I’m a big soccer player. What I love most about the beautiful game is something that is sometimes hard to explain to people who don’t play. Its the combination of team movement and the pass that gives surprising space and opportunity to a team member.
They wouldn’t have the space without the collective work to pull the opposing team in different directions, and they wouldn’t be released to pose a threat without the pass into space at the right pace and angle. A big part of the skill is the vision to see how things will be a few seconds in the future on the field and anticipating both your own team and the oppositions movements.
Deep down, that is what inspired the Sports Analytics project. If I can figure out how to capture this visually and from data I feel like I will have captured something of beauty.
When I was in college at Brown, where I tried out but never played varsity, I played in an intramural league with a coop team where our team was called “Finlandia”. The team was made up of mostly beginners. For me, being able to get the ball and give it to people in a place where they could score and be excited was just about the best thing I could do!
I will maintain until I’m old and grey that expert players can really tell a lot about other players and people just from how they play the game. Do they look to pass? Do they move to space even if they don’t get the ball? Or are they really trying to score or show off their foot skills?
I have also loved coaching. Projecting the ability to win together with a strategy that players believe in has shown remarkable results both on the soccer field and with technical teams.
I grew up playing pickup soccer 4 days a week with men, women and children in an international crowd. I owe so much to the many people who let me play with them and taught me along the way. They include: Robin and Zjemi, Julie, Tom Nosal, Nicoi, Armando, Phillippe, Ben, Steve, Nick, Stephanie, Stephano, Paul, Andy, Andy, Ruth, My dad, Phurdy, Fiji, Jimmie, Tony, Tupac, Pablo, Jessel, and probably many more.
Call me crazy, but I really see this vision, development of teamwork and conceptual or real passing thing as my calling.