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  • Josh Bryan

Gloucester Rugby move from SportsCode to Nacsport

We are delighted to announce that before the start of the 2017/18 Aviva Premiership Rugby season, Gloucester Rugby will now be using the Nacsport video analysis software instead of the SportsCode software they have used previously. Gloucester Rugby have entered into a 5-year agreement to use a combination of 9 Nacsport Elite and 10 Nacsport Viewer licences among their analysts, coaches and players at both 1st team and Academy levels.

A few weeks ago, Josh caught up with Gloucester Rugby’s coaching staff to go through some of the key workflows they will be using with their new Nacsport software. The coaches reflected on how their reviews and presentations back to players were going to become more easy and efficient, especially thanks to the Nacsport Presentation Window and integrated KlipDraw tools that Gloucester Rugby will also use. After this, Josh interviewed Darren Lewis to find out more about the video analysis processes used at the club, moving over to Nacsport and what this means for the “Cherry & Whites”:

Hi Darren, please could you introduce yourself and give us an overview of your role at the club?

Hello, my name is Darren Lewis and my role is Head of Analysis Department at Gloucester Rugby. The department consists of myself, Tom Reynolds who works supporting the first team players and coaches and James Macfarlane who is the Academy analyst and works with the Academy coaches, but also helps with some elements of the first team’s analysis provision. Between the three of us we facilitate the analysis resources for the players and coaches at the club. The working week is usually pretty full-on with reviews of our last match, previews of our next opposition and training sessions with micro reviews after each session for different player groups. We film all our training sessions with at least two cameras and when the weather is good, we use a DJI Phantom Drone which gives us a great perspective of our sessions. We help the coaches prepare for our games by creating content of our opposition’s last performances and analysing certain things to make sure the coaches have a full overview of the team we’re about to play, so they can develop the approach for that specific week as well as helping to review our own game tapes. Lots of our content starts as big files of video, which is then edited down into the most important things our players need to know, to give them the confidence to take the field as prepared as possible. We also analyse all of our training sessions. It’s the time on the training field that is so important, so what we provide for the players and coaches in terms of our training resources is crucial, it’s a huge learning environment so it’s important we take as much out of what we practice as possible. This manifests itself into micro meetings after sessions and content being sent out to players remotely, so there’s a fair bit of work that goes into analysing training before 3pm kick offs on a Saturday. Our game day work is all about trying to make a difference in game. That’s mainly for the coaches really, but I do provide little snippets of things I’m seeing as the game is going on along with Tom who is registering the game live so that at the final whistle, our coaches can take away four views of the game with analysis they can begin to create their debriefs with. Several of our coaches create their own clips as well, but they have the instances that we’ve created during the game to work with and save them time too. Post game, myself and Tom will register individual involvements for each player, tackles, carries, kicks etc., and this data along with the data from a team perspective makes its way into a post-match report, which is used by the coaches to help their review process and the conditioning staff to understand what the players went through physically in the game. Then on Monday, the review process begins and the preparation for the following weeks game will follow on from that. I work a week in advance so that the coaches have everything for the team we’re playing the following week in plenty of time. We then have a meeting to discuss what each person has seen and come up with a rough idea of the approach tactically and anything I’ve seen that the opposition may throw at us we need to be aware of. This will then get firmed up before being delivered to the team and content of training sessions devised. So much of what gets delivered to players is based from learnings taken from video. Modern sport relies hugely on vision to allow for medics to see injury mechanism, S&C to look at motion around the field and of course tactics to be devised on the opposition and individual reflection to take place from the players. There are lots of moving parts to the analysis department’s working week which mean you need to be on top of everything, because the days go pretty quickly week to week in season. I like to get into the office early so that I can get things done before players start to come in and ask for things and meetings begin etc. because once that happens, getting anything done is tough as there is so much going on. Our office doubles up as the club’s analysis room with a suite of machines for players to do their own analysis. It’s great being in with the players because it means you get to have conversations with them about things they were thinking during games, things I’ve seen they may need to be aware of and of course … help them use the computers. Overall though, our playing group are excellent at navigating the video and looking for things.

