“The analysis by coaches gives me confidence; knowing that coaches are prepared, l feel fully ready to execute the game plan which they have put together for me.”
Boxer – Kellie Harrington, Olympic Champion 60Kg
Packing winning punches with data-driven insights
Required to complete initial boxing performance analysis in some circumstances
Packing winning punches with data-driven insights
Sport Ireland Institute empowers Olympic boxers to develop their skills through detailed performance analysis powered by SAS
Bringing data into the boxing ring
As a fast-paced, high-intensity combat sport, competitive boxing might seem like an unusual candidate for data analysis. However, Sport Ireland Institute, a unit of Sport Ireland responsibility for high performance support delivery to elite athletes, knew that rapid, robust performance analysis held huge potential for helping elite boxers step up their game.
Alan Swanton, Lead Performance Analyst at Sport Ireland Institute, explains: “At Sport Ireland Institute, we support world-class Irish athletes across over 15 different sports, including boxing. As well as providing medical, nutritional, and psychological support for athletes, a key part of our role is to help coaches guide sports people to improve their performance in competitive events. One of the ways we achieve this is by capturing highly detailed data of an athletes performance in the ring and presenting this information to coaches to support their decision making.”
Having recently used SAS Visual Analytics to accelerate and expand the scope and capability of performance analysis for Ireland’s Olympic and swimming teams, Sport Ireland Institute looked to take the same approach to boxing.
Alan Swanton continues: “As with swimming, our existing performance analysis methodologies were predominantly spreadsheet-based and our final output was a static document, which had a limited ability to be quickly and easily compared with a broad array of datasets. We knew that by centralising our data sources and making comparative analysis between athletes more intuitive, we could provide coaches with a much more detailed view of a boxer’s strengths and weaknesses in the ring.”
As a time-based sport occurring in a fixed physical location, competitive swimming fitted well with traditional data analysis techniques. However, boxing presented new data challenges: the metrics used to assess performance during fights are often subjective and no wearable sensors are allowed in the ring. How could Sport Ireland Institute provide coaches with an objective analysis of an athlete’s performance between contests during a boxing tournament?
SAS Visual Analytics helps to assess the effectiveness of an athlete’s tactical plan, which can provide coaches with an added level of confidence as they advise boxers on the best strategy to take in their next fight Alan Swanton Lead Performance Analyst Sport Ireland Institute
Taking a fresh approach
Building on its success using SAS Visual Analytics for athlete performance analysis, Sport Ireland Institute set out to use the SAS solution to analyse a boxer’s performance between phases in a bout and across multiple bouts in a tournament.
“Just like competitive swimming, the main data source for analysing boxing matches is video recordings,” says Alan Swanton. “Using SAS Visual Analytics, we built a solution that could analyse footage of boxing matches and track the performance of a boxer across a range of variables, including punches landed and conceded, the stance held for landed punches as well as the punch type—a jab, hook or an uppercut and a range of variables related to each attacking phase.”
To help Sport Ireland Institute maximise the full potential of SAS Visual Analytics, SAS consultants worked closely with the organisation to develop visualisations and provide hands-on training for its sports analysts.
“We we’re impressed with the versatility and flexibility of the SAS solution,” continues Alan Swanton. “Adapting SAS Visual Analytics to meet the unique data challenges posed by monitoring a boxer’s performance was surprisingly straightforward and the SAS team provided excellent support every step of the way.”
Facts & Figures
Required to complete initial boxing performance analysis in some circumstances.
BOOSTS COACH DECISION-MAKING
By providing a layer of objective analysis.
Sport Analyst’s ability to compare a boxer’s performance against the different styles of their competitors.
Helping athletes develop
Since enhancing its athlete performance analysis capabilities with SAS Visual Analytics, Sport Ireland Institute can provide coaches with a much deeper, more objective analysis of a boxer’s technique and performance—helping to guide their decision making during events and in training.
Alan Swanton explains: “SAS Visual Analytics helps to promote performance evaluation conversations based on objectivity, which complements a coaches’ experienced eye and intuitive judgements about a boxer’s performance. And because the solution enables us to conduct a top level performance analysis in under 30 minutes in some instances, coaches can use this data during tournaments.”
He continues: “For instance, a coach might sense that a boxer’s frequent switching of positions between orthodox and southpaw could be impacting the athlete’s ability to successfully land punches. SAS Visual Analytics helps to assess the effectiveness of an athlete’s tactical plan, which can provide coaches with an added level of confidence as they advise boxers on the best strategy to take in their next fight.”
In addition to providing top-level analysis of a boxer’s performance during competitive events, Sport Ireland Institute is also using SAS Visual Analytics to dive deeper into an athlete’s performance—valuable data that coaches use during post-match analyses and to compare Irish athletes against other world-class performers.
Alan Swanton says: “With SAS Visual Analytics we can provide a much deeper level of detail into the unique techniques and tactics used by boxers during competitive bouts and then present this information in a way that is easily digestible for the sports team. In the post-match scenario, this information can then be used to help spot areas for further improvement when the coaches and athletes review their performances. Ultimately, this means that coaches are much more likely to pick up on all features of an athlete’s performance that could be enhanced during training.”
He concludes: “Through our work with SAS we’ve seen how rapid, granular, and intuitive data analysis can have a positive impact on our athlete’s performance in boxing and swimming. We’re looking forward to using SAS Visual Analytics in other sports to give all Irish athletes the best chance of succeeding at European, international, and Olympic level competitions.”
We should perhaps leave the final word to one of the athletes at the sharp end, Olympic champion at Tokyo in the 60kg class, Kellie Harrington: “I know the coaches spend hours reviewing video and analysis in the days ahead of upcoming contests, using bout analysis created by the analyst to assist their decisions and development of the tactical plan. This gives me confidence, knowing that coaches are prepared, then l feel fully ready to execute the game plan which they have put together for me.”
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