Leicester Tigers Leverage Hudl to Prepare

The Leicester Tigers are one of the most success­ful clubs in world rug­by, hav­ing been crowned English Champions ten times and European Champions twice.

Their per­for­mance ana­lyst Simon Barbour is one of the best in the busi­ness, and he invit­ed us to spend an after­noon with his team to learn about their use of Sportscode and video analysis.

On arrival at the Tigers train­ing ground the play­ers are out on the field and Barbour is over­see­ing an impres­sive set­up. An assis­tant ana­lyst han­dles both film­ing and cod­ing on a scaf­fold tow­er, and a sec­ond cam­era hoist­ed on a Hi-pod behind the goal­posts. The footage from this is also being cod­ed on Sportscode from mon­i­tors inside the kit­mans hut.

Barbour is clear­ly pas­sion­ate about the role per­for­mance analy­sis plays at Leicester.

“Video analy­sis is so impor­tant to the club because it under­pins all of the prepa­ra­tion for the week,” said Barbour.​“The knowl­edge you get from the analy­sis of train­ing, the oppo­si­tion, and our games is vital to the meet­ings we have to pre­pare for the fol­low­ing week.”

Sportscode is Hudl’s elite plat­form that allows teams to cre­ate bespoke cod­ing win­dows, some­thing Barbour insists is crit­i­cal to their oper­a­tion.​“We need the cod­ing pan­el to be adapt­able so we can get our own coach­ing lan­guage in so we can analyse train­ing in our own vocabulary.

“The inte­gra­tion with oth­er sys­tems is also fan­tas­tic because it allows us to look at the data from GPS through our time­line, it allows us to use data we get from Opta, it allows us to manip­u­late our own cod­ing so we can get a full spec­trum view.”

The breadth and depth of analy­sis in their train­ing envi­ron­ment is impres­sive, but it’s noth­ing com­pared to game day.​“The set­up on match day will be myself and two oth­er ana­lysts — we actu­al­ly get some help from the sports sci­ence guy as well who has some exper­tise in adding extra labels for us,” said Barbour.​“The beau­ty of hav­ing the Elite Review and Elite licences means that we can get all the infor­ma­tion from mul­ti­ple dif­fer­ent coders at one time and that can be shared across dif­fer­ent captures.

“We get a close and a wide feed from the broad­cast­er dur­ing the game with embed­ded audio and then we cap­ture anoth­er two angles in the [broad­cast] trucks as well. We sync them all togeth­er with what we’ve cod­ed dur­ing the game and that pack­age will be avail­able for the coach­es after the final whis­tle. Having mul­ti­ple coders gives us the abil­i­ty to have more detailed stats on cer­tain areas that you wouldn’t be able to code on your own.”

During the game, the coach­ing staff in the stands use the time­line share to review what’s just hap­pened.​“ They have live sta­tis­tics on an out­put win­dow that gives them the mea­sures that they want to know dur­ing the game,” said Barbour.​“ We have embed­ded audio through HD-SDI cap­ture; we can hear not only what the ref­er­ee is say­ing to our play­ers but what the play­ers are say­ing to one another.

“Coaches may ask for pack­ages to be put togeth­er which will be shown at half time and typ­i­cal­ly that will involve areas around set piece, line­out and scrum. We have 15 min­utes at half time to get the key mes­sages across.”

Leicester doesn’t only analyse their own per­for­mance, they use Sportscode to scout their oppo­nents.​“We’ll analyse the oppo­si­tion by tak­ing their last four or five most rel­e­vant games and then we’ll use our own code win­dows to input the labels that reflect our own coach­ing lan­guage so we can put togeth­er stats that are going to be able to aid the coach­es message.

“We’ll then pro­vide suc­cinct pack­ages of infor­ma­tion that the coach­es take away, and I’ll work one-on-one with the coach­es to help them put togeth­er their pre­sen­ta­tions. We’ll think about the for­mat of the meet­ings, there will be a break­down of who is going to say what and in what meet­ing, and there will be over­rid­ing mes­sages that the head coach will want deliv­ered in those meetings.”

With all this data and analysis available, Barbour demonstrates how Hudl’s tools allow the key messages to be delivered in the best way.

“The ben­e­fits of shar­ing video to play­ers are that they can’t spend too long in the train­ing envi­ron­ment,” he said.​“ They need their own down­time but at the same time they need to be able to go onto their phone, tablet or their com­put­er and get the infor­ma­tion they need. Be it their learn­ing around their roles, set pieces or in defence, or feed­back on their own per­for­mance in training.

“We use var­i­ous meth­ods to make sure play­ers engage with video. When they’re in the train­ing envi­ron­ment the iMac’s are all synced up to the serv­er (in a ded­i­cat­ed video analy­sis suite) and they’re able to get on there and go to the pack­ages. Outside of that, from home with Hudl they can go to their app and get the infor­ma­tion that’s shared with them. Then they can add com­ments and respond to the coach­es mes­sages. We get a report from Hudl about who’s used it and when they’ve used it.

“We’re able to accom­mo­date a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent learn­ing styles. Some play­ers pre­fer to learn on their own, some pre­fer one-to-one work with coach­es and some pre­fer group dis­cus­sions so hav­ing the flex­i­bil­i­ty that the pro­gramme deliv­ers is absolute­ly essential.”

The Tigers’ also use Sportscode and Hudl through­out their acad­e­my, both to aid play­er devel­op­ment, but to also ensure famil­iar­i­ty when young play­ers step up into the first team environment.

“It’s impor­tant that every­one is able to use the same plat­form because at any time a play­er can drop out of the side, so if an acad­e­my play­er gets the oppor­tu­ni­ty they need to be able to slot straight in and learn the infor­ma­tion in the same way that a senior play­er would.”

Seeing Leicester’s holis­tic approach to analy­sis at the high­est lev­els of rug­by is a guid­ing light for oth­ers around the globe. It’s that com­mit­ment to video that has allowed the Tigers to remain at the upper ech­e­lons of the pre­mier­ship for the bet­ter part of the last decade.

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