Soccer coach job hack: the tall tripod video system

Analysis is all the rage. Top leagues have mega bucks ProZone set ups hard installed into every stadium. Dozens of HD cameras mounted to cover every view desired by quants and coaches alike. Amazing and expensive.

Recently, companies like Hi-Pod and Endzone have been offering portable tall tripods that you can attach your own camera to. The general idea is that you control the height and a cable from your camera USB’s port connects to a screen at eye level so you can view the footage as you’re recording. There’s limited control over the camera from my experience.

In fact from my experience using a borrowed Hi-Pod, the system was very finicky and I got little usable footage. The higher the tripod the more stress there is on the port holding the connecting cord. If it comes out you have to reel in the tripod, reconnect and raise it again. I’m sure with continued use you’d learn some tricks to make it function better but between the frustration of the first attempt and the sheer weight and bulk of the tripod (must have been over 80 lbs and required its own built in dolly to tote around) I didn’t attempt a second set up. Factor in that you needed to stay at the base of the tripod to view footage and they seem to start at $4000 (aside from the $1500 10-12 foot monopod models that require you to hold and support them while using).

So I started looking at other options to get what I wanted. The easy part was choosing the right camera. GoPro cameras are everywhere now and having used them I can see why.

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Our World Cup trip: 20 days, 8 games, 5 cities, 1 police report (Part 1 of 2)

Our World Cup adventure ended June 30. When it started is hard to say. The idea was first batted around very soon after Brazil was announced as hosts and planning started in earnest soon after Markus, Colin and I made a firm commitment to go about 18 months before the first ball was kicked. The planning really was pretty monstrous but added tremendously to the occasion. It was all great. We were very lucky that we could do this and that our families supported us.

It was a big deal to me personally to be able to go and while I’ve thought a fair bit about the personal significance of the trip I’m really not convinced I’ve come up with the best way to present what a World Cup trip looks and feels like never mind what Brazil feels like. But if you get a chance and you’re so into soccer that you actually read blogs like this…go. Go to a World Cup. Go with friends who share your passion for it and want to experience it the same way you do. But go.

This will be massively self-indulgent (as if blogs by nature aren’t) and probably end up being quite long but I’m writing it primarily for me as a keepsake of the trip and secondly as a something that gives those on the fence for similar trips a taste of what it’s like.

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Requiem for a Dream – How Barcelona’s Prodigal Son Became Their Most Damaging Signing in a Generation


I’ve never re-blogged anything from another WordPress blog before but this is really excellent.

Originally posted on Neymarketing:

Cesc Fabregas

To all intents and purposes, the time of Cesc Fabregas at Barcelona is now up. While nothing has yet been signed, nor even officially agreed, he is expected to move to Chelsea in the very near future. And, if that falls through, it is no secret that the club are willing to ship him off to any club that can give them in excess of 30 million euros and agree terms with the player.

This is Cesc Fabregas, a Catalan born and bred. A product of Barcelona’s La Masia academy, signed by their greatest-ever coach in an act the sheer inevitability of which had seen it expected for half a decade. A world class midfielder and Spanish international, with La Liga, the Copa del Rey and both the World Cup and two European Championships on his CV. It would seem fair that people are asking just why the club would…

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The Final: Keys to winning

I generally grimace at media pre-game sound bites that try to sum up what has to happen for a team to win. The format forces an over-simplification.

Results in games are about being relatively better than your opponent. Hegemony rather than empirical measurements are what are relevant.

So, since the Germans are favourites, here’s what I think Argentina must do to win.

First, here’s the lineups:

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 11.15.16 AM

Neuer is the best goalkeeper in the world. Arguments to the contrary are simply the result of a lack of objectivity. Courtois may become the best keeper at some point. Ochoa and Navas had great World Cups but Neuer is the best goalkeeper in the world right now.

Romero has to be at least his equal when called upon today and Argentina have to ensure the game does not become a battle between the goalkeepers. Germany are aware though that Romero saved two penalties against Holland and won’t want the game ending with spot kicks.

For the game to not fall on Romero’s shoulders it has to fall on Mascherano’s. His performance against Holland was truly one of the best by a defender in a World Cup that I can remember. He looks like he is absolutely possessed and playing holding mid is a more natural fit for him than centre back where Barcelona play him for the most part. For Argentina to win, it’s important that Messi and Higuain are on their best form but it is absolutely crucial that Mascherano plays just as well against Germany as he did against Holland.

Demichelis is a liability. His impression of a turnstile versus Holland was spot on. Mascherano bailed him out with Superman-like saves at least twice. He must be able to deal with German strikers (Muller and Klose) without needing an abundance of assistance as Mascherano will have his hands full with German midfielders.

Lavezzi, for me, has been really disappointing. He has to provide penetration and service from wide positions. Ozil has had a similar role for Germany and while he maybe hasn’t been the fulcrum of the German attack that most thought he would be he has still been effective and contributed regularly, primarily as a provider of defence splitting passes. Lazezzi has to be more influential than Ozil for Argentina to win.

