Sierra Leone Craig Bellamy Foundation Performance Analytics Powered By Performa Sports
Tom Legg, Head of Performance Analysis at the Craig Bellamy Foundation (CBF) in Sierra Leone, Africa, spoke to the Sports Techie community blog from the UK via Skype about their sports analytic operations and player development program that are further along than other African Nation because of their partnership with Performa Sports, and use of their real-time analysis iPad application. We discussed the Foundation’s Charitable Football Academy‘s innovative structures, coaches, player development and player communication. Legg informed me about their recent travels to the Milk Cup tournament in Northern Ireland, the first time anyone on the team had traveled outside their country. Finally, Legg shared his thoughts about the Ebola epidemic plaguing West Africa. No doubt about it, these special Sierra Leone children are Sports Techie through and through.
Craig Bellamy Foundation Academy
The CBF operates Sierra Leone’s only professional football academy, on a non-profit basis, providing financial assistant to children in need. Former football professional Craig Bellamy, started the Charity that operates the National Youth Football League, originally with support from UNICEF. The concept offers underprivileged children a life-changing, grassroots opportunity to achieve their potential through a combination of sport and education.
Performa Sports’ Marketing & Communications Director Joe Turley said, “The inspiring work of the Craig Bellamy Foundation and the Academy coaching team in Sierra Leone immediately captured our interest, respect and ‘desire to help’.”
The National Youth League is the only one of its kind in Sierra Leone. It has 2,400 registered kids across the country on U-14 and U-12 teams that affects these youth with social welfare and a sporting platform. The CBF development program has teams that range from U12 to U18. Each is coached by compassionate and highly technical trained staff. Legg explained that an annual scouting process happens where a small group of children, from ages 10 -12, are offered a free, five-year scholarship to the Academy.
By identifying the nation’s best youth talent and then providing educational and soccer opportunities, both in Sierra Leone and abroad, a powerful, sports tech driven football model has been established, driven by Performa Sports mobile performance analysis software since 2013.
The Academy’s football department trains individual players with a custom set of key development indicators for each stage of improvement. The Performa Sports application allows the CBF a digital ability to visually communicate match performances with youth who have never seen this type of coaching style, or sport tech products and resulting data before. All the metrics can be exported to smartphones and tablets. The kids have Nokia phones with video capability but do not own personal iPhones.
Placement and trials outside the continent with professional European and US clubs and colleges is changing the lives of these fortunate children, who otherwise may face a grim future or even death at the hands of civil war soldiers, as happened to one of the kids whose life was spared by an officer.
CBF Soccer Programs
The teams have a table that track team points earned by winning games, fair play and sportsmanship performance, school attendance records, and via proactive programs that involve cleaning workshops that are designed to help stop the spread of Ebola, HIV and cholera.
The four-year CBF program has 4 tiers. The first tier, sends 14-year old boys on academic scholarships to America where they are housed in California and attend Dunn High School. The second tier, starts at age 16, where the Hartbury School in West England, acts as a secondary school providing an academic and sporting path. The third stage, is an opportunity for kids to be placed in vocational work around Sierra Leone in Industries such as finance, banking and manufacturing, where the end goal for each player is to aspire to learn more career and life skills. The last tier, begins when players reach the age of 18, they are then considered in pre-contract mode and can be transitioned for transfer to European clubs. The first CBF generation is just reaching this stage, and pioneer Santigie Kroma, has been placed with a Danish football organization. He is now a role model for first and second generation CBF players.
A normal workweek starts on Friday when they select the team using the app. Saturday, consists of game play and filming. Sunday, Legg tags the players from the game film. Monday, they process and generate match reports. Tuesday, Legg prints out team reports, creates play lists and view of screens, and holds player led meetings where they use diagrams and screen shots to communicate more efficiently. Wednesday, they have individual meetings where compiled video are looked at and open-ended questions are asked of each athlete by staff members.
Legg emphasized how the boys were playing in their first European youth soccer tournament in a different environment and culture. The added pressure of playing in the Milk Cup over three days with officials was also a new experience. All previous games were friendlies played in Sierra Leone with no refs. The goal of the staff was to maximize the learning experience via measurement, communication and teaching using Performa Sports performance analysis iPad app and cloud platform.
The management team structured their pre, during and post tournament KPIs with flexibility to adapt live-game KPIs to specific game situations. Fact and numbers were generated for the coaches and players benefit each game for improved learning.
CBF use Performance Analysis at the Milk Cup to improve player learning
Live Game Analysis
While in Ireland he was able to use the Live Game Tagging feature set in a game environment for the first time. The coaches used numbers but no rendered video clips at halftime. “Number don’t lie, the data has no coach bias,” said Legg. The routine in place was to have the players watch halftime video, see what they did well and how the team needs to improve in attacking and defending conditions, and adjust their tactical play.
