Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing

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England v Wales Rugby Union Matches 1987-1992


Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I used real-time hand notation to record performance in international rugby union games. In the 1980s I used live BBC television broadcasts, in the 1990s I had the good fortune to attend many of the games as a notational analyst.

One of my interests in that period (after playing rugby at Loughborough College, London Welsh and Rosslyn Park) was to provide some evidence about game content and game time, particularly ball in play time, in order to support the coaching of expansive rugby. I was interested specifically in kicking, passing, set piece play and stoppages for injury as indicators of the flow of activity in games.

The most comprehensive set of data I have from that period is the competition between England and Wales 1987 to 1992 inclusive.

Game Content

In these games, the totals for the activities I was monitoring were:






Pens/FKs Conceded

Stoppages for Injury











































The odd year games were played in Cardiff and the even year games at Twickenham. Wales won the games in 1987, 1988 and 1989. England won in 1990, 1991 and 1992. Three of the games were affected by rain (1987, 1989, 1992) and there were strong winds in the 1990 game.

Ball in Play Time

For the ball in play time I started my stopwatch at the kick off and stopped it on the referree’s whistle or when the ball had clearly left the field of play. I recorded time in minutes (m) and seconds (s).

Year First Half Second Half Game Total


7m 32s

9m 24s

16m 57s


13m 43s

12m 28s

26m 11s


11m 08s

11m 25s

22m 33s


10m 38s

14m 11s

24m 49s


11m 36s

10m 59s

22m 35s


11m 14s

14m 51s

26m 05s

These total ball in play times as a percentage of total game time were:


Ball in Play (BiP)

Elapsed Time (ET)

Percentage of Game BiP


16m 57s

83m 45s



26m 11s

88m 35s



22m 33s

85m 40s



24m 49s

82m 29s



22m 35s

83m 30s



26m 05s

89m 12s


Activity Cycles

In the 1992 game at Twickenham there were 120 activity cycles (defined as play between the referee’s whistles or the start of action without a whistle when the ball was introduced into play, for example, a scrum). Their durations of these cycles were:

Duration of Cycle in Seconds

First Half Activity Cycles

Second Half Activity Cycles

Game Total Activity Cycles

As a Percentage of all Activity Cycles in the Game (n=120)









































My hand notations for the 1992 game are:


A PDF copy of this hand notation Actions

and Activity Cycles:


A Pdf copy of the notation ACEW.

Methodological Note

3423912577_378c200b4a_oThe data presented here are from real-time hand notation. I had been doing hand notation in rugby union since 1980 and by the mid-1980s had established a stable set of game events to notate on a single sheet of landscape A4 paper.I used one sheet per half of the game. The example shared here from 1992 is a transcription of two halves onto one summary sheet. I made a separate record of activity cycles and they are transcribed onto a single sheet here too. In all games I had two stop watches running, one for total game time and the second for ball in play.

During this period I was keen to profile teams in terms of two ratios:

  • kicks: passes
  • lineouts: scrums

I was very keen to identify those teams that played rugby handball more than rugby football.

I was mindful of the literature on systematic observation in educational studies and physical education and sport. I was a trained observer and was confident that my observations were valid and reliable. My aim was to provide real-time information to coaches if required.

I did not undertake any intra- or inter observer reliability studies of the data presented here.  I was aware of Paul Croll’s (1986: 154) argument that:

Stability of observations depends primarily not on characteristics of the observer or observation system but on the naturally occurring patterns of whatever is being observed … It seems unsatisfactory that an observation procedure that provides a highly accurate description of classroom events should be described as unreliable. In some cases the extent to which a characteristic is a stable feature of individuals and the extent to which it varies for different people may be of interest to the researcher and is itself a focus of analysis rather than a constraint upon whether the data are sufficiently reliable. (Systematic Classroom Observation. Lewes: The Falmer Press.)

In 1987, the ball was in play for less than 21% of the total game time. Given the relatively small number of game events I was monitoring there was ample time to record events. I was very aware that using a temporal measure required close attention to accuracy in starting and stopping the stopwatch. I was aware of the potential of mathematical error of using stopwatches. I used new batteries for each game recorded and prior to all games compared the performance of watches.

