The last 10 years has seen huge developments in the world of analysis, evolving from almost non-existent, to an essential part of a modern day coaching process. One of the industry’s biggest influences over this period – Rob Carroll agreed to chat with CoachTech founder Oliver Gage, about his journey and influence on the industry.
Olly – Hi Rob, first of all thank you for taking the time to talk with me today, if you don’t mind I’m just going to introduce you quickly for anybody reading who doesn’t know who you are!
Rob is arguably the most influential analyst in football (and other sports) Performance Analysis who doesn’t work for a club. He started The Video Analyst in 2008 at which point in time there was basically nothing online about the industry. Since then the site has grown and is widely considered to be a hub for all things analysis. The the site contributes to the industry with useful articles, such as product reviews and new techniques, but I think by far the biggest contribution to the industry is what Rob has done with jobs. If you’re looking for a job, placement or internship in analysis, the chances are it will be posted on the site. I personally have posted two jobs on the site in my career to date.
Here’s an intro video Rob made featured on his site:
Olly – Rob, what made you want to launch the site initially and at the time what was your vision for it?
Rob – I really had no vision for what the site could be. I had been working in PA for around 2-3 years at that stage and people were asking me similar questions. I’d never blogged before but had made a few websites for friends and families over the years. So just before the end of 2008 I put something really rough together and put up 4 articles (all since deleted, as I’d hate to read what they said now).
That was as far as the vision got really. I would be able to put up some basic information about PA and instead of writing emails to everyone I could just point them towards the website. I never thought much beyond that for the first few years.
Olly – Well considering it only started as a way to point aspiring analysts in the right direction, it’s clearly been a huge success. Did you ever imagine it would get to where it is today and was there any particular point at which you realized you were onto something?
Rob – It took a long time before I thought people were actually interested. I still remember when one of my blog posts got 100 views and was over the moon. It was never a case where one day the blog just took off. It’s been a slow steady increase all the time. Every year just adding more visitors.
Olly – That makes sense. What would you say is the best thing for you personally that has come from the site and on the flip side, what’s the worst?
Rob – Without a doubt the greatest thing has been the people who have got in touch with me to say that they applied (or got) a job because they saw it on the site. For about 2 years I used to spend my evenings trawling the clubs websites looking for jobs to advertise. So it’s great to hear that it’s helped people even in a small way. I know I’ve done nothing more than post a link to a job but it’s a great buzz when it actually helped someone.
The worst thing? I’m really not sure there is one. Starting the website has been overwhelmingly positive and something I feel very proud of.
Olly – In my opinion, you definitely should be. I remember when I was trying to get into the industry. I sat down with my friend from university, Chris Trotter who works at Middlesbrough the first thing he told me to look at was The Video Analyst, and over the years I don’t think there’s many articles (if any) I’ve not read. As I mentioned before, it was the first place I went when I needed to post a job.
Are you sure there’s nothing at all that bugs you?
Rob – If I did have a downside is the fact that I wish I could get more content onto the site. It would be great to have more regular content, but unfortunately I just don’t have the time I once had. (But I’m always open to having people write for the site if anyone is interested).
Olly – Well for anyone reading, especially young analysts who want to gain some attention, this is definitely something you should consider. I personally began to write when I was at the University of Virginia. I absolutely loved it and eventually got a job in MLS. I’m not saying that was 100% why but I think it definitely helped!
I find myself being disappointed with pay and job availability still. There seems to be a bit of a change in the last 18 months with the amount of jobs, as there’s a few more training & set piece analyst roles being created and some behind the scenes research type roles, which is great. But there’s still so many unpaid internships and underpaid jobs.
Rob – I think there has been progress, although yeah it might be slower than people hoped. When I first started the blog there was 1 paid job in about 2 years. The ratio has changed a good bit. But on the issue of salary I do think there is a ceiling that at the moment is very low.
For example there was a job advertised last year for an assistant First Team Analyst at one of the very big clubs. The salary was £30,000. For me that is just way too low for someone who is top of their field. In a lot of other fields where you have a university degree/masters and a few years experience under your belt there is no way you would be earning that.
But the counter argument is that does PA offer enough value beyond that? And as I’ve written about a few times, it’s not rocket science to capture video, code it up and prepare a presentation.
Olly – I agree with that, but I think people have to respect that not just anyone can work with elite level footballers. Yes, a lot of people could cut up film but in my experiences a good analyst is an extension of the coaching staff. We’re beginning to see analysts moving with coaches to new clubs which for me speaks volumes.
Back to the site itself any your influence on the industry, do you think if you were starting out again now you would be able to replicate what you have done?
Rob – When I started the blog in 2008 there was almost nothing on the web to do with analysis. So I think if I was starting now it would be very difficult to have the same impact. But I do think there is probably space for analytic type sites to exists and people seem more willing to pay for good content so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see this developed by someone.
Olly – You’ve been in the industry for longer than most. Other than technology improving, what would you say is the biggest difference between 2008 and now?
Rob – Awareness! I started selling PA equipment in 2005. Most of the time you were ringing people up and explaining what analysis was and then maybe they were interested in actually doing it. If you speak to even casual fans now – everyone is at least aware that analysis is being done. And although you will have very different interest levels among coaches you don’t have to explain what analysis is.
And second to that is price. We are all aware how much technology has improved but with that it is constantly getting cheaper. So even 10 years ago if you wanted to do analysis it was going to cost a few thousand. That decrease in cost has opened up analysis to whole new cohort of people. That’s why I have such an interest in the education side of things. Having the tools is only 1 part of the equation. Knowing what to do is way more important.
Olly – That’s a great lead in, because I definitely wanted to talk about education. I’ve just launched two courses (one in scouting and one in analysis) and here’s a shameless plug! https://www.coachtechsoccer.com/soccer-coaching-courses/
If you use the code: thevideoanalyst you’ll receive a 5% discount.
Your course in excel and video analysis for beginners is widely regarded to be very good, and I know you’re planning to release some more soon. What’s been your overall experience with offering online education?
Rob – I’ve always been interested in the education side of things. Ultimately the website was started as a place to share however little I knew. So if anything education has been the reason the site was started and continued. Online learning had always interested me and for a few years I’d had the idea to create my own course. I spent a summer recording videos and putting the content together and launched that on the site a few years ago.
I’ve had loads of people complete the course and the feedback was always positive. From a commercial point of view it would have barely washed it’s face but I’m still delighted I did it. I’ve launched a few other since and have one in R coming soon, so I am hoping to expand that offering as things go on. I’m always on the look out for experts who want to make a course. I’m especially interested in areas that have practical use outside of sport.
Olly – I think online education from people within the industry has huge potential and can offer some really good insights. What do you see for the future of the site and yourself?
Rob – The future of the site? Who knows really. The jobs market is strong enough at the moment and that drives a lot of the traffic to the site. If I could find a good way to produce more quality content that would be great. I hope the site is around for a long time yet but I’ve no grand plan.
Olly – That’s twice you’ve mentioned looking for a way to drive more content, so if anyone is reading who thinks they can help Rob, feel free to contact him (or me and I’ll put you in touch!).
Rob, thanks so much for your time.