Up until recently, all your video analysis work has been carried out in SportsCode but now you are moving over to Nacsport. Were there some key factors which made you want to investigate Nacsport further in the first place?

Correct, I have been a SportsCode and Mac user in the roles I have had since I completed my degree, which was a long time ago now, initially as Bureau Co-Ordinator for the CPA at Cardiff Met working with the WRU (one you’ll have good memories of having worked together on that project), four years as Head of Analysis at Bath Rugby club and in my current role with Gloucester. Well, I’ve actually had half an eye on Nacsport since my time at Bath. I had a demo of the program nearly five years ago now and at the time, I probably didn’t give it the attention it deserved. The reason for that is that to be honest, I didn’t feel it was where it needed to be for it to be a genuine option to consider, and at the time Bath were heavily invested in SportsTec products, so it wasn’t really a good fit to do anything back then. Fast forward five years and the product has transformed, combined with Gloucester’s current situation it means that the time is perfect to make the move. The development and transformation of Nacsport is unbelievably comprehensive and across all parts of the product (as I knew it from the time I had the demo at least). One of the main considerations with what is really and truly a huge change, is that the coaches would be comfortable using the software. The coaches at the club are very good in terms of being able to use what we currently have to prepare for meetings (with a little help here and there of course) and each have slightly different workflow’s but essentially, they have used SportsCode for a long time, so making sure they can continue to be self-sufficient in the way they prepare using Nacsport was a fundamental factor to making the change. Given some of their reactions to the training session you recently delivered, I think it’s safe to say that will not be an issue and if anything will make their lives significantly easier and certainly enhance what they can do with their analysis when they get stuck into it. From my point of view, being able to continue to do some things like use four stacked angles, manage clips for presentations and obviously register live and post event are all key workflows that I’ve used and developed during my career. That’s not to say what I’ve done is the best way to do things and no doubt these workflows will evolve given the possibilities with Nacsport, but it was a reassuring factor in making the decision to change. I’d also be lying if I said the cost of the entire solution wasn’t a factor. It is. Every company has budgets to work to and the fact we are getting way more bang for our buck by making this transition was something that any business would smile at. The cost of hardware has been halved and we’re now working with HP Omens that have the same power as a MacBook Pro for literally half the cost … my Director of Rugby and finance department are very pleased.

With Nacsport already being used in your Academy and after trialling the software yourself, how happy are you that Nacsport will meet all your video analysis needs? Is Nacsport enabling you to do everything you did before?

James has done a fantastic job at integrating Nacsport into the Academy and we have all worked closely together to ensure that what he and the Academy coaches deliver to our younger players is directly in line with what is delivered at senior level. That’s been another benefit of using Nacsport, as it’s ability to import packages from SportsCode and deal with XML and data inputs has meant the link has remained seamless between senior and academy rugby at the club, even though they’re using Nacsport and we’ve been using SportsCode. But, the very short answer to your question about how happy I am that Nacsport will deliver everything we need it to is…YES! We’ve been working on this project for a long time now as there are a lot of factors to consider in making the move to Nacsport, but the more and more I sit on the program, watch the reactions of coaches and players when they see some of the features and how easy it is to use just gives me the absolute confidence that we are going to be able to completely surpass everything I’ve done up until this point (and I’ve still not completely mastered the program). The challenge for myself, Tom and James is to develop the workflows for our coaches and what they want to achieve as well, which can significantly enhance what they do to best prepare the team. We’ll quickly figure out what is going to make the biggest difference and how we can use the vast and varying number of tools we’ll have with Nacsport to their absolute potential. It’s going to take some thinking because in order to maximise the program, I’m going to need to re-think everything we do. From the way we name our files (so we can utilise the search bar and search tool) to the types of data we collect (so our dashboards will be able to paint the best pictures possible) to how our in game analysis and live training analysis can move forward (how our subs and coaches bench can make an impact by utilising play by play) and that’s just to name a few things. It’s going to be a challenge as there are so many components of what the department does to rethink and develop, but one we can’t wait to get into.

