We are constantly analysing, even if it’s subconsciously. The simplest analyses come every second, our senses generate input and our brain formulates a response based on our “knowledge” or experiences and creativity. Creativity, in my opinion, is the part that is hardest to teach, as it is the ability to be able to see the most varied and original alternatives. Creativity is linked to other, more fundamental qualities of thinking, such as flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity or unpredictability. These elements are vital to analysis, especially when we are talking about performance analysis in sport where the ultimate goal is always to improve, but also any other analysis where there are many variable to adapt to.
So there are three basic elements for a successful analysis: the right tools (as with the senses), knowledge (gained through experience) and creativity. But that is only the one part. When you do an analysis you have to decide your purpose: e.g. what is the best team in the NFL. Next you have to think about the parameters to research, that you think determine your answer. However, staying flexible and adapting your approach is very important incase your analysis throws up new routes. Finally, make sure you keep the bigger picture in mind, because numbers without context are easily misinterpreted.
For example if you have an average CB make 10 interceptions in one year, you may start to think he is better than he is. Then you see that he played 3 rookie QBs, but not only that, they also targeted his side 80% of the time. When you put his numbers into that context they gain a different value, but not only that: your analysis gains more weight.
So to condense:
- decide on the purpose of the analysis – what do you want to find out
- set your initial parameters, considering the context that could effect them
- take the available tools, your knowledge and creativity – analyse
- review from beginning with everything new that you’ve learned in mind
Considering this and the fact that at the moment my main focus of analysis is going to be the NFL, I started thinking about some generic parameters and context to keep in mind when doing my analysis. Initial things to consider for me are:
- Numbers What are the numbers; What factors are behind those numbers
- Time The Now; How does it compare to the past; The outlook for the future
- Attitude The individuality of the player; The attitude of the team; The feeling around the franchise
These contextualised numbers will allow me to do better predictive analysis as well.
Let the fun begin…