Johan Cruyff once said that “You play football with your head, and your legs are there to help you.”

In the past 10 years, there has been a growing emphasis on the processes and structures that surround elite level sports to provide greater intelligence to the players and coaches and to support decisions that are often made in highly pressured, and sometimes emotional situations.

During this big data revolution, the needs of professional teams and federations around the world have also changed. At first, the challenge was simply to capture video and data, and the more a team was able to collect the better.

Today, things have changed. Thanks to powerful and revolutionary tools, these organisations now have everything at hand. Teams can get access to an extraordinary amount of data and so the real challenge is now seeing through this myriad of statistics by centralising information into a central hub and simplifying it into the most relevant insights to be used not just by the analyst or data scientist, but also by the scout, coach, manager, technical director, board or even the owner.

A combination of knowledge and expertise is needed to create solutions to problems like this, so Hudl has launched Hudl Pro Services - a high-calibre consultancy service that combines world-class experience and expertise to solve the biggest challenges in elite sport.

An example here of a coach scouting tool in action.

The Pro Services Team

The Pro Services team is led by Director of Customer Solutions, Ed Sulley. His experience in football spans over two decades, first at Bolton Wanderers before he joined Manchester City in 2008 at the outset of a new era that brought the Citizens to the top of the Premier League.

“During my time at the club, the City Football Group started to grow bigger and became the multiple ownership model as we know today,” said Sulley. “In 2014 I had the amazing opportunity to work with the department tasked with central methodology and connecting how City wants to approach football across all of its clubs around the world. It was an incredible time in my career and I took pride from being the custodian of part of an amazing organisation, but when I was shown the opportunities to go beyond football and to challenge myself in different areas, I thought it was a ‘fork in the road’ moment too good not to explore.”

“Our Pro Services team at Hudl is composed of 11 members, with a collective experience of 131 years of industry knowledge at an elite level across 5 key sports,” explained Sulley. “From Olympics to FIFA and Rugby World Cups, we have worked at the very highest levels of sports, and we’re growing those capabilities in terms of the specialists we have in different sports.”

An executive summary report.

The Challenges of the industry

Regardless of the sport, the level, or the club, teams often want similar things as Sulley explained:

“There are two key themes that we’re seeing across sports. One is player and athlete identification, how organizations around the world - regardless of their level - find the next talent for their teams. The use of data is a great enabler for this.”

“The second theme revolves around coaching. Finding your next coach can be a real challenge,” said Sulley. “Often the route can be quite relationship-based, not so much science is put into that. But we really see the opportunity with the information that we have - with 22,000 global football coaches in our database - to turn it into insightful information to help key decision-makers find their next coaches.”

The service goes beyond just finding coaches in this instance - it’s also about measuring the performance of those coaches.

“We also want to go beyond that and actually track coaches’ performances and competency, helping emerging and established coaches develop and be found,” said Sulley. “We think there’s a benefit in being proactive about this. Coaches will eventually move on, for good or bad reasons, and we created a capability that could be really helpful for teams around the world. We’re very passionate about this.”

You can search through hundreds of thousands of players in the Wyscout database.

Turning data into information

So, turning data into useful information remains one of the biggest challenges in elite sports today. But how can the Hudl Pro Services team help clubs face those challenges?

“In recruitment, for example, you can have hundreds of thousands of active players in the Wyscout database, but how do you filter that down into a set of recommendations that the team can work on?” questioned Sulley. “That’s what we’re trying to help clubs do. For example, we have a customer in the Premier League that got us on board for the last 12 months to help them with exactly this project. It’s about blending the skill sets between experts with years of experience and making sense out of data so both aspects complement each other. We’re also working with a number of customers to bring multiple data sources together and help them shape that into something that they can actually analyze and use. Something they can work with.”

There also are an increasing number of clubs or sports organizations that want to be very defined in how they want to play the game, regardless of the sport. 

“You have to identify that approach and then educate people really well to build the infrastructure around it,” said Sulley. “How do you scout? How do you find your coaches? How do you approach medical and sports science? All these different disciplines must be based on the single identity of how you want to play the game in the first place. We’re actively helping our customers to capture this information and then educate their teams.”

Learn more about Hudl Pro Services.