INJECTING A ‘SPARK’ INTO PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS AT THE HONG KONG RUGBY UNION

07 Apr 2020

Marc Carter, fondly known as ‘Sparky’ in the rugby world, has been an integral part of the Hong Kong Rugby Union’s Elite Rugby Program (ERP) for last two years. In his role as Head Performance Analyst, Marc not only provides detailed statistical insight for players, coaches and support staff but also identifies crucial themes from the game in Hong Kong, and from around the world, ensuring Hong Kong is at the forefront of global trends.  He plays a pivotal role in driving the performance standards within the ERP and the South China Tigers, helping individuals develop their game through critical analysis of training and games.  As Marc acknowledges, this isn’t always an easy task, “We have an extremely diverse group in the program and each player engages with performance analysis a little differently.  Some find it fascinating, and spend hours going through footage, while others might brush it off and don’t see as much value.”   Marc acknowledges that an important aspect of his role is to engage those players who are less enamoured at the prospect of ploughing through reams of footage, making his analysis and key findings applicable and user friendly to all.

Providing individual statistics for each player is a time consuming process and involves capturing and sorting through large chunks of data followed by coding every instance a player is involved in.  The complied list of stats for 23 players often sees Marc burning the midnight oil coding into the wee hours!  Where Marc brings a unique insight however is in the presentation of these stats.  Each player, with a specific role to play in the team, is presented statistics relevant to his role.  As Marc explains, “Even with players who might play in the same position, the way they play may be different – one backrower for example might be a real work horse while another backrower’s strength might be fewer invlovements in a game but each moment has signficant impact.  Both equally important to the team and both demand a slightly different approach when analysing their individual contributions.”  Marc goes on to say that, “specifically analysing players in this way helps educate the guys in how to priorotise apsects of their game that are important to overall team success.”

It’s not only the players that need Marc’s skill sets.  Marc also works closely with the coaching team as a key member of the group, providing vital KPI statistics and themes that help coaches with their planning and preparation of both individual and team needs.  Marc reflected on working with Hong Kong’s dymanic coaching group, “I thoroughly enjoyed working with our coaching team here and have been extremely impressed with their drive to understand the numbers and continuously ask questions to improve.  It is vital that the coaches have visibility across the range of statistics but perhaps of more importance understand how to filter and apply these numbers to ‘what’s important’ in terms of their philosophy as a coach.”  Marc is quick to acknowledge however that coaches shouldn’t soley rely on the stats he produces, “I encourage our coaches to use their subjective experience by watching the video without the stats in front of them to get a better ‘feel’ for performances.  I then provide the objective statistics to back up, or not, the ‘gut feel’ of the coach.” 

Taking all of this into account, arguably the most important part of this job is to develop relationships and understand each player.  “I’m in a fortunate position as the middle man between coaches and players,” Marc continues, “knowing what makes each player tick and how each player prefers to learn are crucial gems of info that I am able to share with the coaches to maximise player understanding and development.”  This is a crucial cog in Marc’s skill sets and underpins all his stats, trends and analysis with the pressure already building to RWC 2023. 

To finish, we spoke to Leigh Jones, General Manager of Rugby Performance at the Hong Kong Rugby Union who concurred that Marc and the notion of Performance Analysis is vital to the development of the game here in Hong Kong. “Marc has proven to be an invaluble adddition to the ERP platform. His Tier One knowledge & experience from Wales, working within both the Scarlets Region and Wales U20s has brought a broad knowledge base, not only of the game, the analysis systems and support software, but also the players and coaches. As head analyst, he is integral in his interaction with all, ensuring there is a clarity and understanding across the whole Performance platform.  The previous experience has also given him the confidence and knowledge to challenge the insight and thoughts of the players and the coaching team, a major reason behind his appointment, and one which has had a significant impact on how we do things.

As well as the abundance of experience he’s also young enough to connect with the players and coaches, often seeing things very much from their perspective. Its been interesting to watch him work with both groups, often quite unique in his approach to either whole groups, sub-units and/or specific individuals towards maximising the impact and learning for all concerned.”

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