From a 2019 Unrivaled Article...
With each passing season, the focus on technology driving decision making is moving the NFL and college football away from player execution towards scheme design; away from fundamentals towards featured statistics. GPS information, data mining, and health monitoring has become a major part of the sport, and rightfully so. Using technology to uncover information that leads to new opportunities is the sign of a progressive organization. However, it is the execution of opportunities that facilitates winning football - the action items created from new insight that promote improved execution must be valuable in order to justify change.
“You know, fellas, the reason we got beat is because we can't tackle and we can't force the run. All the rest of this is a bunch of garbage. This isn't about a computer, getting into some space world technology. We can't tackle."
- Bill Belichick
The greatest football coach of our generation said it very simply. Games are won and lost because of the ability, or inability, to execute the essential techniques of the sport when put in the position to do so. Those that consistently find themselves in the top echelon of the NFL in scheme execution are those that consistently make the playoffs. If we can objectively measure how individuals are executing their technical responsibilities, we can create action items to directly affect the improvement of scheme execution.
Today's technology and information bundling can only explain football-specific information superficially. As players, coaches, and stewards of the game; an important question to answer is: are we executing technically as we should, given the play design and opposition? Enough 'yes' answers to this question will inevitably end up winning games. Until now, no one has created objective statistics for technical execution that can deliver action items for improvement.
Unrivaled Development Data is not only providing teams with technical assessments and work on opportunities for individual players; we are developing a machine learning model that will fundamentally change the way players develop over the course of the year.
MACHINE LEARNING VS HUMAN IMPROVEMENT
As machine learning creates new models of information and data distribution, we need to guide the conversation so that maximum value is still created through action towards development. Take play calling: an NFL team could enter the down and distance, personnel, position on the field, score, injury status, defensive tendencies, and weather patterns into IBM's Watson, and Watson would give you a play suggestion based on most likely opportunity to succeed.
It is not far-fetched to envision a scenario in which computers begin calling plays in real time (think Joshua in WarGames). Teams are already using play builders based on this set of facts. Wrinkles in scheme and personnel will always give individuals a hidden differentiator based on human intuition, experience, and recall. By and large, we design plays by finding a weak link in the model and trying to exploit it. This is partly why many of our new coaching minds don’t come from traditional sporting backgrounds. Technology can make many aspects of this sport more efficient and identify new opportunities to exploit old habits. Those that are more proficient at this, or are not held back by tradition, are able to create exciting new opportunities statistical superiority.
What technology cannot do is force improvement: we have to celebrate the dedication and desire it takes to ingest information and create action items for development. I call these work-ons, but many in our sport consider this extra work. We have to embrace the human element of teaching, and promoting, the highest standards of execution through player development. The human element to every play ultimately decides the outcome; we have to continue building the model towards improving individual execution of each play.
Imagine watching clips of the traditional downhill 'kick' play over and over, hundreds of times. How many extra yards come from a cornerback boxing in the ball carrier with his inside hip back, taking a ride for five or six yards because he did not strike near foot near shoulder? Outcome-based stats are great, but they rely on so many factors that are out of our control. They become verified, or more reasonable, when paired with technical data that accounts for the how and the why. When the why is explained, it can quickly be remedied.
ARMS RACE OR CHESS MATCH?
If teams are constructing plays using the same set of facts, or possibly the same system; differentiation occurs at the individual level. The ability to execute what is being requested of them on any given play. Player Development. Year round focus on technical development,
habit formation, strength and mobility.
These are the cornerstones of individuals who have contributed at the highest levels to their organizations over their careers. These are the individuals personnel staffs are scouring the landscape for; players that can fit into any scheme and find success because they have the technical skill and mental fortitude to adapt. We live in an era of superstars, but champions are built on the backs of water carriers.
Information is the most vital offering we can provide. Detailed assessments of technical execution are the foundation of player development. The players you want on your team want this information. Coaching staffs can use this information to improve scheme execution, model around player strengths, and exploit opposing weaknesses. This is the development funnel; good information in, good results out. The information is now available; how will you use it?
Unrivaled Elite Skill System improves team performance by providing objective measurements of individual technique. Focused on time and execution, Unrivaled breaks down complex techniques into simple movement patterns through objective measurement. Our Development Data provides hard numbers in digestible bites to help coaching staffs identify areas of opportunity and proactively improve performance in a year-round environment. For more information please contact us: