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STATSports leading the way for GPS tracking

Big-name Premier League clubs have chosen to partner up with STATSportswho are industry leaders in providing GPS tracking systems and analysis. 

Up to five of the top six in the league have already made the switch to STATSports, including Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur – while the service is used by the majority of fellow Premier League sides.

These Premier League clubs have worked closely with STATSports as they developed Sonra 3.0 and Sonra Live which is the latest software upgrade that the Premier League will be set to receive – featuring marketing-leading analysis platforms and further improvement on athlete monitoring.

STATSports are widely regarded across professional football – in addition to their big-name Premier League clients, they also push further into the English FA and abroad across the world, venturing out to the likes of Paris Saint Germain and Juventus. 

STATSports were involved in the Project Restart by informing the Premier League with a Player Proximity Report, using their data to show which type of sessions would cause players to come to together more often. STATSports offers a quick and time-effective process, with download times four times faster than any platform. It means receiving results from a typical session for a squad of players would take under two minutes. 

For elite clubs, Sonra 3.0 is the ideal go-to solution and it further streamlines and enhances performance with a host of new features that will make a difference. Sonra 3.0 is the brand-new product launch by STATSports and the latest offering for anyone looking to acquire their very own GPS tracking and analysis. 

Among the key inclusions, session planning features have been added to the calendar, allowing club performance departments to map up training cycles for weeks in advance. Video integration in the Video Manager has been developed further while adding a full squad 2D positioning. There is also a Scientific Calculator, allowing practitioners to create bespoke custom metrics based upon their own requirements.

Users are now able to choose between ‘Light’ and Dark’ modes as they can customise their preferred theme when on the app. 

The launch of Sonra 3.0 has coincided with the introduction of a new iPad application called Sonra Live, enabling coaches to monitor training in real-time. 

Sonra Live’s real-time data has been independently validated to form a perfect correlation with downloaded data, making this the most accurate live-monitoring solution of its kind. Coaches can then make instant, informed and impactful decisions for anything they intended to achieve. 

Sonra Live features team-level reporting, detailed individual-player dashboards, drill cutting for precise session analysis, post-session reporting via PDF/CSV and synchronisation to desktop applications for further analysis. 

STATSports’ on-board metric processing means there will be no data drop-out and they are the only provider in the industry to give 100% identical live and post-session download data quality.  

With flawless results, this puts the power in the end users’ hands to make immediate decisions with confidence no matter what they want to do. Coaches can set multiple thresholds for individual players or full squads, while multiple coaches can each monitor their own iPads simultaneously. 

“This is an exciting day for STATSports and the many teams we work with. This is another major advancement in the level in which coaches and managers can monitor their players,” STATSports co-founder, Sean O’Connor said. 

“Technology is now truly integrated into the game and we have played our part in that. We have worked closely with those teams during lockdown and also used the time to finalise the development of our new Sonra platform – we’re confident that our clients will further benefit from working with us through the introduction of this.” 

The creation of both Sonra 3.0 and Sonra Live reaffirms STATSports’ commitment to being the industry leader in GPS tracking and innovations for this space, supplying this resource to world-renowned clubs. 

“We have really enjoyed developing this new software platform. Time is a key commodity for clubs,” STATSports co-founder, Alan Clarke said. 

“The quicker they can make decisions with reliable and accurate feedback, the greater the edge they have on their competition.  

“We will continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and ensure athletes can do the same on the training pitch and the competitive environment.” 

For more information on STATSports, you can find it here.

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Liam Watson is a Senior Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on international football policy, industry matters and industry 4.0

Q&A with Heidelberg United Technical Director Daniel Girardi

Daniel Girardi is the current technical director at Heidelberg United FC. He has previously worked at various clubs across Australian football, including Adelaide United, where he was a scout and an assistant to then head coach of the youth team Michael Valkanis.

Girardi has transferred the wealth of knowledge he has picked up over the course of his coaching career to spearhead the current youth development program at Heidelberg.

Girardi, alongside other coaches and staff, have implemented a philosophy at the club that focuses on critical areas to develop young footballers.

For example, it’s not enough to just develop a footballer, but rather a ‘total footballer’ that is a good person, friend and member of the community. Alongside having the technical, tactical and physical skills, Girardi believes it is necessary to exhibit good behaviours on a consistent basis.

Training programs are based around emphasising individual development within a team context, whilst coaches working with their different squads are encouraged to collaborate together as a unit to focus on the long-term development of players.

