Raising the bar - part II
Raising the bar is the first step towards lifting performance expectation: it reflects a willingness to identify performance constraints and weakness’, and a commitment to pursuing improved performance. We should seek to raise the bar in such a manner that it has an impact throughout the whole, at a player level, at a team level, across every local organization and league. Raising the bar is tantamount to encouraging change in the way those in football administration think, execute,and disseminate information. This is a critical part of creating a new football cultural infrastructure; establishing new norms with a greater emphasis on goalsetting, measurement, and continual assessment of performance. The primary reason for raising the bar is to establish a process by which we can identify and develop the best talent; talent reflecting measurable skills and cumulative knowledge acquired through the implementation and execution of this process .
So what is success in Jamaican football – you ask? Success in Jamaican football will reveal itself in a national team that will consistently dominate regional tournaments and compete on the world stage, second round of the world cup everytime we get there, NPL club teams that go deep, at least semifinals every three to five years into the Concacaf club championships. Currently we cannot win a match outside of the Caribbean, the representative MLS, Mexican clubs have our ticket. Success in Jamaican football should be deeply entrenched in the pursuit of the three S’s; speed, skill and strength. Speed and strength ofcourse are pretty straight forward and should be a major criteria in identification and development of talent. Our history suggests that the numbers of players per thousand that meet the speed and strength criteria provides a comparative advantage vis-a-vis the rest of the Concacaf, maybe not the US. The third s – skills is probably our weakest area in terms of accumulation of knowledge, actual sum of product and systematic process improvement of that knowledge; and ultimately dissemination of that football knowledge from Jerusalem Mountain to Grange Hill, to as many as possible, as early as possible, to the players identified in the youth pools and up through the system. Skill is partially innate and has much to do with the connection between brain and body and response times etc, but much can be learned and added through training, especially between 10 and 18. Of course, how to filter that information through the system as early as possible for the players is another challenge – and as our experience in track and field indicates this is not done overnight (based on what we know both Bolt and Asafa could easily have not made it at all, coaching and management was the difference maker) .
Competitive Development Infrastructure
All this means that the task at hand is part art and part science; identifying those with the optimal combination of speed and strength at each stage and with the fluidity of mind and body (innate)and will respond to the necessary training and discipline this all implies (learned). This combination can be truly formidable and if possessed by a player who is well above average in all three the potential for success is great. It is these key areas that should drive the focus for talent identification,a process that should start early from the under 13’s through national team level.
Much as every effort is measured as it is in track and field where competition is eliminated in a Darwinist manner as the criteria at every level of competition is clearly spelled out and participants get instant feedback on worthiness and ability to compete from actual performance and how that compares to what others are doing within age group and region, eliminating subpar performance and retaining the best; it should be the same in football if for example on speed a player can’t crack or approach low 12’s on a 100 by 16 he has no business playing ball with any aspiration beyond it being a fun thing.
The key would be to measure speed and strength at every level of competition after age 13 with documentation of the details available to all and elimination of those that don’t meet minimum requirement levels from serious contention status unless they demonstrate some over the top quality on the skill side while at least being at worst average on the speed side. Let the statistics be our guide, much as many of us know that a class three 100 meters runner that does 10.86 is an extremely unusual thing and one that runs 12.0 has a lot of work to do, we know and understand what this means, the runner knows and understands what this means, and knows what the number is at class 2 and class 1 and what time Bolt/Blake did at every stage and age, so measurement is inherent in every crack and corner in T&F, our knowledge criteria at every level from fan, to player to administration on the football side needs better definition and structure.
(NB 100 meter speed is not necessarily a true indication of the kind of speed necessary for football but it is a good talking point that everybody understands the kind of speed we are talking about)
Understanding Competitiveness – benchmarking the best
A couple of examples of the advantages created by speed would be a player like Eto’o who consistently uses the combination of superior speed and skill to create a positional field advantage, he does this consistently at all levels of competition, in 58 matches in 2011 he scored 38 goals and had 14 assists, which works out to 52 goal related events in 58 games, that is a 89% goal event rate and a 66% goal strike rate, a phenomenal performance in one of the best leagues in the world, those are stats which we need to be measuring our players against at every level to see who is actually getting the job done on a continual basis.
When we measure our best player in the NPL this season we find the top scorer at 14 goals out of 37 matches, that is a 38% strike rate not bad for the NPL but not good enough outside the NPL, thus a player in theNPL striking at 38% probably could replicate that in English league one level ball and would probably struggle in the English championship league, much less any top tier league.
