Monday, 17 December 2012
Degrees - Which one suits a Performance Analyst?
In my previous blog about my journey to become a performance analyst I mentioned about a post I was saving around degrees and internships in general.
I've tried to provide a balanced perspective based on my views and experiences of the last 18 months of working in and trying to work in the industry.
Performance Analysis, in fact Sports Science in general, is one of the fastest growing areas of football but one thing that is not growing as much is the number of paid jobs available. Since the Summer of 2012 there have been roughly 10 jobs advertised through various sites with a reasonable salary attached. On the reverse side of this, there have been countless number of Unpaid/Voluntary internships.
There are positive and negative sides to this which I'll map out later but my initial point is around the criteria most of the jobs specify. I'm sure a lot of the people who read my blog who have worked hard for 3 years to gain a Sports Science degree will have opinions contrary to what I've written here and I'm more than happy for any comments to be posted below, I'm interested to know what people who have been down that path think.
Almost all jobs advertising Performance Analyst roles request a degree in Sports Science no matter whether this is for a paid job or an internship. Now, for somebody like me who missed the boat on doing Sports Science degrees (these were very specialised when I went to university) this makes it very hard to even get a foot in the door at most clubs. I fully appreciate the necessity of learning and think that the specific Performance Analysis degrees offered by places like UWIC and Nottingham Trent are excellent.
What I do have a query with is why a Sports Science degree is often cited as mandatory for Performance Analysis jobs. Sports Science degrees tend to cover a wide range of subjects notably Physiology, Psychology and Biomechanics. Most degrees include the OPTION of doing a Performance Analysis module in the final year. This usually involves looking at the range of systems available (Prozone, Sportscode, Dartfish etc) and seeing how they work along with some very brief study into notational analysis. Sometimes the bulk of the module will be around a placement within a club.
Not all degrees are like this I must stress and the specific Performance Analysis ones cover a wide range of methods involved in the subject, as well as a thorough understanding of how they work as well as several placements usually across a variety of sports.
From my experience within the Performance Analysis environment of a club a Sports Science degree is not only not necessary but often useless. There is no more than a basic understanding of Physiology and Biomechanics necessary and much more appropriate degrees would surely be around IT, Economics, Maths or Communications. A few examples to back up my point include complex connection of computer equipment, File Sharing across FTP platforms, Regression Analysis and statistical studies, none of which is taught across the Sports Science degree.
There are other methods of gaining this knowledge, it cannot be stressed how important work experience is and there are several performance analysis courses which look at specific software such as the Prozone & Dartfish courses. It is also always useful to have a good understanding of football in general and the FA Coaching courses help to understand why Performance Analysts look at things in context. In the future I hope the FA take a lead on the field and push specific courses around Performance Analysis, not just how to use the systems but how to actually ANALYSE a game.
In my opinion one of the reasons that a Sports Science degree is requested is a lot of Leads across Football clubs have the same degree and they don't know anything else to ask for.
I'd like to see a club take a step back and think about why they are asking for what they are asking for. Think about what they want the person to know and how that would apply to a degree or what they'd learnt on a degree and how this could help the club.
As I said above, I've tried to be balanced and I'd be interested to hear what people with degrees in Sports Science think and whether the studying they did for 3 years is being utilised in any jobs, paid or voluntary they are doing.
I'll also follow up with a post on my views around Internships soon!
Thanks for reading, comments welcomed.