From football addicts to analysts in a sports tech company: Meet Track160's analysis team
The world of football data analytics is advancing at an inconceivable rate. There are more and more success stories told about clubs bringing new people into their ranks and getting incredible results. Not the people you’d expect to join a football club, but astrophysicists and mathematicians. Clubs and players have been taking advantage of their services, to improve their play and improve their hires - or, for players, to get better contracts and transfers. Tech companies in the field see what is happening, and just like football teams, recruit high-quality talent. We at Track160 are no different; we recruited football analysts to help us stay at the forefront of the trends in football and to know better than others how to keep our fully automated analytics platform modern and adapt it to our customers’ needs.
This is where all the magic happens... Track160's team of analysts at work
Roy Shelly, Daniel Focsi, Maor Yamin, and Geva Alon are four analysts who currently work at Track160. They all share an uncompromising love of sports and especially of football. Some studied sports psychology and communication, some were referees or coaches, but all of them have experience as analysts, some in the biggest clubs in Israel. They all know the local field well, and the unique challenges in bringing analytics to a country that is not one of the elites.
We had a conversation with them and heard their insights about working in data analytics and where they believe the data revolution is headed. This is only part 1 of the interview, we advise you to stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.
“Sports has always been around me, both as a fan and as a competitive athlete. When I was discharged from the military, it was clear to me that this is what I wanted to do,” says Daniel Focsi (28). After he was licensed to be an analyst, he joined one of the finest youth divisions in the country as an analyst.
"Sadly, as football analytics is still underdeveloped in Israel" (Daniel)
"Sadly, as football analytics is still underdeveloped in Israel, there aren’t enough full-time analyst positions”, he says. “When you look at big clubs in Europe, you see they have a tactical analyst, a video analyst, a data analyst, a set-piece analyst, and others. Here, we don’t have that. I wanted to work as a football analyst as a full-time job, so while I was working for the club I also looked for another job. I found Track160.”
The reality Daniel describes isn’t unique to Israel. It exists in most non-elite countries. The current reality is that only one percent of football teams use data. The rest either give up or only use partial solutions. When we ask the four why this happens, we get four different answers, all ranging from a lack of exposure to a lack of openness and fear of progress. “People fear what they don’t understand,” Roy Shelly (24) explains. Like Daniel, he came to Track160 to work full-time in football analytics. “They don’t know that solutions like Track160 exist, and they don’t understand just how much Track160 can help them. Each one has his own method, his own way, and his own knowledge. What he knows is best and nobody should tell him anything else. There’s an element of rigidity.”
“People fear what they don’t understand" (Roy)
Geva Alon (26), a trained coach and a current analyst for Track160, suggests another possibility. “I don’t think everyone knows these solutions exist, and furthermore, that they can fit any level. If someone did a survey and asked sub-elite clubs like the ones that we have in Israel, I’m sure 80% wouldn’t even know such a solution exists".
"Afterwards you can get into the weeds of whether or not they want it and why, and hear the issues of ‘I’m old school and I don’t want it' or ‘I can’t afford it’. But I think the real problem is that people don’t even know a method exists where you just install a camera and get automatic event tagging and a complete data set.”
"I'm sure 80% of the clubs in Israel don't even know solutions that fit them exist" (Geva)
Maor Yamin (25), who worked at the youth division of Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Israel’s most decorated and successful club (“a wonderful school for football”), provides an example of the gap between the bigger football countries and Israel. “I had the good fortune to participate in Colin Chambers’s and Steve Rowley’s scouting course in London,” he tells us.
“The instructors were 60-70. Sly old foxes, people who know everything about football. They’re the old generation, people you’d think are ‘outdated’, but their courses had material about using the most advanced tech around in analytics. I’m sorry to say it’ll take at least another 20 years to arrive here.”
Took a scouting course in London and came back with clear conclusions (Maor)
Daniel thinks the issue is in the often ego-driven field of football. “A lot of coaches think that if you’re not a football player, you have no insight or valid contributions. In their eyes, if you’re an analyst then sure, you can look at video, but you’ll never truly understand football. That’s how they look at everyone who enters the field from outside. It’s unwise, but that’s what’s going on. As I see it, we’re close to the technological revolution, but still far from the personality revolution.”
In case you're wondering about the solution our analysts help us polish, here's an intro