Name: Gareth Ikin
Roles: Finance Manager at British Canoeing / Senior Women’s Performance Analyst for Scottish Hockey, Team Scotland (Commonwealth Games, Birmingham 2022)
Gareth Ikin completed his BSc in Accounting and Finance at Hull in 2014 and, like so many of our graduates, was able to bring both his academic skills and his extracurricular interests to bear on the world of work. We caught up with Gareth following his role with Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games to talk about coaching, performance management and his time at Hull. In this interview, Gareth talks about his journey and his role, as well as offering some sage advice to students considering a career in coaching and performance management.
Were there any aspects of your experience at Hull which led into your chosen career?
It was my experiences with the Hull University Men’s Hockey Club that made me want to pursue hockey further from a coaching standpoint. I did my first coaching qualifications in the summer between 2nd and 3rd year, and got the opportunity to give back to the club by providing coaching to both the men’s and ladies’ hockey programmes as a student and after graduating. Combining this passion for coaching and hockey with the analytical side of my degree and training as a chartered accountant, performance analysis was a perfect role for this. Also, my time as Vice-President of Education within Hull University Union gave me exposure to working collaboratively with people from various different departments and organisations, and working with senior figures with an organisation to then take this approach into the sporting world, when working with head coaches and performance directors/CEOs.
How did your recent role come about?
Having coached hockey for a number of years, progressing to coaching with Beeston Hockey Club (National Premier Division Club) and leading on the Performance Analysis for both the Men’s and Women’s programmes for the last 2 seasons, I saw the vacancy advertised with Scottish Hockey to get involved as Performance Analyst for the Senior Women’s programme and applied for the role. After a couple of phone calls with the Head Coach of the programme, I was offered the role and have enjoyed it so far!
What are the most challenging aspects of your role as a performance analyst?
In competition, you are very much on the go all the time, so trying to find time or opportunity to have a bit of down time can be limited. During the commonwealth games I was at all 27 women’s hockey matches over the course of 9 days, live coding every game just in case we played against those nations later in the tournament or in international fixtures in the near future, so you had to make sure we were switched on for all the matches and accurate with your live coding.
Has being a performance analyst affected how you spectate sport outside your professional role?
When watching sport prior to this role, I was quite analytical in terms of how I watched sport prior to getting this role; looking for patterns of play, interested in what the stats were in game etc. I was (and still am) a big fan of TV shows that go behind the scenes in sport and understand what goes on away from the pitch, such as All or Nothing. Since being in this role, I would say this analytical side has just come more to the forefront when I’m watching, especially hockey!
What are the most important skills for your coaching and analyst roles?
Communication and inter-personal skills are key skills when it comes to coaching and performance analysis; being able to communicate with players and coaches about what you are trying to achieve and delivery of sessions and feedback from a coaching point of view, and to articulate what the analysis is showing, what this then means and how we can use this information to improve or highlight great elements of play from an analysis point of view. Having a keen eye for detail is also pretty important in both roles, and for particularly an analyst role, being methodical in your approach; being able to create and manage analysis workflows to generate the data you are after through the process you have designed.
What are the main technologies and tools that you use in your analysis?
So during most international friendlies and tournaments, analysts are based at the top of a video analyst tower behind one of the goals (normally scaffolding or a crane lift) and capture the footage on a camera, and also capturing the footage onto a laptop. From here in game we will live code the match, which is essentially pressing buttons on the keyboard assigned to specific events on the pitch (goals, circle entries, turnover in possession etc). We use a software called Nacsport that live captures the game onto the laptop and also is the coding software needed for coding matches. In addition to this, I use excel quite a lot of the time, to take the data from Nacsport and generate reports or graphics to help explain the narrative of the game.
Do you have any advice to offer to students or graduates looking to get into coaching or performance analysis?
Performance Analysis is such an amazing role for those that love sport and have an analytical mindset; it might even be a role or a career path that you might not know too much about or have never considered! Regardless to the sport that you are involved with, performance analysis will play a large part of what happens in the top sporting environments. Reach out to local clubs to start building up the knowledge and experience, look at the software that is available and the courses online to continue your knowledge and development in this area are great opportunities to gain further insight in the world of performance analysis.