In a wide-ranging interview with Soccerscene, Girardi further explains why the youth development setup at Heidelberg has been successful, his career progression, the importance of a national second division, his own views on coaching standards in Australia and more.

First of all, tell me a little bit about your personal career in football and how you ended up in coaching?

I started playing in Adelaide. Like any junior you go through the ranks of a club, I went through Adelaide Blue Eagles. I went on to play with the senior team, from there I had coaching opportunities but I was very naïve and I didn’t want to take them. My senior coach at the time, Zoran Karadzic, said to me ‘Daniel, to be an even better player you need to understand the little intricate things, things that you don’t see that we need to see as coaches’. So at an early age of 17, he asked me to coach a junior team (under 8’s) so I did that while I was still playing. Then from there I went into further coaching, I became a junior technical director and coached all the way through from juniors to eventually senior head coach.

From there I moved to Adelaide United, Michael Valkanis asked me to come and join the team there. I joined United as a scout, as well as an assistant to the youth team, and that’s where my football mindset and career met as one. I honestly thought to myself ‘you can do this as a full-time job’. In Australia it’s very difficult, but at the same time you can put a program together to make it work. I tried to make it work now in my daily life, but again it’s very difficult. You have to coach early mornings and late at night, but it’s a passion that’s why you do it.

At Adelaide, I got to work with Josep Gombau, Michael Valkanis, Angelo Costanzo, Guillermo Amor and Pau Martí. Between all of them, my acceleration as a coach grew exponentially. Just the understanding, the little things that they can teach you about what to look for in a player, how to run, when they should pass the ball, timing, things like that, where in Australia we are not there yet. It was good for me to understand that the game is very simple but it’s the hardest thing to do. People talk about playing simple, but what does that mean?

There are 6 basic style rules that govern football throughout the world. If I see you, you see me, there’s a line of pass, we pass that ball. If there’s no line of pass, I need to run with the ball in order to find the next line. After that, the third rule being if you can’t find a line of pass and you can’t run with the ball, you need to protect the ball. We never player square – that allows counter attacks. Receiving always with your furthest foot so that you can face forward and no two players should be in the same line.

Would you say that standards and methods in local coaching have improved over the period of time since you began coaching?

That’s a hard question. I think the general understanding has improved. People are watching a lot more football, they understand they need to keep the ball and not give it away. But actually understanding the way you keep the ball is very different. In Europe, from a very young age, positionally, kids know where they are on the pitch. Kids know where they shouldn’t be, they know who they should pass to and when they shouldn’t pass to those players.

In Australia, people just see a pass and they just pass the ball. They are not understanding that if I pass the ball the wrong way to my teammate, not to his furthest foot, I’ve put them under pressure straightaway. If I don’t pass that ball with the right ball speed, I’ve put them under pressure straightway. When a player runs with the ball, does he or she use the furthest foot so their body is between the opposition player and the ball? What is the player’s orientation to the player with the ball and without? What’s their orientation to the defender? So, there’s the little things, I don’t think the level of detail is there in Australia yet.

Tell me a little bit about your current role at Heidelberg and your overall involvement in the current youth set up at the club. How did it come about?

I was speaking with George Katsakis a couple of years ago and he asked me if I was interested to join the club as technical director. At the time, I said yes I’d definitely be interested. Heidelberg is a big club. Heidelberg in the last five-six years is one of the best clubs in the country, because of the guidance from the board, Steve (president) and George as senior coach. So, I joined knowing that we are trying to develop players for that senior team. That’s what the goal always is.

However, we focus on how we can accelerate their growth in order to get them to the first team quicker, but at the same time make sure they are our juniors. We don’t want to go and continuously buy players, we don’t want to continuously bring players in from other clubs, we want to bring through our own. We want to have a long-term culture of developing Heidelberg boys and girls. Boys and girls that live in the area, that live and breathe wanting to be a part of Heidelberg, of Alexandros, it means something. To have players who start with our MiniRoos and give them every opportunity to progress into the junior setup and then to the seniors. That’s the main goal.

Heidelberg have strong teams at a junior and senior level across men’s and women’s competitions, what do you think is the formula behind this success in developing young talent at the club?

For me, 100%, having the facility continuously upgraded is so important. You need to have pitches, equipment and the club has always been willing to buy all these things. They’ve bought us new goals, new mini-goals, the smart goal system now, trackers, VEO and we’ve established a new collaboration with Oxidate – we are always cutting edge. So, we are trying to build that DNA and at the same time use technology effectively.

