Using GPS and Power BI to Gain Actionable Insights in Football Clubs

Feb 14, 2024

 – by Ciaran Deely

While tracking external workload in professional football clubs is important, gaining insights, analysis, and communication through Power BI is key.

In the competitive world of professional football, technological advancements are continually sought by clubs aiming to gain any possible advantage. Among these technologies, GPS systems for tracking external workload are regarded as pivotal, having been adopted as foundational practices in modern football analytics.

The why and how of tracking external workload

External workload, encompassing the physical demands placed on athletes during training and matches such as total distance, speed bands, accelerations, and many more, is tracked. This monitoring is undertaken to provide a quantitative measure of the exertion experienced by players on the pitch, underpinning tailored training regimens and recovery protocols aimed at enhancing performance and reducing injury risks.

Analysing and visualising data - The role of Power BI

Power BI, Microsoft's brilliant solution for data analytics and visualisation, is employed in this context. By this powerful tool, raw GPS data are transformed into actionable insights, enabling the dissection and presentation of data in formats easily digestible. Custom reports and dashboards are created to meet the specific needs of a football club, from detailed analyses of individual players to team-wide trends, making complex datasets understandable at a glance and supporting swift, informed decision-making.

Communicating insights-  bridging data and decision-makers

Insights are communicated back to coaches and players, necessitating a nuanced approach. Detailed reports highlighting specific workload metrics and their implications for training are prepared for coaches and members of the sport science and medicine departments (SS&M), while players are often presented with simplified, visual representations of their data, focusing on key areas for improvement or recovery.

The flexibility and usability of Power BI facilitates this dual approach, enabling the creation of bespoke reports, dashboards, and visualisations… tailored to the audience. Whether through interactive reports for in-depth exploration by coaches, or concise, focused dashboards or infographics for players, the objective remains the same- embedding reliable, easy to digest, insightful data at the heart of the club's strategy.

Lessons learned

Through the integration of GPS workload tracking and Power BI analysis in professional football, several key lessons are learned:

  1. Data-informed decision making: The incorporation of a data-informed approach into training and game-day decisions is significantly enhanced, leading to (hopefully!) improved team performance and the possibility of reduced injury rates.
  2. Customisation is key: The tailoring of data presentation to meet the needs and comprehension levels of different audiences (whether SM&M staff, players, or coaches) ensures that insights translate into action.
  3. Continuous learning and adaptation: As the game evolves, so too does the approach to data analysis, requiring ongoing education and adaptation to new trends and technologies to maintain a competitive edge. Internal and external CPD is pivotal to this.

In summary, the tracking of external workload with GPS systems and the leveraging of tools like Power BI for data analysis and data visualisation represent a merging of science and sport. It shows how data, when effectively analysed, visualised, and communicated, can profoundly impact professional football, driving strategic decisions and daily operations.

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