How IMG Academy Brings Their Game Model to Life

How do you get 90 per­cent engage­ment across your pro­gram dur­ing a pan­dem­ic? IMG Academy’s Technical Director showed us how he uses Hudl to bring his coach­ing phi­los­o­phy to life.

How IMG Academy Brings Their Game Model to Life

How do you get 90 per­cent engage­ment across your pro­gram dur­ing a pan­dem­ic? IMG Academy’s Technical Director showed us how he uses Hudl to bring his coach­ing phi­los­o­phy to life.

Last month, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) Technical Director Andy Thomson held a live Q&A with club and high school coach­es to dis­cuss how he lever­ages data and tech­nol­o­gy using Hudl.

The pan­dem­ic sweep­ing the world over brought some unex­pect­ed virtues to the pro­gram. Thomson esti­mates they have 90 per­cent engage­ment across the entire acad­e­my, with coach­es a huge dri­ver in using video for play­er development.

Thomson also showed us how he ties coach­ing phi­los­o­phy and game mod­el in a way that puts those play­ers front and cen­ter. The key? Making the com­plex­i­ties of the game sim­ple to eval­u­ate — or, as he repeat­ed sev­er­al times through­out the hour-long talk, Keeping the main thing the main thing.” 

That’s not always easy to do. 

We live in an age where every­one has a won­der­ful PowerPoint pre­sen­ta­tion, but it doesn’t come alive until it’s alive in the player’s brain,” Thomson said.

Here’s how IMG does it:

Creating an envi­ron­ment of trust

When play­ers and coach­es watch film togeth­er, they find them­selves being more hon­est with each oth­er. IMG found live video con­fer­ences to be a great tool for bridg­ing tough con­ver­sa­tions about performance.

Setting objec­tive ref­er­ence points with­in the video helps coach­es and ath­letes have bet­ter dis­cus­sions, because it’s no longer opinion-based.

There’s no hid­ing space,” he says. It’s real, and there’s sub­stance to it.”

Setting a high bar of competition

That hon­esty, in turn, rais­es the bar for every­one. Thomson showed an exam­ple from one of his most com­pet­i­tive 16-year-old play­ers, Laurel Chan, point­ing out the metic­u­lous atten­tion to detail that devel­oped organically.

Some play­ers were out­stand­ing from the start, which set the pace for every­one else,” he said. It’s way more pow­er­ful when the play­ers set the exam­ple for each other.”

Moving for­ward, IMG has evi­dence that the play­ers actu­al­ly under­stand the prin­ci­ples that were taught over the last year. They can use this as ref­er­ence mate­r­i­al for mov­ing the play­ers from one phase of devel­op­ment to the next.

Owning the game model

To accel­er­ate devel­op­ment and athlete’s under­stand­ing of the game, IMG has pushed their teams to break down video using IMG’s game model.

For exam­ple, a coach picks a game and a top­ic, such as attack­ing or build-up, etc., and empow­ers the ath­letes to inter­pret what they’re see­ing based on the curriculum.

At any giv­en moment, we can ask the play­ers what they were think­ing and have them explain it to the coach but in a safe space,” Thomson says. The video allows us to go back and say this is what we want­ed, this is what we got, and here’s what we could do dif­fer­ent­ly. Or, maybe they made a great deci­sion and we can just say well done’.”

Going from big to small” in game reviews

Having Hudl Assist reports has been a ter­rif­ic asset in giv­ing Thomson a cur­so­ry look at IMG’s per­for­mances, deliv­er­ing the con­tent they need right away instead of painstak­ing­ly going through every moment in the game. From there, they’re able to go back, fine-tune the details and set KPIs.

It’s real­ly help­ful for us to get a 10,000-foot, zoomed-out view,” he said.

Being able to look at the game in 15-minute peri­ods, for instance, was par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful because of the Ascenders’ peri­odized con­di­tion­ing. The more fit a soc­cer team is, the more fre­quent­ly you see goals scored out­weigh goals con­ced­ed lat­er in games.

Thomson also found the pass string data in Assist use­ful. Being able to go right to the build-up of each string lets them call out what play­ers did well at all the right moments. 

