Friday 20 October 2017

New drone technology can help us fly higher

Tiernan O’Halloran helped power Connacht to victory over Zebre last weekend. Kavanagh and Co will be hoping for
more of the same against Toulouse
Tiernan O’Halloran helped power Connacht to victory over Zebre last weekend. Kavanagh and Co will be hoping for more of the same against Toulouse

Simon Kavanagh

It's a pretty exciting week to be involved with Connacht Rugby as we get ready for a big game with Toulouse that will decide our fate in the Champions Cup.

As performance analyst, my role doesn't change much from week to week but you can definitely feel the buzz and anticipation around the place ahead of this fixture.

As Pat and the other coaches have said all season, the performance at the weekend comes from the preparation and quality of training done in the week leading up to the game.

From an analysis point of view, it is my job to ensure that the coaching team have all the information and detail they need to plan for the week ahead and make informed decisions.

My busiest time in a week is normally the hours during and after a game. Last Saturday, for example we had an early kick-off for the Zebre game but and there is a lot of work to be done by the analysis team, particularly long after the final whistle.

We break down and code the game live from which the coaches will take feedback which they can bring to the players in the changing room at half-time.

After the game, we go to a really deep level of analysis on every one of the players involved and their individual performances.

This serves to help the coaches highlight areas that a player did really well in or somewhere they can improve. So the main focus is to provide the right information to the coaches to help them do their job.

Footage

Once the review is done on a Monday, attention turns to the next game and we will have our analysis done on the available footage of Toulouse's games.

Even when it comes to our own training sessions at the Sportsground, we film everything.

Technology is constantly evolving and we are always looking for the best way to do things.

We have multiple cameras and angles set up for training, including a drone this season that allows us a different view of training that we didn't have before.

There really is no hiding place when it comes to training and games but the end goal is always on improvement - whether individually or as a team.

The coaches could spend hours reviewing the training footage and will use it in their meetings with players to preview the next training session and to ensure that everyone is on the same page. The players also have access to all the footage.

We're constantly trying to improve the ways they learn and we've increased their level of access so they can come in to the analysis room here or they can watch footage on their phones at home.

It's all about improving their knowledge base so that nothing surprises them - whether at training or on game day.

On match day in Toulouse, I'll look to get down to the ground quite early and ensure we have all our feeds in place and there are no technical surprises in store.

Every ground is different and some are more set up for analysis than others so it's just about giving yourself as much time as possible to set up. I'm stationed up beside the coaches for the game and they are all linked in so that they can review all the footage on their own laptops as I break it down.

Naturally there can be times of high pressure in games and you are involved with the players so you want to see them do well out on the pitch. But I also understand that I have to remain calm, keep my emotions in check and focus on the job at hand.

This is my first season at Connacht and I'm really enjoying it. Being able to contribute in any small way to the team is hugely satisfying. I can see the work and detail that goes in to every training session and every game-plan.

When you see it come off in a game it gives everyone involved a huge buzz. Hopefully the work that has gone in to date will transfer out on the pitch this Sunday in France.

It's always enjoyable working on the footage of a game after a win like that.

• Simon Kavanagh is Connacht's head of performance analysis

Irish Independent

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