Video Analysis Fires Townsville to Championship Success
Three WNBL championships in the past four years is a real success story — learn how video analysis helped the Australian Townsville Fire get there.
The man behind the laptop at Fire HQ is technical coach Paul Foster. He and his laptop play an incredibly important role in helping the players and coaches improve.
“I support the head coaches and assistant coaches with scouting of the opposition by managing the video editing, and delivering it in a way where they can effectively view it,” said Foster. “I’ll also do some statistical analysis for the team, and then I’ll give them a preliminary forward scout of the opposition.”
Specific metrics for opposition scouting
The specific metrics produced by Sportscode allow the Fire staff to carry out the most valuable analysis.
“This year we set up databases with footage from the season before, so that I could go in and see which coach usually runs the same sort of offensive sets,” said Foster. “You can go in and see for example, which type of set plays they had run for their last three games and then the different kinds of sets that were being called.”
Then comes individual player scouting. This allows the Fire to be even better prepared for specific match-ups.
“So when I go to two particular players, I try to label the players into the offensive instance in Sportscode, and then that would then give me more statistical basis to be able to have a good look at a player,” said Foster. “For example, how many times are they in a two-point make with a player, or the player might always be in the on-ball screen situation before they score.”
For Fire head coach Claudia Brassard, the visuals are important. The best way for the team to know where their on-court decision making could be improved is to show them exactly what happened.
“An effective field goal is a really big one we look at,” said Brassard. “Some shots are worth more than others to us, for example taking a two-point, mid-range jump shot at the wrong point in the shot clock is a low percentage play, and that’s not our style. We show the players we don’t want that shot at that time and can back that up with footage.”
And they don’t only look at the offense — defensive analysis is included too. The Fire use video review to improve play on both sides of the ball.
“A big focus of ours is to try to generate more possessions for us, or limit possessions from the other team, both offensively and defensively,” said Brassard. “So we look at where and when we’re committing our fouls, and how we can be more disciplined and smarter with that.”
The coaching workflow
A usual week for Coach Foster involves completing a live code and analysis of the Fire’s last match in Sportscode, as well as producing an opposition scout for upcoming games. With games coming thick and fast, Hudl Assist allows for analysis to be completed quickly.
“I’m always trying to get everything done for the last three games for that team that we just faced, or that we’re facing next weekend,” said Foster. “So using the XML files from Hudl Assist is a godsend because I am able to break down these games faster and get that information to the coaches by Wednesday, so that by Thursday they can complete the scout of the opposition.”
Video helps the Fire to Championship glory
Their analysis directly impacted key results for the team in the 2017⁄18 WNBL finals series, which ended in victory for the Fire.
“After doing a Hudl level-two course and attending a conference in Sydney, I came back and I changed all our code windows and made a lot of things easier for me and the team, as well as getting other teams databased,” said Foster. “Then when we got to the grand final against Melbourne, we had a lot of stuff databased in the bank that we could go back to throughout the season. So the three games that we played them we used both Sportscode and Hudl to get the statistical data to see what line-ups worked for us against Melbourne, and who our plus and minus lineups were on the court.
The ability to produce quick scouting reports using video became crucial to the Fire’s Grand Final run as Coach Foster travelled down to Melbourne for game one of the series and coded the game live in order to have the scouting report ready for the team for game two.
“On the turnaround to come back home after game one, I already had that game cut up so that we could analyse it and know what we need to do to hopefully win the championship in the next game,” said Foster. “It ended up being a pivotal moment as we won the championship. Hudl and Sportscode were key to us achieving our goals.”
Working on a budget in the women’s game
While there have been significant improvements in recent years, funding continues to be restrictive in women’s sport throughout Australia. With budgets generally being much lower than their male counterparts, monetary investments must be deemed absolutely necessary in order to be approved. Coach Foster has long been a proponent of Hudl’s video analysis tools and he was able to convince the Fire’s hierarchy that an investment in video analysis was an investment in the development of their coaches and players.
“The biggest thing is we have a director now with the Fire who is very technical and statistically focused,” said Foster. “Video analysis is actually seen as a cost effective solution and they can see the benefits. I remember when we won the championship, I had the coaches and assistant coaches coming up to me saying you saved us hours of time and you helped us out immensely, as beforehand we were behind a screen for hours working.
“So ultimately I think it is a cost-effective solution because it helps in several areas, including your performance on the court. Your athletes understand what they need to do. It also gives the athletes the feedback they need to improve their game. It’s also a bonus for your team to have an analyst or someone like myself doing that job.”
Coach Brassard needs video to coach effectively because it frees up resources.
“Before Hudl and Coach Foster, game analysis was an assistant coach’s job. But now our assistants have more time to spend our players,” said Brassard. “It’s all about us being better and more efficient.”
“We certainly want to win another championship,” said Brassard. “We’re always chasing success. Video is now proven within our team that it’s a big part of our success and we definitely value that. “It’s about being the best and getting the best out of players and making sure that we do that in a variety of ways. The video tools we have now allow us to do this.”