The FA draws on Google Cloud to support Women's World Cup training push for The Lionesses

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The Football Association (FA) has enlisted the help of its long-standing IT partner Google Cloud to create digital tools that will collect the player performance and health data needed to create tailor-made training plans for the England team ahead of the Women’s World Cup.

The quadrennial tournament is taking place in Australia and will run for a month from 20 July 2023, with the Lionesses among the 32 teams set to take part.  

Many of the national side’s players only completed their final matches in the Barclays Women’s Super League less than two months ago, meaning the FA has had a relatively short window of training time ahead of the World Cup starting.

To maximise the time available, the FA wanted to create a tailored training programme for each of the Lionesses, focused on ensuring they are physically and mentally prepared for the start of the tournament.

These training plans are created by the FA’s Physical Performance, Medicine and Nutrition department, with the help of  the team’s coaching staff, whose job it is to collect detailed and up-to-date information about each player to compile them using digital tools.

“Not only is time in short supply, but The FA doesn’t have day-to-day contact with its players except at international camps, making data collection difficult,” wrote Paola Olivari, director of data and analytics at Google Cloud.

“With players scattered around the UK and beyond, and coaches in need of loads of real-time data, it’s the kind of technical challenge traditional IT would have struggled to keep up with.”

To help them with this work, the FA worked with Google Cloud to generate detailed reports on each player’s individual needs straight after each training session, allowing the national team’s coaching staff to make faster, more informed decisions about the health and performance status of the team.

Among the types of data being collected for this purpose is “match event” data, which includes details of every pass made, tackle landed, shot taken and goal scored, for example,  which is created by tagging match videos to each player in the squad.

“Over the course of a tournament, these videos add a whopping 220,000 data points across The FA’s database,” added Olivari.

The players wear GPS trackers during training sessions, which generates another 1.3 million lines of squad data per session, and the individual clubs they play for provide “event data” that provides an insight into the volume and intensity of the games each Lioness has participated in over the course of a season.

Players are also expected to self-report their own wellness data, which results in the creation of an additional 20 or so data points per player each day.

All these data points are fed into Google Cloud’s BigQuery data warehouse tool for storage and analysis so that insights can be gleaned and compiled into visual reports in minutes.

“These reports help the coaching staff decide how best to support each individual player and maximise the physical and mental improvements they can make in their limited downtime between games,” said Olivari.

“The reports can give detailed information on the different demands of each position, enabling the coaching staff to better prepare players for the intensity they are likely to experience during the tournament.” 

A lot of this data would have previously needed to be compiled manually, which the FA said has freed up time for its coaches to work on match tactics, as well as prepare the players physically and mentally for the tournament.

“The reports the team are able to generate are more detailed than anything they’ve had access to before. Having a unified platform also eases the sharing of data between different teams within The FA. This saves yet more valuable time,” added Olivari.

“And the full benefits of data science implementation are only just being uncovered. As the teams learn more about the technologies, and gain access to even more historical data, they will be able to better understand how games impact certain players in specific ways.”

With this degree of detailed player data at their disposal, it is hoped the risk of injuries will be minimised, as it will make it easier to predict the physical demands of fixtures on particular players, while the individual training plans are designed to shorten the recovery time from injuries.

“That’s really the pride of this partnership – giving each player exactly what they need, even in the midst of the most intense tournaments,” said Olivari.

“Coaches love to say how success is the result of both opportunity and preparedness. With data science behind them, the Lionesses are more empowered than ever to make the most of every opportunity that comes their way in Australia.”

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