Pia Sundhage isn’t afraid of coaching with data science

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An image of a football player teeing up to kick a pixelated ball. A triangle-shaped graphic is visible in the background of the image.

Football legend Pia Sundhage discusses the journey from player to coach, the evolution of women’s football, and how data-driven insights can help modern coaching.

Football fans will know Pia Sundhage as a legend on the field.

The Swedish player turned coach was the third woman coach for the US women’s football team, leading them to the final of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup before going on to coach the Brazil women’s national team.

In this episode of The Next Stage, Pia talks to journalist Pedro Bassan about coaching and how it has evolved to include technology, particularly data-driven insights that can improve experience and instincts.

Pia reflected on the game’s early days when women’s football was unheard of: “When I was little I was not supposed to play football. I was supposed to toss the ball. I was not supposed to compete.”

Fast forward to 2022: Brazil played England in the Finalissima at Wembley Stadium. There were 80,000 fans “watching and cheering for two great teams”.

Regarding how football has changed, Pia highlighted the growing role of technology – AI-driven insights in particular – in coaching.

“I think it’s important to embrace change … That’s what I’m trying to do with the team – and I use numbers (data science). And still I’m not an expert on numbers. I hardly use my phone; I’m not on Instagram … But I still have an open mind. I really want us to embrace the numbers and embrace different kinds of coaching.”

Pia Sundhage, head coach of the Brazil women’s national team, was in conversation with Pedro Bassan, journalist for Globo TV, on SportsTrade at Web Summit Rio 2023.

Subscribe to 🎙️ The Next Stage 🎙️ wherever you get your podcasts, and download this episode – or listen on the embedded player above right now.

Join us in Lisbon for more exciting talks. Get tickets to Web Summit 2023 now before they sell out.

Main image of a football player kicking a pixelated ball: Web Summit

A photograph of a person (Daniel Yanisse, co-founder of Checkr) speaking onstage at Web Summit. They are sitting on a chair and wearing a headset microphone, while gesturing with their hands. The Web Summit branding is visible behind them.

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