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Not another brick in the wall

Chelsea reaps the reward of an education in performance intelligence.


Stephen Smith


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Reviewing recent football news, what stands out to me is the impact of education on performance. Unlike primary school, education in elite sport doesn’t mean memorizing a mass of data points – it means learning to see the right relationships between the most important bricks and building something better that materially changes outcomes. To do this, forward-thinking football clubs are investing in intelligence, not just data: they’re acquiring tools and teaching their people to see what their data means and how to act on it for stronger performance. And there’s no better example than Chelsea’s Champions League victory last weekend.

Chelsea learned their way into a Champions League win.

It’s little surprise to see Chelsea lifting the European Cup: last month, FIFA’s global report told us youth infrastructure was a dominant predictor of success, and Chelsea were one of the first clubs to really professionalize their academy structure. Add onto this that they’re also proud owners of one of the best conversion rates of academy players to the first team.

To my thinking, Chelsea is reaping the reward of an education in performance intelligence: they leveraged their data and built strong internal education mechanisms to teach their people to continuously translate that information into action, from the academy to the first team. The results speak for themselves.

All eyes are on Chelsea now, but they’re by no means the only club investing in performance intelligence from the grassroots up, and it’s hard to see how anyone can compete with these elite learners without doing likewise.

Tech’s helping clubs reach higher levels of homegrown talent.

It’s also worth noting the number of homegrown players at Premier League clubs hit a record high this year, with 15% of all minutes played by homegrown players under 23. As I’ve written previously, wider and better use of analytical tools are making it more economical for teams to grow their own talent rather than buy it on the transfer market.

Tech is also helping to extend data and decision-making to the athletes themselves, bringing that learning mentality down to an atomic level. One small but effective example is Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s practice of empowering youth players to watch analysis of their own performances on smart phones on their commutes to school, in training, and even at half-times during games.

As Leverkusen’s Head of Match Analysis Academy Gilbert Gorges says:

To learn performance intelligence, the industry needs teachers.

These are still new concepts for many in our industry, which means expert help is a necessity. As tech writer Antonello Zanini puts it, sports is a decision-oriented industry and data is “a tool to help humans make decisions.”

This tracks with what we’re seeing working with high performing teams worldwide: more and more partners want to be educated in performance intelligence. At Kitman Labs, our performance experts were born in elite sport; they get how hard this is. The only group of our kind in the industry, this team exists to help partners get exactly that education as they build future-proofed tech solutions.

Intelligence unlocks performance.

Information is power – but only if you interpret it correctly and act on what matters most, at speed. That’s called intelligence. Without it, all that data is just another brick in the wall.

I’ll be sharing thoughts on sport’s most impactful developments and news on an ongoing basis. I welcome your feedback on Twitter or at



  • Human Performance
  • Performance Intelligence
  • Sports Data Analytics
  • Sports Science
  • Views on News

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  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen is Kitman Labs’ CEO and founder. He was previously Senior Injury Rehabilitation & Conditioning Coach at Leinster Rugby Club. Stephen holds a BSc in Sport & Exercise Rehab and MSc in Football Rehab from Edgehill University.

    CEO & Founder of Kitman Labs



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