A good example is probably Onandi Lowe, probably our best homegrown forward outside of Fuller to play in England in the last 10 years or so, well Onandi’s best production was in league two ball with 19 goals out of27 matches that is 70% and 15 goals out of 24 matches in league one that is 62%, Onandi had no assists in any of these seasons so his goal event rate is the same as his goal strike rate and both of those leagues are basically the third and fourth division level of English ball.
Let’s now look at say a Marlon King who this year in theChampionship thus far has 16 goals and 10 assists in 37 games, that is excellent production at this level, scoring goals but also producing assists, thus overall while the goal scoring percentage is lower at this level overall he is contributing at a 70% rate with a goal producing event for his side. Still he is significantly behind say an Eto’o or Ronaldo or say a Van Persie who is 'licking up the john' at a 77% clip this year or even more incredible at a 105% goal producing event (GPE) with goals and assists per match in the EPL!!!!
This is the kind of player we are looking for stats wise, that is what we need to be shooting for!!!
Understanding the potential impact of the skill and speed combination
Skill works exponentially better at speed and skill without good speed (I can name several VAUNTED Jamaican players with this combination) it does not consistently create the multiplicity of advantages, they have to work too hard to be effective on a consistent basis and if they are not the hardest workers then basically “dog nyam them supper” at the upper echelons of the game. Thus the reason why we see what seems to be our best talent never making it past being at best “decent players” in second and third level division professional ball.
Skill at speed is Eto’o , skill at speed is Ronaldo, these guys can roll the ball at pace and also think at pace, that creates massive advantages and can throw any defense into disarray. Speed with less skill isTheo Walcott or Luton Shelton, again their type of speed creates mayhem even with average skill, but skill with average or below average speed is more manageable for opposing teams, you can shut it down, you just have more time to react to it and attack it on the defensive side, thus needs excellent passing and good running off the ball to keep it viable, it literally needs magic to work, that means a perfect or close to perfect sequence of events which are rare and far between.
I have no examples of superior skill with poor speed but superior skill with mediocre speed, one example is the incredible John Barnes who skill wise was literally a wizard on the ball, the ball was glued to his foot, sweet moves, great fluidity and good running off the ball but average to better than average speed which in my mind accounts for the results he produced over his career, he only had one year over 20 goals in a premier league season or actually at any club level over 19 seasons, this is the difference between skill with average pace and skill with super pace. Skill with super pace combination is Ronaldo, Henry, Eto’o we are missing out on identifying our talent that can blossom into these type of guys, these guys consistently score 20 plus goals per season striking at or close to a 75% average of goals scored relative to games played over multiple seasons regardless of location, league, and sometimes age, skill with pace is an unbeatable combination all other combinations are pedestrian, pun intended!!
Speed advantage in human history
A lot of people think that speed is overrated, yet we see consistently that speed creates mayhem in every level of ball, speed creates mayhem in every level of life and confers almost an absolute advantage for every aggregation that has that dimension over another, this has always been the case since recorded time and has been sought by every leader intent on dominating the competition regardless of area, from production assembly of arrow heads to production of food, to war and every element of warfare from getting supplies to the front line troops to actually fighting or obtaining intelligence fast enough to keep ahead of the enemy, every game, every situation you can think of, speed is an advantage that is not easily matched and cuts down process time, response time and execution time so dramatically that the side that has this advantage is almost unbeatable.
We see this especially in war especially in open warfare, such as with the pincer movement used on the flanks of an enemy straight line attackdown the center, pushing significant troop number quickly down both flanks to encircle the enemy, used by the Greeks, the same strategy used by Carthage against Rome in 216 BC winning that battle decisively but ultimately losing that war; and used again and again to excellent effect even in war and also in football where the wings and flanks is the area of the most open space on the field that can be used for rapid counters with speed that can leave defenses scrambling to adjust to a fast counter down the side.
Example of greater skill with less speed
On the other hand others will say Messi and Maradonna were/are average on the speed side, but in both cases they are/were phenomenal on the skill side, actually phenomenal in a once every thirty years kind of player way, funny that they both are from Argentina, you don’t see that quality kind of players too often they are extremely rare and almost impossible to replicate.
Bottom line is we can probably produce more moderately skilled players with superior pace than superior skill players with average pace, truth is probably one of our more skilled players over the past 15 years was probably Andy Williams but he possessed below average speed, if he had superior speed he would probably be mentioned in the same breath as some of the best current day ballers on any team .