As Nacsport is a timeline-based software, I guess there are similarities to your previous workflows, which would bring an initial level of comfort when starting to work with Nacsport. But are there things that you will be able to do in Nacsport that you couldn’t do before in SportsCode, and of those, what do you think will have the biggest impacts for the team?

That’s a good question and my answer will probably be different after six months of using the program day in day out. But I guess the types of things that get done the most are the organising of video clips. This will now be done using the presentation tool and the functionality within this environment of the program is massive. The ease of being able to draw on video especially now with KlipDraw will make a huge impact I think. It’s just so easy, like … too easy. Even Trevor Woodman will be able to get some drawings going haha. No, Trev is very good but in seriousness the coaches will be able to use the all tools with no problems I’m sure. I also think the auto list / auto presentation features will help. We spend a lot of time creating files, searching for things and building packages to share and watch. That time is going to be reduced significantly because we’ll be able to send clips automatically to presentations without spending time searching or waiting for packages to be built. This time will let us be far more productive immediately post game and speed up a lot of processes. The other benefit is that Nacsport viewer allows users to manipulate clips and add notes, which means the players will be able to do more in terms of preparing content that they deliver in meetings, reviewing their own performances and analysing training without relying on Tom or I to put too much together for them. Who knows with all this time saved it might even mean I get to go home early some days! Ask me the same question in six months, as there will be lots that makes an impact so It will be great to answer with the experience in the locker.

Obviously one of the big considerations for you moving over to Nacsport was moving from the Mac platform to Windows. We’ve found that a lot of people have been apprehensive and sometimes worried about this move, which can be surprising to us, but how have your experiences been so far?

I’m the first to admit that was a hugely daunting aspect having used a Mac for work and as my own personal machine. Thinking about it now and having sat on Windows 10 for a period of time, it’s embarrassing to think that the operating system the program runs on could have been a reason for Nacsport not to be considered. It is actually refreshing to work on something different and is no more complicated than Mac OSx which is simple. It’s different yes, not that different but it’s just as easy to use and after a month of working on it day in day out, it will be second nature … it’s just going to take a bit of getting used to shortcuts and keystrokes so that under the pressure of meetings etc., you can navigate anything you’re working in quickly and easily before you start to get “one job” calls from the players when you’ve pressed the wrong button in the middle of a team meeting! When you understand the reasons for Nacsport being built on Windows, it becomes even more apparent that it’s a smart environment to be working in because of its flexibility and customisation ability. Windows is not what it was when I used it before, so anyone using that as a reason not to look into this type of change needs to really think about what is important.

We’ve personally worked together on different projects over the years, but a couple months back we bought over the Nacsport co-founder and Head Developer, Alberto Rodriguez, to observe your current workflows both at the training ground and at one of your matches in Gloucester. We all really enjoyed this opportunity to see the inner workings of the team and your video analysis processes, especially as it was Alberto’s first live Rugby game! But from your side, how have you found communicating with the Nacsport team and seeing the way that they work with you?

Alberto, the Gandalf of the programming world ha! It has been remarkable to be honest. The open mindedness to look at things we were trying to achieve and then find the easiest and most effective way to get it done is exceptional. He and the rest of his team have done a great job putting the program where it is, of course yourself and AnalysisPro have been huge parts of that too. We’ve worked together on a lot of stuff yeah, so I know that with AnalysisPro when you say you’re going to do something, it’s going to happen and it’s the same with Nacsport and Alberto, which as a customer making a significant change is totally refreshing. What I was hugely impressed with and also respected hugely is that everything we looked at and discussed with Alberto when he visited and in our chats is his ability to just ask “why?”. He wants to know why we do things the way we do, which puts pressure on you to think “I need a good reason for this” and also keeps you thinking about what you are trying to achieve with whatever tools you’re working with and whether you are doing that the most effective way. As well as looking forward to working with the actual product, its hugely exciting for me to be working with AnalysisPro and Alberto and his team because he is going to challenge us and that in turn is going to make us better as a department, which for me is massively important.