Importantly, we have really good coaches. Brian Vanega (U21s) who unfortunately had to leave due to family commitments, Jeff Olver who has come back to help the club, Renato Liberto (U19s), Adrian Mazzarella (U17s), Sinisha Ristevski (U16s), Jim Daglaras (U15s), Kai Maxfield (U14s); these are all coaches who have either got A licenses or B licenses. They all understand that we are trying not just to look at one team, the U17’s or U19’s or whatever. It’s a culture of looking more at the overall picture, the 200 boys and the 200 girls at the club and saying ‘how can we develop them as a group rather than individually?’ Anyone can go and kick a ball but you can’t play football by yourself, there’s 10 other people on the pitch. So, we focus on how we can get all of them up to the level we want them to be at.

What type of programs, initiatives have you introduced in regards to learning opportunities for other coaches at Heidelberg United? What do you provide coaches at the club with?

We provide them with an innovative online session planning and player management system called SoccerPLAY. It’s got hundreds of different sessions and drills that they can use for ideas to create and implement our methodology. Additionally, at any time, we are able to provide feedback to help improve the sessions and the coaches. At the same time, we also do coach to coach sessions and are always looking to improve the program.

We have a new athlete development and high-performance collaboration with Oxidate, headed by Jacob Falla, which is specifically designed to educate the players about football development, physical performance (strength, conditioning, recovery, nutrition) and overall wellbeing. We have a club philosophy which connects all players via the ‘three wheels’, the Skills Phase for our MiniRoos, Growth Phase for our junior NPL teams and Elite Phase involving our seniors. You are trying to build across these wheels to get them into to the top teams at the club. We continually reassess what we are doing across all the different pathways to make the necessary improvements daily, weekly, monthly and yearly.

A snippet of Heidelberg United’s philosophy.

How crucial do you think a national second division is for the progression of youth development in Australian football?

It’s imperative. I’ve actually spoken with James Johnson and his team about it a few times. I think you need more than just a second division; you need a third division. I think that the NPL should be that you go from that league to a third division and so on. The more levels there are, you give more opportunities to the kids in order to develop at the level that they’re at. At the end of the day, we’re not just trying to develop a footballer. We’re trying to develop good boys, good girls, good sons, good daughters, it’s the overall person we are trying to develop…a total footballer.

The women’s side of the game is seeing huge increases in participation numbers and a home Women’s World Cup is on the way in 2023 which will lead to even more playing the game. How important is it capitalise on this and build female youth development standards and produce the next generation of Matildas?

Again, it’s imperative. The girls’ game has gone from A to Z in the last couple of years and it’s only going to continue to grow. The standard of the girls is phenomenal and improving all the time. It’s so important that the football community and country get behind the Women’s World Cup. I’ve coached girls’ teams and their enthusiasm for the game and desire to improve is brilliant. We need to capture that and harness it for both the girls’ and boys’ games to make a better competition for Australian footballers going forward.

Second Spectrum: The technology behind MLS and Premier League

Second Spectrum are the world leading manufacturer of machines which understand sports and the experts at creating value from tracking data.

Founded in 2013, the industry innovators create tools designed to help teams gain an added advantage over their opponents. Their range of cutting-edge technology in computer vision, machine learning, big data, augmented reality and product design ensure that teams & leagues are assured a substantial return on their investment.

Considered the most advanced player tracking system in the world, Second Spectrum allows for teams and leagues to understand, evaluate, improve and create content about their game by producing fast and accurate location data.

Second Spectrum boast an impressive roster of partnerships, having been the Official Optical Tracking Provider for the English Premier League since 2019, the National Basketball Association (NBA) since 2017 and for Major League Soccer (MLS) since 2020.

Logo Second Spectrum

In addition, Second Spectrum work across several other leagues and with many other clubs across Europe and the US, with over 100 employees stationed across 5 countries in addition to their headquarters in Los Angeles.

In terms of functionality, the platform combines powerful video querying, intuitive visualisations, advanced statistics and customised reports in one simple interface. These come in the form of automated pre-game, post-game, team and player reports, all of which are delivered to users via automated PDF reports sent directly to one’s inbox that can be amended in keeping with the metrics critical to the organisation utilising the platform.

The platform’s video component can ingest an organisation’s existing video sources or can record games using Second Spectrum’s state-of-the-art camera system. Using the system’s unique and unmatched data set of machine-learned video indexing allows the user to search every game and to find any desired action within seconds.