Where are we and why are our players not moving up?
It seems there is no one out there in Jamaican football that consistently measures and documents speed to evaluate these young players as they come up through the ranks as a part of the selection process and really measuring apples to apples speed across the board, thus it seems we get a significant number of pretty skilled players at all positions with below average speed (Goodison, Williams, C. Davis, Hue, Thomas, even Marshall) those are all some of our best players over the last ten years but all with below average/average speed, that is not an advantage that is a disadvantage that has to be made up, most of these players are true warriors and have figured out what they must do to not only keep relevant but thrive on their teams and thus they all have had pretty good careers but the truth is we must get faster at these key positions to compete consistently. A key point here is the only player of ours who a top 5 team in the premier league (Aston Villa) has even looked at was Omar Cummings and why? That was the year that he had 14 goals in 32 matches a 43% strike rate, not top tier but pretty good in MLS, but he also had 7 assists that year so from a GPE side he was at a 65% level and he is pretty skilled and also fast outside of Shelton and Richards he is our fastest forward, (not counting Mattocks yet!)
Skill is pretty much evident in play and is relatively easy to spot, kind of like the girl with the pretty face and wicked body but not much beyond that, good for fun and show but not long term material and my belief is that this is what we have always focused on (the things that dazzle and flash across the sky, pretty show, but really not going anywhere), but how to get the best combination of all these assets without a way to consistently measure performance in these areas, that is the challenge, this is where we must get better.
The way forward!
Just to start the ball rolling I would love to see national trials (parish trials first to get the best) of the best ballers in Jamaica at each stage, under 13, under 15, under 17, under 19 etc, one camp in the summer for two weeks every year. Much as they do in the NFL, but with actual games after the individual testing where there are tests of all core areas.
Speed – 40 yard dash etc
Strength – Vertical jump, squats with weights (# of repetitions with a certain weight), standing broad jump
Skill – Agility, dribbling, use of both legs, heading skills etc etc, passing, response time, with a basic 1-2-3 system 1 being below average, 2 average and 3 being superior
Intelligence – ability to learn, ability to regurgitate learning and instruction in action, ability to build upon learning etc etc.
At the end of the physical assessment phase break them up into six teams, North Cornwall, South Cornwall, north Middlesex, south Middlesex, Corporate area and rest of Surrey, two teams of three round robin so two matches, top four advance to knockout semifinals, top two teams play a max of four matches over two weekends, bottom two teams play two matches and the other two play two matches enough to see everybody show their wares.
At end of camp every player has a score and a national ranking at each age group, the job is to keep improving and see how the guys do the following year, the guys who are working on their own to improve, the guys who are stationary, no motivation no will to improve, currently there is no clearly defined way of measuring potential and talent level to develop the best combination for the end game produce the best talent for export to the top leagues and the best possible national team to showcase our wares to the world. The best will select themselves in such a format!
Reality at the front door, what can we do now!
Well since no one is able to consistently measure speed, skill and strength at every level to essentially create a better talent identification/development system so that we get to the latter stages of the national selection process with only skilled players that are fast and strong.
Then we must use what we have to make the determination of the most worthy players at the last stage of the process as we always end updoing, trying to make the world cup at the last moment and we try to eliminate the inconsistency of choosing players that have no business playing at the national level.
(Side note - At least this time around we see a consistent improvement in FIFA ranking over the last 2-3 years and getting some consistent matches against decent opposition, not bad this time around but a long way to go for where we really need to be!)
As with any job or any other type of project where you must select someone to do the job regardless of what the job is, you must have certain fundamentals, dependability, consistency, teamwork, ability to lead, initiative, competitiveness, knowledge and skill level, love or passion for doing your profession and yes, speed of getting things done. Well this same criteria comes into play also whether selecting a national football team or putting together a team for a critical project at any workplace or choosing the right Seal team to get the bad guy or the right security team to go to Bogota; without a well tuned selection process your project is doomed for failure or worse yet consistent mediocrity, pretty much what we have seen from the ReggaeBoyz over the past 14 years.
Immediate way to change the game, change the culture, change the discussion points!
Let’s raise the bar, first step, let’s create a new measurement, goal oriented infrastructure or let’s start talking to it, put the first flag in the ground on this issue. We want to select the best ballers for the Jamaican team so in this article we are moving away from the overall developmental process to the final leg in the process as the truth is this is really where we are at this point, all else that I have described takes generations to develop as we have in cricket and Track and field with the last piece on track and field coming with the local coaches and management in place to develop the post high school talent into world class athletes, something we have never done before 2000, it took us 100 years to get to this point.
