Data Analytics in Sports
Soccer Player

Sports and Health

Data Analytics in Sports

Using math to win the game

WHAT IT IS

  • Almost all professional sports teams are using data science and analytics to try to win more games.1

  • Data analytics provides the ability to measure and utilize patterns found in data research to inform the development of on-field strategies.2 

  • The use of data analytics across all areas of a professional team seems to be the norm.6

For the Pros...

 

Data analytics is mainly used in professional sports to determine the value of a player, and to facilitate better on-field decisions.3

  • For example, the NFL uses tracking chips in shoulder pads to calculate the movement path and speed of each player.4

... And in College

 

Collegiate basketball, football, and hockey tournament selection are based on a Rating Percentage Index (RPI).5

3ce3c529 3c70 402b 9bce 85892331e202

WHY IT MATTERS

 

Use of data analytics is changing the way teams are organized and managed, and may be changing sports as we know it.7 This quantitative approach to player "grading" is challenging the old-school qualitative method that relies on intuition and observation. 

 

For example, saying a player can run "very fast" is qualitative while knowing the exact rate at which a player is running is quantitative. 

LOVE OF NUMBERS

Success

Highly successful teams, like the New England Patriots, credit some of their success to data analysis.

 

Owner Robert Kraft is a major supporter of its use and has even started a separate company, KAGR, that utilizes the business intelligence technology formed for the Patriots. 8 9 10 

 

 

Tailor your skill

Players are using data analytics to fine-tune their skills, both on and off the field.

 

Coaches are able to track player performance during games and gym sessions. They can tailor both training and tactics to individual players, including work out regimes and nutritional plans. Come game day, coaches can then match "team tactics" to the opposing team.11

 

 

Player stats

Player statistics (stats) are used to rank players or teams based on certain skills. For example, the NFL recently published "NextGen Stats," a website that ranks teams based on certain statistics. 

 

Stats are also used to help generate public recognition and create optimal fantasy teams.12

LOVE OF THE SKILL

Human skill

All sports require a level of physical and mental skill that numbers cannot create.

 

There is also the potential for "human error", or "choking" in any situation, which cannot be quantified or controlled by an algorithm. 

 

 

Stats can lie

Some believe that stats reported on players do not always account for actual talent or represent the right facts. For example13 :

  • RBIs (Runs Batted In) is luck more than anything else.
  • OBP (On-Base Percentage) is far more important than AVG (batting average), which is weighted heavily in baseball player stats.

Some believe you can "bend" percentages to support one side or the other. Learn more in the video below.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

 

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

  • Colleges and universities offer degrees in Sports Management and Sports Analysis.

  • How are your favorite teams tracking your personal data? 

  • How will tracking fan insights change the viewing experience?

Key Vocabulary