This article was originally posted on the Hudl Blog

Video analysis has given this coaching staff brand new ways to see the game, and it’s translating well on the pitch.

Before interactive reports became so readily available for soccer clubs, coaches had to be industrious with how they charted their statistics on the pitch. For brothers Jono and Darren Callaghan at Nebraska-based Gretna Soccer Club, that meant charting every connected pass with pen and paper and using a complicated phone app to measure passing percentages.

Enter Hudl Assist. The significant improvements in pass strings and possessions nurtured more salient conversations about ways to improve the finer details.

In fact, the Gretna coaches found a direct correlation between Assist and  coach engagement. For the Callaghan brothers, who coach together on Gretna’s 04 boys and girls squads, the whole process has been more streamlined.

“We couldn’t go back and do the work alone,” Darren said. “It’s like adding another coach to your staff.”

With a more fluid workflow that’s both more compartmentalized and nuanced, they were able to think up some new ideas on how to improve—and bring them to life on the pitch.

Possession metrics lead to good tweaks

The new reports illuminated a brewing problem: possession in the final third was terrible. They were completing as little as three percent of their passes at times. Once they saw that, the Callaghans set new goals, such as a 30 percent completion rate. This knowledge also stoked their imagination for how they could get there.

A season ago, Darren and Jono’s teams were using a 3-5-2 formation, with the wingers playing up almost the entire game. That left them too exposed at times, with the back three outnumbered or not getting back in time to track down the ball.

You can’t get any worse than what happened in the boys’ first game of the season, taking a 7-0 loss. Game two saw them come out in a 4-5-1, after a heavy emphasis in practice on building up the attacking forwards, before adding a second striker to the final third.

“By putting in a second striker, seeing what was working on that field, it was night and day,” Jono said. “We came off the field and parents were like, ‘Wow, this is a brand new team’.”

They’re going to continue the season with a more straightforward 4-4-2 look that evens the strength out. With the types of players they have, it’s sure to maximize their offensive ability.

“Seeing what was working on that field, it was night and day,” Jono said. “We came off the field and parents were like, ‘Wow, this is a brand new team’.”Jono Callaghan, coach, Gretna Soccer Club

Take your shot

Shot charts influence the way teams attack the net—and how they defend their own.

For Darren, looking at the trends of shot distributions over an entire season helped him diagnose a problem in the back end. The amount of goals within the six-yard box, an area of the field that the goalkeeper has to really own, suggested there were some communication issues going on with the center-back and keeper.

Sometimes the advanced stats tell you a different story than your eyes do. Like when the analysis showed the Callaghans that they were giving their opponents a ton of scoring chances on the right-hand side.

“We necessarily didn’t know all this without the data—what specific location, where do we get goals scored on,” Jono said.

More transparency, better answers

Sure, you have to rely on what your eyes (and sometimes your guts) tell you. But having empirical evidence to back up your instincts leaves no gray area. Difficult conversations become easier when you let the facts do the talking.

“Before, we knew it just by watching on the sideline,” Darren says. “But now we can show support to justify what we’re saying. This gives it more credibility.”

Darren recalls a conversation with one of his hardest-working forwards, who was lacking in confidence. After a practice, this player approached Darren and asked what he could do to improve.

Darren’s answer? “You’ve got to believe in yourself.” He had the data ready to prove it, showing the player that he was taking more shots and more goals than anyone else. That was the motivation he needed.

“It helps with overall communication with both players and parents,” Jono said. “It always helps when you can be more transparent, when you can show things that are not a matter of opinion but a matter of fact.”

A more structured plan, a more positive outlook

As much as winning is about great schemes, it’s also about logistics. It’s crucial for everyone in your club to be on the same page.

At the first practice after a game, Gretna players know they’ll receive printed copies of the previous game’s Hudl report, followed by a few minutes to talk amongst themselves, digest the information and understand the problems. They then discuss what they can work on as a team.

If the players have any questions, they can look to the video. Because all 19 of Gretna’s teams are wired with Hudl, the video directors know how to capture and distribute the film. That’s going to lead to better coaching across the entire club, too.

“We’ve trained all our coaches on how to use Hudl and how to look at the reports,” Darren said. “There’s a lot of buzz coming around our club because we’re using it. We’ll start to see the reward for it six months from now.”


Interested in what Gretna does? Hudl Assist can streamline the way you analyze your players. Use the links below to see how.

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