Here we are again, two years before the next Copa, and no good idea of identification of the best players for the national team and no clear criteria for selection. There are four things that we want to look at so that we can truly measure and select the right players for each position out of the pool of Jamaicans playing professional ball all over the world.
One basic assumption here is we are looking for starters in the best leagues and especially in top tier professional leagues, we don’t care about subs or super subs or B team performance no matter how good those B teams are etc. We want to identify the 20 best warriors for the team based on the following. Thus we are talking about a ranking of player by position based on the following in order of importance;
One is commitment level. That is commitment to team, commitment to team mates, managers, coaches and most importantly to self, basically this stat tells us about desire, doing whatever it takes to be “the man” because we are looking for 20-30 of these type of players. Thus players in a professional league that are consistently getting first team games and are looked to as essential components on those teams. That must be first and most important.
Two is personal performance level. That is individual stats relative to games played to give us true performance level of the player in the arena. Goals per game, goal producing event per game, shots on goal divided by shots taken average to let us know whether we have a rash unfocused ego driven, selfish type player versus a thinking calculated executioner type team player who canassess risk and reward possibilities and make excellent decisions.
Three is the league in which the players compete. We need to be able to look across all leagues and be able to measure the quality of the league so we can factor the quality of the league they play in within the performance equation.
Four is how well their team competes in their league. How well the team does in the league is also indicative of the players impact on their team and comes back to a degree of personal responsibility and ownership for team results as well.
Commitment and performance measurement!
We will look at the first two areas, commitment and performance levels. Here is where it gets pretty simple, we already have some of this data, except in Jamaica we don’t track or keep this data, we do not publish it, we do not talk about it, beyond goals and assists and even then whenever we look at it cumulatively or even from an average game standpoint, then how can we progress if the most basic data points that the rest of the advanced leagues are following, that we are not even talking about these points. These statistics tell us about our players performance level and consistency of performance at the club level and this data is not even available for review at the top NPL clubs in Jamaica. I have heard that they are posted somewhere but I have not been able to find this type of data on any Jamaican club site.
First commitment level is hard to judge but there is an easy way to get commitment level without personal judgment coming into play as it does where there is no data, as we all know is the case. I believe there are four main statistics that can tell you a lot about player commitment, leadership and warrior mentality. We want to have players that show a strong and clearly defined work ethic, commitment of the highest order and an ability to convince their fellow players, their coaches, staff and management that they must be on the field every time the team plays a match in their league and in all the key games, this is called the “I am all in approach, you can count on me”, requires serious commitment and engagement on every level of theplayers life.
Thus “games played” by an individual versus total possible games to be played is a key statistic, number of minutes played per match versus a 90 minute denominator as well as number of yellow and red cards(deductions to score with red being three times the score of the yellow)received go together to create a commitment/ work ethic / team player score as those players that get consistent game and consistent minutes are meeting the needs of the team, management, coaching staff and obtain the support of teammates on and off the field will be playing a lot and playing most of the game, yellow and red cards are deducted from that base score.
Next we go to the individual performance over the season, number of goals scored, number of assists bounced against the number of games played for an effective goal contribution performance average per game, this with shots taken versus shots on goal average as well as the goal differential average for the team are taken into account with forwards, midfield and defenders getting specific percentage allocation in each area, thus goal differential will be more important for defenders and goal scoring more important for forwards. Goal differential is really the only true and consistent indicator on strength of defense as very little statistics are kept even in the top leagues on cumulative goals conceded by an individual defender. Again the data in these most basic areas are totally missing at our top clublevel.
What we find!
When we run these statistics through and measure our players we quickly find that the best players come to the fore in a very simple straightforward way and what is really funny is we see that for the most part their stats show that they have been consistent performers at that level and every level of their career through significant chunks of their career. What is great about this is the players at every level can compare themselves against peers both in Jamaica and outside Jamaica. The very best players as forward are scoring very close to one goal per game across an entire season.
Next we will look at considering the impact of the various leagues our players compete in to be able to measure our players across leagues and lastly factoring the performance of the club within the league that they play. All these come together to point the way in the right direction, not just for the national team but in developing a new way to engage on what is the best way to separate the cane juice from the bagasse!!
Last edited by Karl : May 5th, 2012 at 11:40 AM.
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