1:35 — How IMG keeps the main thing the main thing” dur­ing COVID
Thomsen talked about how Hudl has been extreme­ly key” for IMG Academy dur­ing this peri­od of quar­an­tine. With the game embrac­ing data analy­sis more and more, Thomson loves the func­tion­al­i­ty of let­ting play­ers and coach­es make objec­tive eval­u­a­tions of their game.

3:50 — There’s no hid­ing place.”

On live video chats, IMG play­ers have spir­it­ed game reviews, eval­u­at­ing how the per­for­mance aligns to their prin­ci­ples of one-on-one, numer­i­cal and pos­ses­sion supe­ri­or­i­ty. Thomson is tak­en back by the bru­tal hon­esty in these ses­sions. It’s beau­ti­ful, it’s real, it’s genuine.”

7:35 — How IMG defines a soc­cer action”

Thomson explains the fac­tors that go into this key ref­er­ence point that the Ascenders use in game review.

8:40 — Supercharged engage­ment levels

Thomson esti­mates that 90 per­cent of the program’s play­ers are active­ly engag­ing with Hudl. He explains how they got to that point, and how it’ll change what they do com­ing out of the pandemic.

10:00 — How the Ascenders ana­lyze their film

Thomson takes us through the work­flow of one of the Ascenders’ more cere­bral play­ers, com­plete with the player’s detailed notes of every­thing she sees on the screen.

15:00 — Getting every­one on the same page

Thomsen talks about the impor­tance of estab­lish­ing a com­mon lan­guage among all of IMG’s teams for devel­op­ing crit­i­cal thinking.

16:30 — How IMG sets its expectations

Thomsen talks about how they have cre­at­ed such a com­pet­i­tive cul­ture with­in their own pro­gram, includ­ing how they com­mu­ni­cate all their terminology.

21:00 — Assessing needs vs. wants with technology

If it’s infor­ma­tion that will help the team, Thomson says it’s use­ful. But you must also avoid going down a rab­bit hole. Here’s how to eval­u­ate what’s going to have an impact on your club.

25:10 — How the bar gets raised

Circling back to Laurel Chan’s detailed analy­sis, Thomson explains how they’ve gone about cre­at­ing the envi­ron­ment of trust that enables that depth of feedback.

28:30 — Getting the big pic­ture with Hudl Assist

Thomsen talks about how prac­ti­cal Hudl Assist reports are in get­ting IMG the 10,000-foot view” on how their teams’ performances.

30:00 — Processing the film and set­ting it up in Hudl

Thomsen talks about IMG’s excep­tion­al tech­ni­cal set­up, and what that allows coach­es to do.

31:00 — How IMG uses reports to find insights

Thomsen shows some of the ways he’ll lever­age game and scout­ing reports, including:

  • What times of goals reveal about fit­ness lev­els (32:30)
  • Possession ratios and pass strings (33:20)
  • Why they break down by four zones, split­ting the mid­dle third in two (34:00)

35:00 — COVID’s effect on coaching

What impact has remote coach­ing had dur­ing this pan­dem­ic? Thomsen talks about what he’s had suc­cess with these last few months, and the impor­tance of coach­es’ enthu­si­asm for dri­ving engagement.

40:00 — Position-spe­cif­ic learning

IMG is unique in that it cre­ates posi­tion-spe­cif­ic accounts for its pro­grams in Hudl. It’s all an effort to keep things as sim­ple as pos­si­ble for the play­ers, Thomsen explains.

49:00 — How play­er devel­op­ment sharp­ens the recruit­ing approach

Thomson says the amount of high­light tool usage has been mas­sive” dur­ing the spring. He says he’s lost count of the num­ber of coach­es and play­ers going back into their accounts to re-do high­light reels for col­lege coaches.

51:30 — Commitment to the human side

Thomson talks about the program’s promise to devel­op humans first, soc­cer play­ers sec­ond”. And here’s some good news for any­one look­ing to play for IMG: Thomson says he’s look­ing for thinkers — espe­cial­ly ones who aren’t afraid to take an edu­cat­ed risk.