The collection, evaluation and analysis of match data is getting more and more important in handball, not only for professional clubs, but also in lower leagues. With better technology to collect the data, coaches have far more tools to play with to get the most out of their players.
The EHF has led the way in providing ways to obtain the data required, partnering with companies such as Kinexon and SELECT to find out how fast players are running and shooting, the angles and positions goals are netted from, and how efficient a team’s attack is.
Among those now sitting down to analyse that data is German journalist Julian Rux, who runs his own data analysis website, handballytics, and produces regular pieces breaking down the EHF’s club competitions for eurohandball.com.
“When you compare the data from basketball or football with the data of handball, there is a huge gap, but year by year handball is improving, as the majority of coaches understand the importance of data now,” says Rux, who started his handballytics project during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While in the past, most match-related data was more or less collected with pencil and paper on the bench by assistant coaches, now a lot of data are available digitally, for example through live tickers. Apps can also collect data on-site to be more easily analysed later on. Companies such as Munich-based Kinexon collect a huge amount of data through chips in players’ jerseys, or even the balls like during EHF EURO tournaments or all matches in the men’s Bundesliga in Germany.
“Those data generated by Kinexon, are high useful for in-depth analysis, as so many parameters are collected like exact position of the shooter, the speed of the ball, the exact position of the ball in the goal, the angle of the shooter to the goals, and of course all those factors for defence and goalkeeping. You can filter and select exactly the things that you need for your scouting, match preparation or training,” says Rux.
Many coaches have benefitted from Rux’s data analysis. The best-known example is Bennet Wiegert, coach of 2023 Machineseeker EHF Champions League winners SC Magdeburg.
“My data underlined the tactics he wanted to play, and he adapted certain things in attack to have the most efficient team ever in the history of the German Bundesliga in 2021/22, when they became champions and scored from almost 70 per cent of their attempts. In the 2022/23 season, they scored the second highest ever efficiency,” adds Rux.
For handballytics, Rux collects as many data as possible from the respective match, combines them and then selects the various parameters.
“Every coach, regardless of the league, can profit from data analysis, even at a lower level. There, the problem is, how to get the data and how correct was the scouting. But if an assistant coach does the scouting on his own, then of course he can rely on the data,” he explains.
Knowing which players score best from which distance, or which goalkeeper is stronger in crunch time, can help teams to win in all leagues.
“Every data is useful, if you know how to use and evaluate it,” says Rux. A core part of his analysis is the correlation of speed, number of mistakes and efficiency – 30 goals per match can be genius or can be below par, depending on the number of attacks.
In many cases, data and video analysis go hand in hand – you can track the match and add the respective data to compose the videos for preparation. Another example of using data for clubs is to help taking decisions on potential new players.
“Various coaches and managers have requested data of certain players to compare them in order to make a data-based decision on which player to sign,” says Rux. In this respect, handball is now catching up to basketball; in the US’s National Basketball Association it is already normal to create a team mainly from players’ data.
Further use of technology and analysis will, surely, only benefit handball in the future.