In another one of our regular Nacsport updates that came out recently, we integrated the KlipDraw tools into the software. How have you found using this so far with Nacsport and what impression do you think that will have around the team?

So many features to use haha, yeah its brilliant. The players who I’ve shown want more of things like that and the coaches loved it too as I mentioned, but I think It’s going to have a great impact on delivery of messages. Being able to make things nice and clear and also make the content that we put on our online platform alive and easy for our players to understand what messages are being delivered will be fantastic, so it’s a super addition. One of the lads wants to dress up as Gary Neville and do his own Monday night football bit … he’s a Prop so probably has two left feet haha, but it’s been received extremely well so far and we haven’t even shown anything to the squad as a whole yet.

When you started exploring what is possible in Nacsport and whether it could match up to your existing SportsCode workflows, you were keen on talking to some of our existing Nacsport users from different sports. I put you in touch with Kieron Purtill and Ste Mills from Super League side Leigh Centurions, as they have been using Nacsport for a few years with Huddersfield Giants and now Leigh. Do you think that there are good video analysis processes which can be learned from other sports and users and how open do you find people are to sharing their workflows?

100%. It was great to meet those guys and see how they work to try and get a flavour of how Nacsport fits into their day to day operations, but also how highly they spoke of the system. They hadn’t really seen SportsCode so they were interested to see what we do and what they do was developed organically in Nacsport which was great to see. It’s something I am extremely conscious of, I don’t want to do something just because I’ve always done it in a particular way, that just doesn’t make sense to me. So visiting the guys was very valuable to understand how they look at things when Nacsport was put in front of them. It was also great to hear other coaches say how easy they found the system to use, which gave me great confidence that the coaches at Gloucester would have no problems. I actually think sharing is something that doesn’t happen often enough, likely due to busy seasons and schedules, but meeting different coaches and analysts to share ideas and talk all things analysis is only going to make everyone better and improve the value of the work they do within their organisations and what they can provide. It’s not about copying what people do at all, it’s about a community of practice where people are happy to share ideas in the hope they snowball and evolve into something different, hopefully we can get some stuff going in the future. Hopefully Ste and Kieron are going to be able to visit us before the end of the season which will be good and in the future, we can get a user’s conference going which would be great, in Gran Canaria of course (wink wink nudge nudge).

Hopefully you’ve seen from working with ourselves and Nacsport so far that we always try to make our user’s lives easier, by taking on board feedback and requests from all different sports and levels of competition. If there was one thing you could think of now that would make your analysis life easier, apart from a pre-paid Starbucks card, what would that be?

Most definitely, as I mentioned before, it’s so refreshing to have conversations where you know something good will come out of it. Chances are that the ideas that begin with initial seeds of thought often blossom into things you wouldn’t think possible or wouldn’t even have thought of to begin with, or Alberto has already taken steps to develop. That’s all to do with the operating system that Nacsport is built on, the wizardry and un blinkered vision of Alberto and his team who aren’t satisfied unless the program isn’t doing smart, simple and effective things. The fact that working together on this project has been so easy, so productive and ever evolving has been great to experience as an end user, it’s such a positive for me. It’s a really exciting time for us now and I know Tom and James feel the same way, which is great for me to have their support as the department really doesn’t function the way it does without all three of us and their hard work. The support from David Humphreys (Director of Rugby) to allow me to make the decision to transition the club to Nacsport is hugely appreciated. But I’d really like to extend a huge thank you to yourself and AnalysisPro and Alberto and the Nacsport team for everything you have done so far for us. It’s a pleasure to be working with you guys and it is unbelievably stimulating to be working with such a passionate group of people, I feel like this is just the beginning and have no idea where things will be in the next six to twelve months but am excited about the ride! Apart from a pre-paid coffee card … uh … two or three more hours in the day would be great!

We would really like to thank Darren for his detailed insight to the video analysis processes at Gloucester Rugby and sharing how making the move to Nacsport is going to impact the club. We are really looking forward to seeing you guys make the most out of the possibilities in Nacsport!


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