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Analytics In Sports

Analytics in simple terms is deep and boundless analysis and scrutiny of data to fetch a record, obtaining a possible pattern in the process. Data which includes statistics of various kinds, each kind having its own abbreviation and importance. Mathematics and predictive modeling are the two pillars on which analytics as whole stands. Putting together the science of numbers, data and analytical basics together, we, with the power of analytics, may be able to find answers we didn’t think were possible. The Sports Industry has, over the past few years, proved to be the perfect foil for Analytics to merge into and provide us with the required answers.

The rise of analytics in Sport.

Sports has for generations been an intriguing industry, especially with the on-field activities and events. It is almost like a storehouse of numbers and data. Perhaps the most any industry could provide in terms of pure numbers, numbers that hold key information and are in most cases variable over short spaces of time. The entire premise of playing a sport is about winning, analytics helps us get an edge over the opposition. Sports analytics today is a broad spectrum, covering all aspects of the industry. From on the field to off the field, from the physical traits to mental stability. It’s all a part of it now. It helps coaches by looking into opposition’s physical tendencies and preparing his team for it. It helps the coaches look into the compatibility of their own Athletes with respect to others on the squad and adjust their psyche accordingly in order for the team to function.

It somewhat started back in 2003 with the book "Moneyball," by Michael Lewis. Which chronicled Beane’s use of sabermetrics to discover the secret to success in the oftentimes unfair and imperfect science of baseball Athlete evaluation. This was the first known use of prioritization of statistics and data to make personnel decisions in professional sports. Analytics, since then has come a long way. The role of Science in Sports, especially in terms of wearable tools and devices have enhanced the scope of Analytics in the industry. So much so that the two go pretty much hand in hand now. Technology advancements are now made keeping the requirements in mind, something that is again more or less decided by analytics within the sport. The up and coming methods to retrieve and use data lead the way in advancing technology in Sport, hence keeping in sync.

STAT sports is one such company that has made advancements in the device space in sports technology, enhancing Analytical scope. The Viper Pod is one such device. The Viper pod is worn by athletes for performance monitoring on a daily basis by collecting both training and game-day data. The Viper pod streams live data in real-time through the Viper Live Streaming software as well as logging all data for post-session download. The pod allows for feedback on the individual Athlete and team performance corresponding to every second.

Such devices now hold key to benefiting athletes and coaches in both early and professional stages of their careers. At the development stage, it is more about finding the right things regarding the athlete. Be it precision in one’s technique, or physical stamina and strength, or be it reaching a certain level of mental stability. Devices such as the Viper Pod work on the physical aspect of it. Measuring the heart rate at various points, the maximum speed at various times in a training session, obtaining key figures. Figures that can be made into something like a record book. A record book that can be used at various times as required and something that would feature as a base for the physical know-how of the young athlete in the future. From an in-game point of view, the stats obtained can help shape a more finished product from the athlete. Positioning, game-awareness, scrutinizing the mistakes and working on them using video data and their further analysis.

Sports at a professional level is a lot more stats driven compared to the amateur level. Picking on the basis of stats, the horses for courses, the attitude has caught up with the advancement of analytics in the industry. It is all strategy based, performances are looked from a roster-building view. Given the importance, the scrutiny is understandably deeper. Various ways of looking and perceiving stats have popped up. Heat-maps commonly used in Football these days is one such example. Heat maps in simple terms are a graphical representation of data that uses a system of color-coding to represent different values. In football, these are used to map individual positions through the course of a match, which may then be converted into some sort of a patter or further use.

Basketball remains an important exponent of how analytics has changed the way sports are played and Athlete performance is measured. NBA teams are now using a form of technology called “Athlete Tracking,” which evaluates the efficiency of a team by an analysis of every individual’s movements. Teams in the NBA have now started using six cameras installed in the arenas to track the movements of every Athlete on the court and the basketball multiple times per second. The data collected provides a plethora of innovative statistics based on speed, distance, Athlete separation, and ball possession. Examples of such data include how fast individual moves, how far he traveled during a game, how many times he touched the ball, how many passes he made, how many rebounding opportunities he had, and much more.

Moving forward

The rise of the analytical approach in sports can be seen in the areas of training and strategy. Many coaches believe that performance analytics is the most important tool today for Athletes and teams to identify their weaknesses track their improvements, observe particular trends in performance, and to study the performance of opponents in order to devise an effective strategy to defeat them. The data gathering activity though remains a challenge since a large part of it still relies on humans observing the game and interpreting what data to feed into the system.

One given assurance is the availability of surplus data in the industry. However, there is a level of difficulty in determining how to utilize the surplus of information that it provides to help Athletes and coaches gain an advantage. Sports analytics will continue to evolve. They will undoubtedly become more heavily relied on, but there are still ways that they can be improved. A good chance being that the next analytical breakthrough to come in the areas of predicting will be as to how an Athlete’s mental makeup will adjust to the rigors of professional sports and how the emotional aspect of the responsibility correlates to on-the-field performance.


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