where do we get goals scored on,” Jono said.

More transparency, better answers

Sure, you have to rely on what your eyes (and some­times your guts) tell you. But hav­ing empir­i­cal evi­dence to back up your instincts leaves no gray area. Difficult con­ver­sa­tions become eas­i­er when you let the facts do the talking.

Before, we knew it just by watch­ing on the side­line,” Darren says. But now we can show sup­port to jus­ti­fy what we’re say­ing. This gives it more credibility.”

Darren recalls a con­ver­sa­tion with one of his hard­est-work­ing for­wards, who was lack­ing in con­fi­dence. After a prac­tice, this play­er approached Darren and asked what he could do to improve. 

Darren’s answer? You’ve got to believe in your­self.” He had the data ready to prove it, show­ing the play­er that he was tak­ing more shots and more goals than any­one else. That was the moti­va­tion he needed.

It helps with over­all com­mu­ni­ca­tion with both play­ers and par­ents,” Jono said. It always helps when you can be more trans­par­ent, when you can show things that are not a mat­ter of opin­ion but a mat­ter of fact.”

A more structured plan, a more positive outlook

As much as win­ning is about great schemes, it’s also about logis­tics. It’s cru­cial for every­one in your club to be on the same page.

At the first prac­tice after a game, Gretna play­ers know they’ll receive print­ed copies of the pre­vi­ous game’s Hudl report, fol­lowed by a few min­utes to talk amongst them­selves, digest the infor­ma­tion and under­stand the prob­lems. They then dis­cuss what they can work on as a team. 

If the play­ers have any ques­tions, they can look to the video. Because all 19 of Gretna’s teams are wired with Hudl, the video direc­tors know how to cap­ture and dis­trib­ute the film. That’s going to lead to bet­ter coach­ing across the entire club, too. 

We’ve trained all our coach­es on how to use Hudl and how to look at the reports,” Darren said. There’s a lot of buzz com­ing around our club because we’re using it. We’ll start to see the reward for it six months from now.”

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Interested in what Gretna does? Hudl Assist can stream­line the way you ana­lyze your play­ers. Use the links below to see how.

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