Ashley Collins isn’t a man used to the concept of “off days”. The Performance Analysis Manager for Collingwood Football Club in Melbourne, Australia, has a lot of responsibility on his plate, and he understands how hard he has to work to avoid squandering his unique opportunity.
Collingwood has three levels (Men’s Senior, Men’s Reserves and Women’s), and Collins is responsible for filming, packaging and analysing the vision from practices and games for each team. It’s a heavy load, but the burden doesn’t slow Collins.
We’re pulling back the curtain on Collingwood’s process and Collins’ various jobs to get a more complete picture of what responsibilities an analyst must handle.
The Magpies record each match from three angles: one behind each goal and one wide shot similar to what is shown on a broadcast. Collins and his team record both practices and games from these views and use Sportscode to code for different aspects of the game plan.
At the conclusion of each practice or game, the analysts will review the vision and decide what’s important for the players and coaches to see. They are also responsible for watching video of upcoming opponents for scouting purposes.
Collingwood also uses vision during the games. Collins is coding throughout the game so, if a coach wants a certain clip to show a player, he can send that down to the sideline.
“We will be continually reviewing passages of play and sending different clips to the bench to show players when they are rotating off for a rest,” Collins said. “We use vision during a game as it is better to show the player what needs to be improved or some positive feedback on they are doing well, rather than to try and explain it to them over a communications system. We expect there to be an almost immediate response to the vision being shown.”
The Meeting Structure
Collingwood has three different types of meetings with its players. Here’s how Collins describes each style:
Full Team Meetings
“The focus of the meeting is on our game style, reviewing our last performance and planning for the upcoming weekend. It’s more of a holistic view of the team. We will typically show something new or scout the opposition preview prior to a training session so the players can go out and attempt to execute our strategy for the weekend. This also gives us an opportunity to review what works and might need to be revisited before the weekend.”
“This is what specifically needs to be shown to the forwards, midfield and defenders. These meetings typically allow for increased player engagement, with players discussing the different roles that need to be performed, providing feedback to their teammates, and seeking clarification on things that might be unclear from the whole group sessions.”
“One on one enables the coach to spend some time and focus on the individual player’s strengths and weaknesses with the aim to create open discussion between the two. The players generally come to these meetings having done some prep work. They have watched their own edits of the game either on one of the iMacs we have setup at the club for the players to use or this year will be be using the Hudl app to provide the players with a copy of the game. This enables the coach and the player to discuss the performance on the weekend and set some goals for the coming week.”
The Big Picture
While the Magpie coaches want to get plenty of vision in front of the players to help them learn, they are also careful not to overwhelm their athletes. They typically limit the players to five sessions (across all three styles) of about 20 minutes apiece.
And when they do meet, Collins says Collingwood tries to keep the meetings concise and to the point. Vision is incredibly valuable, but sticking the players in front of a screen for too long tends to prove counterproductive.
“There is a large amount of vision and statistics available in the AFL, so it is important not to cloud the message you are trying to get across to the players,” he said. “I'd recommend going into the meeting/review session with a plan as to what you want to get out of it. The least amount of time you can spend in a meeting room, the better. Get the players onto the ground trying to implement what you have shown.”
It’s obvious that Collins has a lot on his plate, but he doesn’t back down from the challenge. And while more and more candidates join the pool of potential analysts, Collins encourages the next generation to continue pursuing their passion.
“Get out there and have a go, gain as much experience as you can at whatever level. The best way to learn the fast pace and sometimes stressful nature of elite sport is to try it first hand. Teams will be looking for someone that can come in and gain.
“Because it's worth it, once you're in.”