Throughout my real-time notation I was conscious of observer drift. No game lasted longer than ninety minutes and no half of a game was longer than 48 minutes. I used breaks in play and half time to refocus my attention. Real-time hand notation does require concentration and as a trained observer I felt comfortable with the cognitive load of the activity. I had clear operational definitions for all items to be notated and had made a very conscious decision not to try to capture granular details in real-time. With improvements in video technology in the late 1980s and 1990s I was able to undertake detailed lapsed-time analysis of performance for research purposes.


This post presents some of the data I captured in real-time twenty years ago. My overall aim was to develop a notation system that might offer decision support to coaches within games and subsequent opportunities to reflect on performance. During the period discussed here I immersed myself in the literature on observation. I was fortunate that at that time I was researching and writing Using Video in Sport (1988. Huddersfield: National Coaching Foundation) and completing a PhD that used ethnographic methods to record observations.

There is a story within a story here. By coincidence the data presented chart the rise of the England rugby team. In 1987 Wales defeated England in the 3rd/4th play off game at the inaugural World Cup. In 1991, England won in Cardiff for the first time since 1963 (there had been a draw in 1983) and at the end of the year contested the World Cup final against Australia at Twickenham.

Photo Credit

The National Stadium Cardiff (Walt Jebsco, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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Four Weeks at the SOOC


Earlier this morning I wrote my final Daily Wrap for the Observing and Analysing Performance in Sport small open online course (SOOC).

What a wonderful month it has been at the SOOC.

During November in Australia, Mark and Danny have been with me on the day shift in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, Darrell and Adam have been the custodians of the SOOC.

As I was compiling the Wrap I received a link to a new version of Burn Note. This application takes communication to a different level. What’s a Burn Note?

A Burn Note is an online message which can be viewed only one time by the recipient. Each Burn Note is displayed using our patent pending Spotlight system for resisting copies. A timer starts when the recipient opens the note and automatically destroys the Burn Note once the recipient is finished reading it. Once a Burn Note has been deleted it cannot be viewed again.

In contrast, the Observing and Analysing Performance in Sport course will remain online and available. Adam Brimo writes:

The course will remain at the same url. What we can do to make it more open is remove it from the our homepage and remove or change the landing page to reflect that the course is open but no longer facilitated.

My hope is that more visitors will find the content relevant and interesting as it remains open. I am thinking it has the potential to become a dynamic wiki so that it updates links and references. We planned the course to be an introduction but we hoped there would be something for everyone.

To my knowledge this was the first SOOC of its kind. We aimed to present a fallible mode of sharing and to learn from the experience. I particularly liked the idea that it was an open course that encouraged non-linear journeys. I did enjoy the excitement of having Augmented Reality available from the first day if you chose to go there … as many did.

Whilst writing the Wrap, I received some timely links about massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Alan Levine (via a Stephen Downes alert) points out that in a recent Coursera Social Networks Analysis class:

61,285 students registered, 25,151 watched at least one video, 15,391 tried at least one in-video quiz, 6,919 submitted at least one assignment, 2,417 took the final exam. 1303 earned the regular certificate. Of the 145 students submitting a final project, 107 earned the programming (i.e. ‘with distinction’) version of the certificate.

He adds:

You see, the course moves at the speed it wants to, not mine. This mode does not use any of the affordances of online learning to be able to flex time and space for me to do work- it just marches on everyone rowing the boat together (or falling over).

Ryan Stacey discusses 15 ways MOOCs will change education. Item 7 on pedagogy is:

While MOOCs typically comprise video clips and perhaps a quiz, they will inevitably include more instructional devices to assist distance learning (and remain competitive). Over time, content providers will supplement their core offerings with live webinars, interactive exercises, discussion forums, wikis, social networks etc. Some may even organise real-life meetups at selected sites around the world.

As of today we had 517 enrollments on the course. It has been the most delightful month of meetings and glimpses.

We had a total of 23,490 page visits from 91 countries.

32% of the visits were from Australia, 27% from the UK, 8% from the USA, 7% from India, 5% from Ireland, 2% from France, New Zealand and Greece.The Seeing and Observing and Augmented Reality pages proved particularly popular.

The wonderful thing about an open world is that we do not have to say we will be back … we will always be here.

Photo Credit

Souq Waqif (Laika, CC BY-ND 2.0)

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Reflecting on the Art of Truth and Performance Narratives

NonfictioNow 2012 took place in Melbourne last week

It brought together writers, teachers, readers and students of nonfiction from around the world. There were three days of panels, readings and events that focused on the practice, thinking, communication and writing of nonfiction in all its forms.

