How the next generation of data analysis is improving handball
There is a revolution under way in how handball data analysis is used and – thanks to a team appointed by the EHF Methods Commission – it is helping national federations and handball improve standards.
EHF Methods Commission member Carmen Manchado from the University of Alicante and her team have created a Handball Analysis Tool which interprets raw data produced by Kinexon that foresees the covered distances, velocities, accelerations, changes of direction, impacts and jumps of players on the court.
Combined with the metabolic power – a measure of the amount of energy needed during physical activity – a player profile for each playing position is determined.
The scientific analysis was already used at the Women's and Men's EHF EURO 2020. At the Men's competition over 7 million data points from the 65 matches were collected and, with around 110,000 data points collected in each match, approximately 5 million were collected at the Women's event.
With all the analysis openly available to competing nations at EHF EURO events, the Kinexon data – initially a product used to entertain fans inside arenas on social media to highlight, for example, the fastest throw – is now being used to a different way.
“The Kinexon data was firstly introduced for information for the spectators watching at home the height of a jump or speed of a throw to make them feel part of the show,” Manchado says. “Our data can also be used to provide research to learn more about sport and improve players’ performance.
“As a coach, the first question you ask yourself is ‘am I preparing right?’ with the available data, that tracks and maps players movement, this tool and the data it records enables coaches to learn more about how a player performed during the match. It can be used as a tool for better preparation and can prevent the risk of injuries.
“The reason behind why we try to produce the information coming from Kinexon is to give coaches as much valid and constructive data as possible. We receive the raw data – a players’ position for example and here in Alicante we use our tool to turn it something that can be translated in a coaches’ language.
“You can see patterns and trends emerging and see the different levels of performance appear. That’s why we think it’s important to analyse a competition to see what the players are doing in every match. They give us so much information: acceleration, metres covered, player speed, throwing speed, jumping height – and these are all critical factors when you evaluate in which position what skills can be developed.
“The mission for all of us involved in handball is that we define the development of the players and the game that will result in an attractive product: a highly-skilled match.
“Of course, this tool gives coaches the opportunity to improve levels of performance while at the same time we can improve our product. In turn, fans will find matches more spectacular as a result of the improvements… It comes full circle when more children start playing in school after watching the performances on television.”