From PA UK applicant to working for The FA with Lewis Avery
Lewis Avery was an aspiring Analyst like many others when Performance Analysis UK first met him and we helped him gain employment with the M&M Academy. Now Lewis owns LA Analysis, is a consultant analyst and works for The FA as an analyst. He spoke to us about his journey so far...
PA UK: Tell us about your background and what has led you to this point....
LA: I completed a BSc Sport Psychology degree at Coventry University but lacked any industry experience. Had always liked the idea of a masters degree and when looking, one thing I focused on was the work placement modules. This is what attracted me to the University of Worcester with its two work placement modules. I knew the industry experience would be key to helping me start my career.Through UoW, a connection with Insight Analysis to intern with them in rugby was available. Insight Analysis was my first role as a support analyst for the RFU in the Premiership and Championship. With this being a part-time role, I was able to seek other experience which is where I first encounter Performance Analysis UK who helped me get my first role as an analyst in football. These two roles really helped me gain an understanding of the different requirements of an analyst.Since then I have tried to seek new opportunities with clients in different sports. I still continue to work for Insight Analysis but have also built up a successful portfolio with projects I have gained working as a consultant analyst. The internship programme I now run aims to give aspiring analysts their first experiences in the industry at an academy and first team level.
PA UK: How did working for The FA come about?
LA: John Francis (course director at University of Worcester) was my dissertation supervisor. Through discussions with him about which direction I wanted to go in my career (at the time it was a bit of decision football or rugby), we decided on football. We created a good relationship and stayed in contact after I had finished my degree. John mentioned there may be an opportunity with the Men’s Cerebral Palsy side in 2018 at the start of the year however I didn’t hear anything until two weeks before the IFCPF European Championships. I was watching the England v Belgium group stage match at the time. It was a quick turnaround from the phone call with Jeff Davis to meeting the squad at Heathrow for the flight to Amsterdam. I’ve been with the FA for two years now, continuing to collaborate with John on processes for the disability squads. In 2020, myself and John took shared lead on the England Deaf Men’s Senior Squad role. Although the competitions were postponed this year, I am looking forward to working with the side next year.
PA UK: Best moment in analysis?
LA: In football, I think it would have to be reaching the semi-final at the IFCPF World Cup with the England squad in 2019. It was my first World Cup and a great experience in Seville, even if I spent the whole time squinting and try not to get stung by the wasps that had built a nest in the gantry. In 2020 I joined the GB Snowsport teams for the Ski Cross and Snowboard Cross World Cup seasons. One moment in Canada stands out (not specifically analysis related). We had bad weather all week with Big White living up to its name, visibility was at about 2-3 metres maximum other than one morning when the sky was clear. I was skiing down to the course and had to stop to take in the views and just enjoy that brief moment of realisation of where I was and why I was there. I think it’s important to remember we are fortunate in the industry to get to travel to some amazing places and even more important to take a moment to reflect on your personal journey to that point where we can.
PA UK: Best player that you have worked with?
LA: There have been a few, with the CP Squad I would say Matt Crossen. At the 2019 World Cup he showed his true talent to the world footballing stage and single handedly took on teams at times. He is a great captain to the squad and also a great person who I can call a friend (which helps).Ollie Davis (GB Ski Cross) and Charlotte Bankes (GB SBX) are two exceptional athletes that I have gotten to know really well this past season. It’s been my first lead role in an individual sport, with us being a small team, I spent a lot of time with both of them and it was a great learning experience. Being in those moments of disappointment and jubilation post race with a single athlete is different to one with a team. To see the sacrifices, strugglesand drive that these athletes must go through to get to the top has been inspiring. They’re also both very good table tennis players in their spare time.
PA UK: What’s the ultimate goal for you and why?
LA: The ultimate goal I guess is to have had a successful career and have made a positive impact on all the athletes and staff I have worked with. I have always wanted to work at an Olympic Games. To experience that from the other side would be brilliant. I have worked at some major sporting events and really enjoyed each one, to try and tick off some more major events in different sports would be great.I have always been fairly loose with my ultimate goal, I think partly due to being a ‘self-employed’ analyst. I wouldn’t say my sole ambition is to work for this club or that club. I want to enjoy the experiences I have with different athletes in different sports at the highest level possible for as long as I can.
PA UK: Are you more data or video heavy in your work and why are you more heavy on that area?
LA: It depends on the sport and scenario, I’d say a mixture of both in what I do. On a day-to-day basis, video is often what the coaches want to see however the data is there to help provide some context to the video. I think it’s really important that you’re able to use both effectively. You could be a great data analyst or video analyst, but if you’re the sole contact point with your clients (for video and data) and are unable to combine the two, then you will struggle to have the desired impact.
PA UK: How do you use data to affect performance?
LA: There aren’t really any specific models that I use as each client has different requirements. I think it’s imperative to be versatile to have the biggest impact, I will frequently have discussions with the coaches that I work with to understand what their focus areas are. The data research will be completed and then put into a digestible context for them and the players to understand.I think if you can’t explain a complex matter in a simple way then you don’t fully understand the matter yourself. I try to make sure the data used is significant and follows the key messages of the feedback I/ we are trying to give.
PA UK: What do you think is next for the analysis industry?
LA: I think VR (Virtual Reality) is becoming more and more popular, especially at the top level. I’ve seen a few videos of some football clubs trialing it for tactical sessions and feedback.
PA UK: What tool has the biggest impact on your job?
LA: Electrical tape. The amount of rolls of the stuff I have gone through over the years is a joke. It’s the biggest life saver for so many situations. I’d also say my network is a great tool for me. I work with some great people who are always forward thinking and it helps me to try and progress my ways of thinking and doing things.
PA UK: What advice would you give someone that wants a job in the industry?
LA: Speak to your local club, whatever sport it may be, try and learn as much as you can from the people who work there and the athletes there. Be methodical in how you plan to help them improve. I think it’s really important you understand the reasoning behind your messages before delivering them. I’d say my career so far has been a little unconventional with a lot of different sports etc, but I think this is a great tool for anyone looking to get into the industry. There are a lot of transferrable skills between sports, there’s also a lot of things that some sports and way ahead of than others at. If you can try to experience those and understand them, it’ll help you grow as an analyst. Enjoy it and know your worth, your time costs, make sure the role you’re applying for has some key benefits for you whether it be educational, career growth of financial.