I caught a conversation from the conference about The Art of Truth on Radio National’s Book and Arts Daily.  Helen Garner, David Shields, Jose Dalisay and Margo Jefferson talked with Michael Cathcart about re-presenting the truth in non-fiction writing. The trail for the program was:

If you’re a journalist or a historian, you are supposed to write truth. You may have a complex concept of the truth, you may acknowledge that in any one moment there are many truths however, the point is that they are all truths. You can’t make things up. But if you’re a fiction writer, you’re supposed to make stuff up; the more imaginative the better. But these simple distinctions don’t really help us make sense of the way in which we try to get at the truth through social media, reality TV, and film. Plus there are the works which are hybrid, such as historical novels like Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hillary Mantel. These books are novels, but they do, implicitly, claim to be truthful.

During the conversation David Shields read out a paragraph written by Philip Roth. I picked up on a separate quote after listening to that reading.

Philip Roth said:

As you well know, the intriguing biographical issue—and critical issue, for that matter—isn’t that a writer will write about some of what has happened to him, but how he writes about it, which, when understood properly, takes us a long way to understanding why he writes about it. A more intriguing question is why and how he writes about what hasn’t happened—how he feeds what’s hypothetical or imagined into what’s inspired and controlled by recollection

I went away thinking about how sport scientists might judge their work as fiction. We tend to talk about validity and reliability in research. Perhaps we could talk about truth too. I like the idea that we should account for what has not happened and how we re-present our experience to others who were not there at the time decisions were made about what data to include and exclude.

In my own case this post was readied by my viewing of a picture of Einstein’s office at Princeton and by the availability of a car journey that allowed me to listen to the entire hour of the Radio National program. Philip Roth was the pivot for my thinking about narrative as was revisiting this 1998 presentation that included ideas about narrative from David Polkinghorne and Elliot Eisner.

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Three Weeks at the SOOC

We have completed three weeks in the small open online course (SOOC), Observing and Analysing Performance in Sport.

It has been a relatively quiet week for online exchanges. It has given me time to reflect on the format of the SOOC and explore ideas with my fellow facilitators.

I have written daily wraps for the course.

We have 477 enrollments for the course. I am hopeful that the asynchronous, non-linear format of the SOOC enables enrollments at any time. I feel that there is nothing to miss and everything to gain through enrollment.

The quiet week has led me to think about peripheral participation and how an invisible community of practice can flourish.

I am clear that we are a SOOC rather than a massive open online course (MOOC). Following Alexis Madrigal’s lead I have been thinking about how SOOCs can mobilise the power of the dark social to grow their connections.

I have been reflecting too on the role of facilitators in SOOCs . I am extremely fortunate to have five colleagues who have shared the workload of the first three weeks of the course. This has made it possible to have a twenty-four hour service should anyone have teachable or sharing moments.

I am keen to extend the SOOC exchanges beyond a single language and during the week have been thinking about the Tower of Babel and an alternative … polylingual diversity … with nodes of sharing. The visitors to the SOOC from eighty countries could make this possible.

Photo Credit

David asks for directions

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#OAPS101: Two Weeks at the SOOC

We are about to start week three of the small open online course (SOOC) Observing and Analysing Performance.

We started with 279 enrollments on the eve of the course and at the end of Day 14 we had 420 enrolled.

I have been writing daily wraps for the course. They can be found here. I have found it remarkable that for each day’s wrap, by the time I had completed writing we had new enrollments.

My aim has been to provide a summary of activity during the day for very busy performance analysts. I have started to add some additional discussion points too.

My experience of the course has been one of fascination. I have really enjoyed the pathways participants have taken through this non-linear course. I have been delighted that there is a willingness to share and explore ideas.

We have four groups of Module facilitators. Each of whom has engaged with participants during the first two weeks. Information about the facilitators can be found in this Welcome post. All activities have been overseen by Adam Brimo at OpenLearning.

We have had lots of discussions about Observing Performance. There was some exciting discussions about Augmented Reality in the first week.

Our experiment with Open Badges is on-going. I see one of my roles as being an advocate for these badges. Adam Brimo has made Karma Open Badges available. These Karma Badges recognise contributions to discussion forums.

