Senior Performance Analyst, Aspire Academy, Doha, Qatar
Master of Sport and Exercise Science student
Bachelor of Sport and Recreation in Coaching & Bachelor of Business in Management
What helps football teams succeed? That is the interesting topic Gary Connell is exploring through his Master of Sport and Exercise Science.
“I’m looking into the factors that contribute to success in football teams, specifically the technical factors. There have been numerous in-depth studies on the physical side of performance analysis, while the technical studies have only focused on obvious factors such as shots or shots on target.
“There are thousands of metrics available for any football game but I want to see if there’s a model that identifies two or three key elements to success. Obviously this can’t predict a game with 100% accuracy, but the idea is to guide coaches and analysts to what metrics are important to their team, rather than try to filter through the thousands of metrics available.”
The next step
Postgraduate study was the logical next step for his career, says Gary who is based in Qatar and balancing his studies with his role as a senior performance analyst for Aspire Academy, which offers sports training and education to promising Qatari youth athletes.
“I’ve worked as a performance analysis for nearly 10 years, and there has been an increase in the amount of academic involvement in this area. While I’ve developed my skills on the practical side of things, I wanted to be able to look more into the academic side to add another dimension to the way I work
“I’ve had a good relationship with AUT since I completed my undergraduate degree there in 2012, and have since hosted AUT students during their workplace experience and have collaborated with AUT on other projects. I also know that AUT has a good reputation globally in the sports science area.”
Balancing work and study has been Gary’s biggest challenge.
“The hardest part was juggling my job and studies at the same time. For example, I was at the FIFA U20 World Cup two years ago when I was working for New Zealand Football, and we made it further in the tournament than expected, which meant I wasn’t able to complete assignments on time. The staff at AUT were very supportive and gave me extensions, and were genuinely happy about the team progressing.”
A different mindset
He would recommend postgraduate study in sport and recreation to others, Gary says.
“Postgraduate study adds to your overall understanding of the area you work in or are planning to work in. Things become a lot more specialised, so you’re only focusing on what you’re truly interested in, which really helps to be motivated and interested in your research.
“I’ve enjoyed being able to look at my job from a different perspective by being challenged to look at things with a different mindset. Reading more research papers from around the world about what people are doing gives me ideas about how I can change and modify my current practices.”
His advice to other students is simple – always keep your end goals in mind and try and relate your studies to it.
“Don’t just cruise through without a plan. This helps you to keep your focus and relate your studies to what you want to do. It can also help you to start looking for jobs.”