Messi is the best player in the world and your best players have to be your best players in games like this. He has scored and he has provided. He sometimes though gets pushed further back into midfield for a starting attacking position than is optimal. The key for me is Zabalata bombing up from right back to pull markers back and away from Messi to give him the space to receive balls and start attacks a bit higher up the field.

Messi will get a chance or two and will provide Higuain (and others) with chances. The German’s conversation rate in their 7-1 win over Brazil was off the charts. Argentina will not match that but they have to convert goals from chances at a very high rate because the Germans will control possession and tempo for large parts of this game. Getting Germany off the scoreboard seems unlikely so Messi will likely have to mastermind more than one goal today.

Despite being the best player in the world and having a tremendous supporting cast in Higuain, Lavezzi and hopefully Aguerro (and maybe even DiMaria) it may be too big an ask when you consider they are up against Neuer, Hummels and Lahm in the back four. Each of them should easily make the FIFA XI at the end of the tournament. If Luiz is worth 50 000 000 euros then Hummels is worth the entire budget of this World Cup. Howedes and Boateng (as a centreback) are clearly the players that Argentina must look to focus on when they attack.

I think all these areas that Argentina need to eclipse the Germans in will prove too much. I’ve enjoyed watching the Germans play (live against Portugal and Ghana and on TV for the rest) and I think they will prove be deserving champions. That said, Messi is the best player of this generation with a solid claim to being the best ever. That claim is made legitimate if he plays out of his skull today and engineers a victory against the odds so that Argentina win their third World Cup in a game played in the heart of their most bitter rivals.

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World Cup: Germany’s first goal vs Brazil

It was likely the most shocking result of the modern game. 7-1. Germany over Brazil in a World Cup semi-final in Brazil. Master handicapper Nate Silver pegged the result as being 1 in 4000. That seems almost conservative.

The first goal fascinated me. Set pieces are one of the few aspects of the game that can be analyzed in a similar manner to episodic sports like baseball, football and volleyball. These sports have many, repeated actions from very similar setups whereas soccer’s fluidity precludes the easy comparisons that analysts can look for in more static, predictable sports.

Set pieces though give soccer that element of being able to set up specific patterns in attack and in defence. This corner is a great example of Germany doing their homework on how Brazil defended corners and manipulating that setup to essentially pick David Luiz so that Thomas Muller had acres of space in the back half of the penalty box.

I’ve done a (humorous) annotated video on YouTube that highlights the issues. Essentially, Brazil only mark the near space zonally (with Maicon and Fred), leaving Marcelo on the line at the far post. The rest mark man to man (curiously leaving Ozil unmarked at the top of the box though).

Here’s the video:

Howedes starts it off cycling in towards Luiz, where Klose has already fronted on to him obstructing Luiz’s path to Muller who has followed in behind to Howedes to the middle of the goal. Luiz has to fight his way through traffic but the timing of the runs ensures the ball reaches Muller before Luiz can do anything. He looks ridiculous as he flails his way towards Muller, knowing all the while that he is not going to get there.

Muller is left with a relatively simple tap in as Ozil has deliberately stayed at the top of the box so as not to drag any defenders into the space intended for Muller.

It’s a fantastic bit of coaching by Low and his assistants. The amount of space left by Brazil is ridiculous and it’s why any time that doesn’t get the mix of zonal and man to man marking on a corner is doomed to get burned by smart teams that create traffic and/or picks to free up a player who can sit in the space created by jamming everyone else in a part of the box where the ball is not going to be delivered.

I’ve made it (hopefully) humorous but the point is serious. Goals get scored off set pieces. It’s an area that coaches can have a disproportionate influence on compared to open play. Get your marking right or you will get exposed.

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Spain’s World Cup squad: deduce and reduce

Spain has released a provisional squad of 30 for the World Cup that will be reduced to 23 by Vincente Del Bosque on May 25. While some countries are chucking in make weights to get up to 23 and entering the competition thread-bare in some positions, that is as far from the case as you can get with Spain. Rife with talent everywhere on the pitch, Spain’s next best 11 after starters are picked would likely push for a spot in the semi-finals.

For Del Bosque the biggest decision is whether to view this as time to transition away from Barcelona stalwarts like Xavi, Busquets and Pedro to other players who have proven their quality the past season or two or go with the experienced, cool heads that have now won two Euros and the 2010 World Cup. Let’s have a look at the choices he faces getting down to 23 and then some possible starting 11’s.

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Ashley Chen

The one with her and her mom. Both in the hospital getting treatment. That’s the one that got me. A picture of a mother near death in the same ward as her daughter. Both receiving treatment for cancer that would in the end take both their lives within three months of each other.

That stops you exhaling for a few seconds and brings the weight of what the Chen family had to endure into very, very clear focus.

I have two stories I’d like to relate about Ashley. Which is two more than the priest who oversaw her ‘Celebration of Life’ related. Rather than relating the kind of person Ashley was, we got a long, impersonal sermon with scant mention of Ashley. We got how cancer had touched his life personally. As one of the many teenage girls there said to me afterwards, “Even I know that when you’re helping people grieve the last thing you do is start talking about your own sad experiences.”

So here are two things I would like to share about Ashley.

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