I am looking forward to week three in the course. My colleagues, Darrell Cobner and Adam Cullinane, at Cardiff Met facilitate discussions overnight Australia time. Here in Australia Mark Upton has worked with me during European night time.

Photo Credit

Banksy? (Markus Trapp, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)



#OAPS101: A Day in the Life of a Performance Analyst

The Observing and Analysing Performance in Sport course has encouraged me to think about networks and communities of practice. These issues came into focus today with news of the Digital Futures conference held in Citigate in Sydney earlier this week (shared with me by Alan Arnold).

Merilyn Childs was one of the speakers at the conference. Her talk was titled Not business as usual: MOOCs, Badges, OERs & global personal learning activism. Merilyn has a copy of her presentation on SlideShare.

My conversation with Alan about the conference was one of the prompts I received during the day about performance analysis and connected communities.

  • I started the day looking at and writing about what had happened overnight in #OAPS101.
  • I followed up on a conversation about coach development with a colleague from a sports institute.
  • I had the good fortune to participate in the Performance Analysis unit at the University and was able to introduce Alexis Lebedew to the group.
  • Alexis told me about his brother’s Facebook page At Home on the Court and Huy’s  Volleyball Blog and Newsletter
  • I exchanged some ideas about observation with a coach.
  • I met with a colleague from the Australian Paralympic Committee to discuss an open source approach to sharing resources.
  • Ended the day at the University discussing Learning and Teaching in the context of  #OAPS101 and racing over to see the end of a football coaching session to talk with a coach.

The day underscored for me the diversity and delight of being involved in performance analysis.

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#OAPS101: Enhancing Performance


(Vocaroo Summary of this post)

I have really enjoyed Week 1 of the small open online course Observing and Analysing Performance in Sport.

There have been some fascinating exchanges particularly about Seeing and Observing and Decision Making.

The numbers of participants enrolled in the course has increased this week. Shortly before the course started we had 155 and now it is 374. This means it is still a small open online course. I have discussed the approach taken in the course in a number of Clyde Street posts and in this Day 1 post on OpenLearning.

I have been keen to offer Open Badges for the course.

Conversations in the first week have prompted me to think about:

  • Feedforward
  • Performances of Understanding
  • Personal Learning Environments


Will Oldham’s post Analysts as Educators acted as a catalyst for my thoughts. In a post that synthesises a variety of ideas, Will concludes that:

We must take be confident enough in our skills and abilities that we are able to provide assurance to those who require it that we can add value to established coaching setups and processes, that we’re not in the business of coaching revolutions, but simply the development of athletes and coaches.

I commented on his post and suggest that the value we add is as educational technologists. I should have added that wherever possible bring an interdisciplinary understanding to performance. I think this requires a sensitivity to a narrative of performance that is customised to athletes and coaches.

My three big issues for the first week:


What if performance analysts decide to share the world as it might be?

I think feedfoward gives us the opportunity to do this. In Peter Dowrick’s wordssubjects see themselves not so much as they were but as they might be“.

Performances of Understanding

Last year I wrote about Sam Stosur’s victory in the US Open Tennis. In that post I noted that “I am fascinated by the process by which athletes prepare to perform. I am fascinated too by the realisation of the readiness to perform in actual performance”. My ideas about performances of understanding help me think about this readiness.

A decade ago I followed a Harvard University course online, Teaching for Understanding Using New Technologies. In that course performances of understanding were important indicators. Such performances:

… require students to go beyond the information given to create something new by reshaping, expanding, extrapolating from, applying, and building on what they already know. The best performances of understanding help students both develop demonstrate their understanding.

Personal Learning Environments

I am hopeful that many of the participants in the Observing and Analysing Performance in Sport course will write about their experiences as performance analysts or their interests in performance analysis. There is so much experience to share.

I am keen to find out about personal learning environments. My participation in the CCK08 course opened my eyes to the benefits of sharing openly. I have written about personal learning environments since that course. I see personalisation as one of the ways to offer a service to athletes and coaches.

Into Week 2

I am looking forward to Week 2 of #OAPS101. I am hopeful that this post might stimulate discussion that goes beyond the content of the course and helps address some second order questions about performance analysis.

Photo Credit

I received the photograph in this blog post from a friend. I have been unable to find a source for it. I am keen to learn whether it is a Creative Commons Licensed image.