After struggling to engage academy players with performance analysis, Luton Town solved the problem by using video tools in innovative new ways. Since changing their approach, the club has been able to help its young athletes develop a better technical understanding of the game as well as improved social and communication skills off the pitch.
Luton Town Football Club has an esteemed 135-year history that has included more than its fair share of ups and downs. After winning the Football League Cup in 1988, the club entered a period of decline during the 1990s and 2000s, eventually dropping out of the Football League altogether in 2009.
However, since that nadir over a decade ago, Luton’s fortunes have been transformed. The club returned to the Football League for the 2014/15 season and recently secured back-to-back promotions to return to the second tier of English football for the first time in 12 years.
As part of the ownership’s vision for the club, Luton has a strong focus on engaging the local community and developing the very best young talent from its catchment area. This strategy has seen the club use its academy as a vehicle for driving community education, engagement, and spirit.
Transforming player/coach interaction
The Luton Town Academy is tasked with nurturing, developing, and investing in promising talent, but that work isn’t limited to athletic development. As part of its mission to develop young players who are equipped both for professional football and life beyond it, the academy is constantly seeking to educate and encourage players across a wide range of skills.
In 2019, Luton adopted the Catapult Vision video analysis platform as a tool to support the development of their academy prospects and increase the involvement of players in coaching and analysis sessions.
According to Simon Dunn, Head of Academy Performance Analysis at Luton, using Vision with a focus on education has transformed the way coaches and players interact when reviewing performance. Prior to the adoption of the technology, the academy “was at a point where our analysis sessions were led by either myself or the coach,” says Dunn. “It felt as if we were just talking to the players. Now, rather than us delivering the analysis, we give the boys the resources to deliver their own feedback.”
The staff at Luton also believe that, by engaging players with the analysis process, they have helped to improve technical and tactical understanding. “If we question players, they now have a tactical answer rather than a shrug of the shoulders,” Dunn explains. “Now they have the confidence to answer questions. From my point of view, the software has played a role within that.”
By encouraging players to analyse games and present their findings back to the coaches, the staff at Luton are finding that the players are becoming more receptive to discussion and a higher level of detail in the sessions. Dunn believes that this has changed the relationship between the academy players and staff for the better.
“The dynamic between the coaches and players has really changed for the better since being able to use the software. We can have conversations about their performance individually and as a team. It doesn’t become a battering or a praising as such; instead we’re having really in-depth conversations.”
By providing the players with a platform that helps them to analyse their own performances, they have become custodians of the technology and are increasingly able to use it intuitively. “Some of the players are at a point where if one of them is not sure on how to use it, one of the others is able to show them,” says Dunn. “They are able to impart knowledge in a way that is easy for other players to learn.”
He continues to explain that, prior to the use of Vision, some of the players struggled with face-to-face communications and presenting to their peers. However, now the players “are able to talk to one another in an adult manner, discuss criticism, discuss positives, and suggest general ideas about what to change and improve for next time.”
As well as engaging the academy players with analysis, Dunn has found that Vision also helps him to improve the efficiency of his work. Talking about the platform, he praises it for the way he enables him to bring the whole video workflow into a single product.
“Vision is different in that everything is in one place,” he says. “I can clip, draw, build a playlist, and export into a presentation all in one. It all being in one place cuts my workload down, meaning I can be more detailed. I can also do more analysis because we are now in a position where I have enough time to put five videos together for a Monday morning.”