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  • Data Science
  • Talent Development
Turning data into insights
Data as a key to the American dream
Andreas Terler
Wie aus Daten Fortschritt wird
Lucia Gjeltema as Head of Data Science and Roland Goriupp as Head of Sports in the skills.lab team, discuss the origins, evolution and possibilities of ProAssessments.

What were your earliest considerations and deliberations when creating the ProAssessment?

Goriupp: In football, we are used to seeing a player’s performance in training and on the pitch, yet we do not know their underlying potential and how much of it they are currently using. That gap led us directly to the ProAssessment: a deeper evaluation of the individual capacity of football players. It accommodates tailored individual training sessions, a more sophisticated valuation of market value potential and more in-depth evaluation of new talents during scouting.


What data is collected during a ProAssessment?

Gjeltema: Some of our data comes from conventional measurements: for example, whether the goal or a target was hit, the duration of a ball action or the player’s running speed. In addition, our pioneering system is recording data that has previously been extraordinarily difficult to capture: the ball speed, the precise hit location of a ball or the distance to potential targets. In total, every single assessment generates around 500 GB of raw data that we leverage for our analysis. It is important to know what to measure, but it is crucial for us to know how accurately we measure it. That is why we have thoroughly validated all components of our high-tech measuring system in our system specification. As a result, statistical measurement uncertainties from sensors, cameras, lasers, ball machines and player trackers can all be taken into account.


Why is it so important that the evaluation is based on raw data?

Goriupp: Raw data from ball actions draw a much clearer picture than pure result counts, such as hits or misses. For instance, when looking at the hit accuracy of a corner shot, we can map the distribution of the spread, regardless of whether the shot landed or barely tipped over the bar. The easily recognizable result would be the number of goals. We use the raw data to look at the near-misses as well and how far off in any direction they were, which leads us to a more refined player capacity in terms of hit accuracy.

"It is important to know what to measure, but it is crucial for us to know how accurately we measure it. That is why we have thoroughly validated all components of our high-tech measurement system in our system specification.”
Lucia Gjeltema, Head of Data Science skills.lab

What needs to be considered when evaluating the data?

Gjeltema: Our starting point is a standardized and consistent setup for every ProAssessment. This allows us to evaluate and compare players impartially and objectively – both over time and among each other. Our data science team distills large amounts of data into an insightful form to support football teams in their vital work. This can’t be done without processing power and intelligent algorithms. Data fusion combines data from different sensors, feature engineering derives new parameters and complex mathematical models reveal underlying connections. For instance, time series analysis reveals the changes in a player’s performance over a longer period of time.


The ProAssessment Report visually represents the results of a player’s assessment. What can be gleaned from this?

Gjeltema: The skills.lab 360-degree analysis expresses the performance a player has shown with multiple parameters. It also embeds the performance into the whole team. Once a player has completed several ProAssessments, a trend analysis shows how their individual performance has developed over the past months and years. When the coaches’ knowledge about the condition of individual players is combined with our analysis, they get a holistic depiction of the squad’s performance. Dataenhanced work then becomes habitual for coaches to have an edge over the competition.


How intense is a ProAssessment for a player compared to a team training session?

Goriupp: Conversations with players as well as their answers from survey have revealed that the load is comparable to a team training. So, a ProAssessment can easily be integrated into the weekly player load.

"Conversations with players as well as their answers from survey have revealed that the load is comparable to a team training. So, a ProAssessment can easily be integrated into the weekly player load."
Roland Goriupp, Head of Sports skills.lab

To what extent can the individual capacity of a player be assessed with the help of the ProAssessment?

Goriupp: Our ProAssessment Report tracks the performance-oriented parameters of technical and cognitive performance on the basis of 13 carefully chosen exercises with a total of 140 ball actions. We mindfully observe the quality of ball control, the accuracy of passes and shots, shooting power and differences in bilateral leg execution. On top of that, the actions are evaluated on both motoric and cognitive speed.


The skills.lab Arena is the first to enable bilateral measurements. How can you compare and contrast the left and right foot?

Gjeltema: Certain shooting and passing exercises have to be performed for each leg in isolation as part of a ProAssessment. This is how we make measurable what cannot be measured on the training grounds. With the data we capture we are able to directly compare the performance of the left and right foot. This is one of our highlights in the ProAssessment Report.


What is the significance of bilateral flexibility to use any foot to pass or shoot precisely for a football coach today?

Goriupp: Tactical variability is particularly important in today’s football. Increasingly, this tactical variability requires a technical flexibility with an opponent with which an opponent can be surprised. If the opponent doesn’t know which foot the player with ball possession will use to pass or shoot, it gets much more difficult to take a suitable countermeasure than with predictable movement sequence..


Can only outfield players be assessed through the ProAssessment?

Goriupp: Of course not. We have also created a ProAssessment for goalkeepers. Here, the primary focus is on direct goal defense and goalkeeper offensive play. Custom goalkeeper athletics and cognition parameters are also included in the assessment.


How do ProAssessment results translate to a player’s performance on the pitch?

Goriupp: With an excellent result in the ProAssessment we see a very high probability that the player will also be able to perform well on the pitch. Very often I get feedback from coaches that the objective results of the ProAssessments match their subjective impressions. If the performance on the pitch does not correlate with the measured performance, it is important to analyze why this is the case. This may be due to mental, conditional or even tactical reasons. Depending on the current performance level of the players, the findings of the assessment can impact future training planning.


What is the next data-driven opportunity to seize with this type of assessment?

Gjeltema: We want to expose the differentiators that are currently not detectable on the pitch. In scouting, young talents can be compared with top performing pros who have already played ProAssessments in their youth. During and after the rehab phase of an injury, performance can be compared with data from a previous, fitter condition to augment the recovery process. Entire age cohorts can be observed over a longer period of time – as a benchmark for newcomers and to identify trends in an age cohort at an early stage. The more clubs and associations have a skills.lab Arena, the better the international comparisons with anonymized data. The potential is clearly enormous. At the same time, the possibilities for data collection and analysis are constantly evolving, and with them our approach to how we can use technology to challenge and support coaches and talents even better in the future.