Grant Downie on his 'performance Rubik's Cube'
Written by Simon Austin — January 24, 2019
WHEN Grant Downie started working in professional football, with the Football Association at Lilleshall in 1987, most clubs only had one full-time physio.
“This person would look after the first team, reserves and Academy,” he remembers, “and send players to us if they needed some extra help.”
Fast forward 30 years and Manchester City - where the Scot was Head of Academy Performance - had a plethora of staff. “The year I left City, I had 28 full-time staff in the Academy, in medical, sports science, psychology and analysis.”
When you have so many staff in several different disciplines, working together cohesively can be a challenge. One solution was to shut down the traditional silos and get everyone sitting together when the new City Football Academy opened in 2014.
Another was to use The Sports Office’s Athlete Management Software to store and share data across departments.
“Staff had access to all relevant information, so, for example, the coaches could see the number of injuries each player had had and how long they had been out,” Downie, who was awarded the OBE in 2012 for services to physiotherapy and young people, remembers.
The Sports Office’s Football Squad software also helped Downie himself to keep across information from each area.
“If you have 28 staff writing everything down on their own computer with their own excel sheet doing it their own way, where has that information gone? Where The Sports Office comes into its own is that its acts as a centralised system for people to record what’s going on.
“It enabled me to hold a Rubik’s Cube in my hand. I could look at medical facts, turn it over and look at a social report, then physical facts, mental profiling. All of that was contained on The Football Squad rather than 20 different computers.
“I needed a dashboard to look into from home or from the office to tell me what was going on. It’s a very valuable tool.”
The Scot said the software was “more than just a place to store data”, because “it would actually audit the injuries, classify them into the types we were recording through the orchard classification, look at times off, run reports.”
Downie also said the Wigan-based company was willing to tailor its software to the needs of the industry, instead of approaching it the other way round.
“The system is evolving and is only as good as the people who want to improve it,” he said. “The Sports Office were always available, they had a client manager who was always willing to listen to what we needed. That’s key.
"Some companies will tell you ‘this is what you need,’ whereas they were listening to what we needed and did their best to match it.”
The medical section of The Football Squad - the most powerful part of the site - is currently undergoing a remodel with a brand new interface, which will be available at the start of March.
Andy Gorski, Head of Client Services at The Sports Office, explained: “It will make even better use of the huge amount of information available in the medical section, with less scrolling and fewer clicks.
“It is more intuitive and you can see and do more without having to dig into other areas. When you land on the player’s medical dashboard, you can see all their injury history, an interactive body map, highlight all problem areas, all their medical attachments.
“In simple terms, the dashboard will be faster and easier to use.”