The KPI assigned to each player calculated winning plays, most headers and successful challenges, became a revealing and tremendous learning tool at halftime. The first generation of CBF players has different KPIs than the younger second generation players do. First gen breakdown technical based data while second gen cover tactical based KPI. Legg said, “I use the mobile real time performance tagging, video analysis and visual communication tools that are integrating with a cloud platform for data sharing and extended trend analytics.”
Because of the Sierra Leone culture, Legg mentioned how the players felt compelled to perform a “Take-On” – which are one-on-one attacking plays. One CBF player had 12 “Takes” or, “Take-Ons” – while the opposing team had zero total takes. He looked at the percentages of shots inside the box, headers won and lost, or what is considered aerial draws, (which was very one-sided since their team was not effective in the air being so small in height overall compared to their taller European opponents), possession was measured in the final third of the field, and so on. As a result of the halftime communication, the second half performance saw progression, an increase in quality play and aggression on defense.
CBF Football Academy Milk Cup Goals Highlights
One of the players to keep an eye on is Mustapha Bundu. Legg said Bundu is the kind of explosive player who gets by using 60 percent of his talent and ability because he is often not challenged in practice so a move overseas is in his best interest where the level of overall talent will be increased, pushing him to learn to play at 100 percent at all times.
Tom, @tomlegg, is the U18 Head Coach & Head of Performance Analysis at the CBF. He is also the Head of Performance Analysis for the Sierra Leone men’s national team. He also did some 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil related work. All this and he is he but 27 years-old. Legg scouted for my hometown Seattle Sounders FC organization of the MLS, just a few years ago throughout Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. The staff works 3 months on and 1 month off so I caught him up in England for this interview.
Legg will sit down to review performance and games with each player on the iPad after every game, then offer a more thorough review every three months, and another over the past year.
He creates compilations of players in order for them to improve upon and appreciate certain moments of game. Any reference clip can be exported to phones and watched at the dormitory or on the pitch by the players. He has produced reference clips of Ronaldo, Messi and Balotelli from YouTube videos and compared plays they made with his players moves so his kids are better able to visualize skills and improve muscle memory.
Another digital tool he uses are video football dairies that record players talking about their performances, team tactics and their personal feelings.
For further information:
Performa Sports is an innovative sports technology business focused on evolving the role, speed, ease-of-use and function of mobile and cloud technology as a game-changer in sports performance analysis. Based in Co. Armagh, N. Ireland, the company’s pioneering real-time performance analysis iPad Application is currently deployed in 98 Countries across Soccer, Rugby, GAA, Hockey, Tennis and Ice Hockey.
Performa believes in opportunity and accessibility for all levels to engage with performance analysis and are proud to work with an international base of grassroots to elite level clubs, these include MLS club Houston Dynamo, Linfield FC, Donegal GAA, Kilmacud Crokes GAC, Cascais RFC (Portugal), West Bromwich Albion FC, Tennis Ireland, Guilford Grammar School (Australia), California State University, Belfast Giants Ice Hockey and the Craig Bellamy Foundation Football Academy (Sierra Leone).
For further information:
Sports Techie, The International staff at the CBF in West Africa is to be commended for their committed to the kids at a time when the Ebola virus is killing people at unprecedented levels. Over 2,4oo people have been killed in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria in the past several months, according to the World Health Organization.
Here in Atlanta, the CDC just released two American aid workers from Emory University hospital after receiving the experimental drug, ZMapp, that may or may not have played a part in clearing them of being contagious, according to doctors and medical staff.
Hopefully, the medicine was indeed a game-changer in the fight to eradicate this mostly lethal disease. Tom explained that people of West Africa are very touchy, feely when it comes to greetings and conversations, with many handshakes and hugs being part of the traditional means of communication. In addition, the locals are not able or do not wash their hands as often as other countries, which has led to the spread of Ebola. My heart and prayers go out to these stricken nations and to the CBF in their time of need.
Over his two years as coach, Legg has seen the progression and growth of the first gen with a pride much like a Fathers. The players talk and discuss their performances with each other and the CBF staff. The kids lead the team in training sessions and film review preparing them for the next levels of competition.
I asked Tom if the CBF and the SLFA was ahead of other Africa nations in term of soccer analytics. His response was a resounding, “No doubt.”
Legg felt that not only was the Sierra Leone ODP and CBF program ahead of all African nations in terms of advanced performance analysis, but may even exceed what several European countries have in place.
“African Federations are at a crossroads,” says Legg. They are beginning to integrate performance analytics into National Team and Youth League development but have been slow in the process. I advise them to give Performa Sports an immediate shout.
My thanks to Tom for his candor about the CBF, Performa soccer analytics and the state of West Africa. I speak on behalf of the global Sports Techie community when I say we are all in this fight to win the battle against Ebola together as one people.
See y’all later here in Atlanta.
I will see ya when I see ya, THE Sports Techie @THESportsTechie – http://twitter.com/THESportsTechie
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