Second Spectrum struck a partnership with Major League Soccer in February, 2020, marking a significant moment for the league going forward.

Prior to the delayed start of the 2020 season, Second Spectrum installed its state-of-the-art optical tracking system in every MLS stadium. By leveraging their cameras and their cloud-based analytics engine, Second Spectrum were able to provide clubs with data on the location of every player, the referees, and the ball twenty-five times per second throughout the season.

In addition, the software can calculate a player’s speed, acceleration, deceleration and shot velocity, as well as advanced statistics like passing probability and expected goals, in almost real time.

“We’re incredibly excited to partner with MLS and its teams. The combination of our new technologies and capabilities with a forward-thinking organization like MLS creates an exciting future of continued growth and innovation together,” Second Spectrum CEO Rajiv Maheswaran said.

The partnership was seen by MLS as a major stride in their progression and evolution as a league, with Senior Vice President of MLS, Chris Schlosser, acknowledging the opportunities afforded by Second Spectrum coming on board.

“MLS’ partnership with Second Spectrum sets a new standard for innovation in player-tracking in soccer,” he said.

“Along with Second Spectrum, MLS will deliver an enhanced new fan experience, bringing innovation to MLS content while providing MLS clubs and technical staff with new tools to enhance player performance.”

All MLS matches, including MLS Cup Playoffs, the MLS Cup, the MLS All-Star Game and the Leagues Cup & Campeones will be covered as a part of the wide-ranging partnership.

In spite of the impact of COVID-19 on industries across the world, Second Spectrum announced an expanded partnership with the English Premier League and sports tech leader in data & AI technology, Stats Perform, in September, 2020.

The renewed association saw Second Spectrum synchronising its tracking data and Stats Perform’s feeds to add new context and tactical information previously not available. Entitled the ‘Insight Feed’, the collaborative effort is considered to be the most comprehensive and robust set of football data available.

The Premier League were delighted to have developed the feed with Second Spectrum & Stats Perform.

“As the world’s most watched sport league we are delighted to partner with two innovative partners in Stats Perform and Second Spectrum, who have combined to produce a new Insights feed that will enhance storytelling and provide a new perspective of the Premier League to all our fans,” they said.

Second Spectrum added to the Premier League’s enthusiasm.

“We are delighted to partner with organizations like Stats Perform and the Premier League to bring state-of-the-art technology to the highest levels of football,” they said.

“We are excited to show how together we can both improve our understanding of the intricacies of the game and simultaneously move the game forward with the best data and insights that the sport deserves.”

You can find more about Second Spectrum via the link here.

Grassroots sport given new lease of life in Frankston

The Frankston City Council have been provided $2.9 million in funding, part of projects that the Victorian Government has been involved with.

The Frankston City Council have been provided $2.9 million in funding, in a move that forms part of the ongoing community sport and recreation infrastructure projects that the Victorian Government has been involved with since 2014 – exceeding the amount of $1 billion.

Ballam Park, home to the Peninsula Strikers Junior Football (Soccer) Club, were granted $300,000 as an investment towards a new pavilion and an installation of new lighting for two pitches to allow further utilisation of the pitches for training and games.

The club consists of around 300 registered players and a rebuilt facility will ensure that it is inclusive for female participants. This is a boost and reassurance of female participation throughout all age groups.

Players and coaches will be delighted to find that the new pavilion created by the grants will include eight new female-friendly changerooms, kitchen, kiosk, social space, referee changerooms, storage, first-aid accessibility and public toilets. On top of this, there will be new parking facilities with street lighting upgrades for patron safety.

In addition to the Victorian Government’s financial contribution to Frankston City Council’s grassroot clubs, RF Miles Recreation Reserve, home to the Seaford Tigers Football (Aussie Rules), Netball and Cricket Clubs, will receive a new pavilion too.

Following consistent growth of participation numbers for the clubs of the three different codes, they will be treated to a brand new two-storey pavilion to cater for them. This will also include female-friendly changerooms and amenities, social and meeting rooms, first-aid room and umpire changerooms.

The oval at RF Miles Recreation Reserve will consist of a reconfigured larger oval with lighting that will meet to AFL standards. Along with this a new scoreboard, a coach’s box, cricket nets and brand-new netball courts.

All was made possible through the government’s Local Sports Grants initiative. The timing of the announcement and delivery conveniently falls in line with the lifestyle recovery post-covid. As such projects will inherently create much needed stimulating and restoration of the local economies, creating new jobs and bringing communities closer together.

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