Improving player performance: It’s all about communication

When you think of professional sports players training and improving their game, naturally you assume that the bulk of the work will happen on the pitch.

While there can be no substitute for on-pitch practice, increasingly clubs are relying on technology to provide deeper insights as to player performance.

On the rugby pitch, it is critical that professional coaches are aware of detailed and insightful statistics around their players’ contributions - such as the distances covered on the pitch, accuracy of passing and success rates of line-outs and penalties, for example.

But having access to this information alone isn’t enough. It needs to be accurately and concisely communicated to players, so they can learn how to improve their game, and this is where technology can play an even more important role.

When Bath Rugby moved into its prestigious new HQ and training centre at Farleigh House, it was the understanding of the role of technology that formed a key part of its journey to becoming the best club in the world. This move represented an opportunity to change and improve the way the whole club operated, enhancing its player development to ‘find that extra one per cent’ that can make the difference.

One of the main ways Bath Rugby is looking to find that one per cent difference is its new ‘player first’ approach to training and development. Toby Booth, First Team Coach at Bath Rugby, has championed this change explaining how it will help players to understand “what’s going on around you in a game and being able to adjust on the run to different situations."

Technology and the ‘new approach’

Technology - such as interactive whiteboards (IWBs), projectors and digital signage – which have been installed in training and analysis rooms, perform a key role in the club's knowledge-based player first strategy. The IWBs are used to access and present information in a dynamic, interactive way, so coaches and players can communicate and collaborate effectively.

For example, the IWBs enable coaches to watch and analyse footage of a Bath Rugby match, an opposing team or individual players. Match sequences can be played and paused at the touch of a button so coaches can mark up the screen image, interact with players and discuss ways to improve play in an open, honest forum. Content from an IWB, such as training session analysis of an individual player, can be saved and emailed to the player easily or printed and handed out more widely.

The technology enables coaches to keep meetings shorter and maintain stimulation. With over 30 matches a season, it is easy for feedback to become repetitive, so it needs to be as engaging as possible. Furthermore, younger players will have grown up with technology at the tip of their fingers, so this helps coaches to adapt their methods, using technology to analyse, communicate and instil the information that they are going to need to make the right decisions on the field for the match ahead.

For coaching and player development, one of the key benefits of technology has been to improve the communication of, often complex, information in a quick and easy-to-absorb manner- “making better players and giving ourselves a better chance of winning” as Booth describes it.

And that’s exactly what this is about. By combining technology with traditional coaching methods, sports clubs enable their coaches to communicate more insightful performance analysis, providing players with the best possible platform for development; a truly winning partnership.

Charles Moloney, Marketing Director, Ricoh UK