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Breaking down the ‘Beautiful Game’: UNB’s Joe Hamilton analyzes soccer for Canada’s national men’s team

Author: Tim Jaques

Posted on Jun 19, 2024

Category: UNB Fredericton

Joe Hamilton

When Joe Hamilton (BRSS'22) answered a call from a former University of New Brunswick (UNB) REDS teammate on a Sunday in 2021, he didn’t know what a game-changer it would prove to be.

The teammate, who had become the lead scout for Canada Soccer’s Men’s National Team, urgently needed an analyst. Hamilton was still at UNB studying kinesiology, majoring in recreation and sports studies and playing soccer for the REDS.

“He called me up and said they needed an analyst, like quick. They needed someone to come in tomorrow, Monday,” Hamilton recalled. “So it was like, ‘You have 30 minutes to decide.’”

Hamilton was a star with the UNB REDS men’s soccer team: the captain, a two-time AUS All-Star, and named to the U SPORTS All-Rookie Team. However, he had no experience as an analyst.

Hamilton, now 25, took the job and hasn’t looked back, becoming an integral part of the team as a video and performance analyst. His journey began with the 2021 Gold Cup, where he initially handled equipment and served as a training player, which proved to be a valuable experience for his upcoming REDS season.

He gradually transitioned into video analysis while learning on the job.

“After a few more weeks in that environment, I was able to be a bit more used to it, and I started with a bit more video stuff and learned as I went. From there, they called me back in for the World Cup qualifiers, and I was able to turn that into a full-time role,” he said.

Balancing these responsibilities with his university commitments, Hamilton contributed to the national team before graduating from UNB in May 2022.

“My role is to support the coaching staff and the players in preparing for games. A big part of our role is watching video, giving insights into the opposition’s and our own performances, and blending that through video and my ideas and the stats,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton's analytical skills were recently tested during friendly matches in Europe against formidable opponents. Canada, ranked 49th by FIFA, faced the seventh-ranked Netherlands and second-ranked France. The Canadians suffered a 4-0 defeat to the Dutch but then achieved a remarkable 0-0 draw with Les Bleus.

“After the loss, it was straight away analyzing the data. We were able to get data pretty fast. We looked at certain trends of the match and key metrics,” he said.

This between-games analysis helped the team improve its performance against France, aligning it with the vision of new head coach Jesse Marsch.

“I was still learning and the players were still learning what he was after. But you can see from the French game we were able to piece a really good performance together,” he said.

Hamilton is preparing for the upcoming CONMEBOL Copa América, where on June 20, Canada will face first-ranked Argentina, the 2022 World Cup champions. Argentina’s captain is superstar Lionel Messi, currently playing in the United States for Inter Miami.

Canada also plays 32nd-ranked Peru on June 25 and 42nd-ranked Chile on June 29.

Preparation involves a detailed analysis of Argentina's recent games to develop effective match plans.

“We’re trying to get across some of the key things that Jesse wants to see in the team, and one of my roles is making sure that we’re changing slightly for Argentina,” Hamilton said.

“I work directly with the coaching staff. We spend our days together working on their design and training sessions. I’m on the video and the data. Then, we meet and discuss what they’ve seen, and the assistant coaches present some things they’ve seen. We all come up with the video for the presentation, and Jesse will present that video. I’ll be on the computer, stopping it and telestrating it sometimes.”

Telestrating involves making highlights on the video, such as by putting circles around specific players or actions.

Hamilton tries to watch six of the most recent games of an upcoming opponent. The coaches analyze this and show it to the players, advising how another country did well against their upcoming opponent.

In addition to his national team duties, Hamilton is the assistant coach of the UNB REDS men’s soccer team. He became the executive director of the Fredericton District Soccer Association (FDSA) late last year after holding various other positions there.

His experience with the national team has enriched his approach to coaching at UNB and the FDSA.

“It is different levels and you can’t just copy and paste things from one level to the other. But I love trying to find the little key bits of detail tactically, or even just how coaches operate or talk to players, meetings, or whatever it may be to bring back and try to make us as good as we can be,” Hamilton said.

“Barry Morrison, the current head coach [of the REDS], has been great in being open to all these different things that I throw at him, and we try to adapt it for our guys,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton is justifiably proud of his achievements since he emigrated to Canada from his native England just over six years ago.

“When I was really young, I was probably in my back garden, thinking I’d be playing for England in a World Cup. But that doesn’t happen for everyone and doing what I’m doing right now is the next best thing. Being able to travel with a team through all these tournaments and games and just be at the training facility, being able to affect some things, is an incredible experience,” he said.

“When I was at the World Cup in 2022 at the age of 23, before the Belgian game, I couldn’t imagine even a year before that to be in that position. I’m always privileged and grateful for having that opportunity.”

Image credit: Photo courtesy of Canada Soccer.