How the PRO is using Catapult to overcome remote monitoring and performance assessment challenges
The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) is dedicated to the identification, training, assessment, assignment, and employment of professional soccer officials in the United States.
As the PRO’s Director of Performance and Analysis, Matt Hawkey is responsible for the technical, tactical, physical, and psychological development of its 150+ professional referees. We spoke to Matt about overcoming the challenges of travel and remote monitoring, best practice in terms of performance structure and daily data collection, and aligning performance monitoring through a single product stack.
The challenges of remote monitoring
With match officials constantly travelling across the United States and being assigned international fixtures, one of the PRO’s main challenges is monitoring the physical performance and wellness of officials who have minimal contact time with the organization.
“We go to camp every two months, which is valuable face-to-face time, but that’s really with just the referees,” says Hawkey. “To further compound the challenge of remote monitoring, our referees are regularly pulled out of PRO to officiate games overseas.
“Our end-goal in our performance department is to help each referee be as fresh as possible on match day. And that means staying on top of training monitoring, travel monitoring, game count, game load, refining individual match-ups, personal issues, nutrition patterns, sleep deficits. We need our referees to be fresh so they can make decisions quickly and accurately, and be in the right position to perform as well as we want them to.”
For Hawkey and the PRO, the key is to sift through a high volume of data to identify the metrics that are most impactful when it comes to the performance of match officials.
“Data for us is extremely important to collect, we went through a lengthy process in identifying which data was most important. We went through a pendulum swing where we had too much data, to knowing exactly what we want to look at each day that is important for us, and now we have worked out what’s impactful and meaningful.”
Communication flow between performance and referees
Collecting data is one thing, but the PRO knows that the information it gathers can only make a material impact if it is implemented and communicated effectively with match officials. The Catapult AMS platform has been key to this process, helping the organization to centralize and share its information.
“The way the PRO is set up, we have a whole education component, and that’s really looking at the technical pieces of being a referee, like their positioning when they make decisions, and that’s all packaged together with the training and match reports they get from our performance staff,” says Hawkey. “We use Catapult AMS to capture all our information so it’s in one repository. It’s a crucial platform for us and streamlines our communication.
“Our referees get game performance assessments each week, and those are available to really help them improve and receive pretty honest feedback. So the amount of information available and shared is immense, so we rely on cloud services.”
Defining success for referee development
Another of the challenges the PRO is using data to overcome is that of defining what a good refereeing performance looks like. Given the subjectivity involved in the sport, finding an answer to that question isn’t easy, but objective performance measurement is something the PRO is continually striving towards.
“The common answer to this is that a good referee is one you don’t notice, and it’s a worldwide question as to what good refereeing performance looks like,” says Hawkey. “What do coaches consider to be a good performance? What do players consider to be a good performance?
“The assessments the referees get are valuable and they receive world-class feedback, but soccer is just a subjective game at the end of the day. But one of the problems we’re trying to solve is figuring out how we can objectively measure performance.”
As the PRO continues to bring data into the heart of its assessment and decision making processes, Catapult’s technology is helping to improve the way match officials are analyzed, monitored and supported at the highest levels of the game.