Thursday, November 09, 2006

Work Rate - What is it, how do you use it?

We coaches throw around the term "work rate" alot, especially when we're talking with players. Sometimes it seems like an easy answer for every selection question ...

Player: Hey coach, what do I need to do to get into the starting lineup?
Coach: Well, I'd really like to see you up your work rate.

So what is it? Simply put, it's how hard the player works on the pitch, from start to finish. While I was working with the former girls U19 coach, I was first exposed to a statistical method for calculating work rate (thank you Karl!). I did a little tweaking of my own, and present to you the result (im sure it's still quite imperfect).

This method requires a full statistical analysis of a match, preferably using video. Then i use an algorithm that awards points for the following actions by a player:

  • Ball Touch - 1 point
  • Link - 1 point for the first action at a breakdown
  • Ball Running - 1 point
  • Tackles - 1 point for each Level 1 tackle, 2 points for every level 2 tackle (no gain or loss by ball carrier), 3 points for a level 3 tackle
  • Poach - one point
  • Kick - 1 point
  • Pass - 1 point

This gives you a raw number reprentative of a player's workrate during a particular match. If you go a step further, you can determine a players "effective" workrate ...

  • Missed Tackle - minus 2 points
  • Knock, forward pass, or other handling errors - minus 1 points
  • Turnover - minus 2 points (only 1 point if the result of a minor infraction)
  • Penalty - minus 2 points

Here's a screenshot of some stats I did after a match my team played last year (click to enlarge) ...

I've only included players 1-9 here, and have removed their names. As you can see - it's a telling story. Taking the time to do these sorts of stats really helps you get a total picture of a players performance. When meeting with players, you've got lots of hard data to identify a plan for improvement. This sort of data is also helpful for selections, WITH CERTAIN CAVAETS:

  • From game to game stats vary widely, through no fault of the players. If in one match, you play a team that loves to attack the fringe, your tight forwards will have more opportunites to tackle, poach, ruck, etc than they might in another game. If you play a team that loves to go wide, your wings will find themselves working harder and your forward's stats might drop off.

  • You've got to exercise caution when comparing positionally. For example, the scrumhalf will always have a high work rate, as long as she's doing her job. They have the opportunity to touch the ball more that other players, so the stats will reflect that.

  • Make sure you annotate how long a player was in. Some players may have a high work rate for 40 minutes, yet when you look at them for 80 minutes, the numbers don't change (this is player who "paces" him/herself).

  • Stats are a great tool for positional assessments - which lock is working the hardest, which prop, which wing? Is there anyone who's where they need to be, but not being effective (WR vs EWR?) Is it better to split halves between two particular players, and therefore get a higher EWR over 80 minutes?

Anway - those are my thoughts on Work Rate. There are several commercial packages out there to help you with statistics, but I don't have any. If you decide to try it out, drop me a line.



OBG said...

Interesting method ... and a whole lotta work. I'm not sure I get paid enough to do what instinctively I and the players already might know.

I wonder if you'd consider tweaking it to get more results from the things you think you need to do to win. For example, for my club, I'd want more than one point for a link. We can't seem to get the first forward over the ball quickly enough. And there seems like there should be a point for being second or third in (as opposed to the choice to not go in).

What's a 3-point tackle?

Just call me coach.... said...

You could tweak a system like this anyway you like. The reason I like to use stats instead of rely solely on instict is to take out the emotion. Its easy to remember the one awesome evasive run, and miss the fact that the player never rucks, or rests excessively between breakdowns. Statting out a game also sometimes really highlights the low-visibilty player who doesn't do anything fancy, but ALWAYS produces the ball.

There are lots of ways to describe
"grading tackles". What I use is the L1, L2, L3 system.

Level 1 - a tackle in which the ball carrier makes the gain line or passes through contact effectively. Some people call them drag tackles, negative grade tackles, etc. Basically, the ball carrier "won" the tackle.

Level 2 - no ground gained by either the tackler or the ball carrier, and there is no clear winner or loser - maybe the ball carrier maintained possession, but a ruck was formed. No advantage either way. Most of the side-on tackles are L2 tackles.

Level 3 - a clear advantage is gained by the tackler. Dump tackles, drive tackles, turnover tackles, man-and-ball tackles. These are the ones where the ball carrier is driven back behind the tackle line, and most likely, the ball turned over.

Hope that helps!

Blondie said...

I always wondered about the Level 1, 2, 3 tackles, since I had heard those terms, but never had a true explanation.

Good stuff ... :) And your layout's looking good ...

This year, on my club, we had one of our coaches take some basic stats in a game. I liked being able to look back at them and see the patterns ... something I wish we could have for every game, but since I'm one of the few stats junkies on my team, you can't play and take stats at the same time.

chiefcua said...

How do you account for position specific work, scrums, lineouts, PKs? Not that I am judging the system work, but I find that my forwards tend to have a heavier load to carry. I have seen numerous studies that place forward work to rest ratios at almost 1:1 compared to backs at 1:3 and 1:4. Just thinking out loud.

Just call me coach.... said...

Hi Chief!

I don't really figure in set play because I don't typically compare across positions (except when someone's HIGHER than expected). For example, tight five forwards have about the same workload in scrums, and backrows have about the same workload. I don't compare tight forwards with back rowers, unless I find I tight forward has a higher workload then a backrow player. Then I re-assess to determine if that lock or prop might deserve to be a flanker or 8. Chances are, if their putting out more work in the loose than a flanker, that flanker might be underperforming. I mostly use work rate that way - which lock is working the hardest, which prop, which wing ... as such set play is even accross the board.

Certainly stats can be used any way you like - whats important is that apples are compared with apples, and oranges with oranges.

K-Train said...

I think this is a good system but like most of the stat concepts I have heard about, seems a bit too ball centric. You could be rewarding players who are constantly getting into plays when they should be in a support role of some sort. I think this is especially true on defense, where younger players occasionally resemble liitle kids soccer. Ah, come to think of it sometimes club players too :)