Making sports smarter with big data

Baseball

Big data and analytics have transformed the way businesses operate, and big data increasingly has a profound influence on the daily lives of consumers. The sports world isn’t immune to the impact of big data: Statistics-driven sports like Major League Baseball and the National Football League have long crunched numbers to make key decisions, so using big data is a natural progression.

During last summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, analysts and trainers pored over data to predict performance and develop strategies. Whether motivated by profit or the quest for a win, greater efficiency and increased accuracy, the sporting world is embracing big data to improve performance. Here are three ways big data is making sports smarter:

  1. Enhance strategic decision-making with big data-driven analytics: Coaches famously watch video to gauge opponents’ skills and improve their own players’ performance, using knowledge gleaned in the training room, but now they’re also using big data analytics to gain an edge. With RFIDs, sensors and GPS trackers, training and coaching staff can capture information, feed the data into analytical engines and use it to influence strategic decision-making. This approach can help them choose exactly the right player for any given play.
  1. Monitor vital statistics with wearables: As wearables like heart rate monitors, accelerometers and other devices have become more sophisticated and accurate, coaches and trainers are using them to keep players physically fit as they train and to curtail injuries, both during training and in the heat of competition. Wearables can also enable trainers and coaches to gather more accurate data on speed, acceleration and endurance during combines and tryouts. This can help them assemble more effective teams and choose the most promising players at draft time.
  1. Better broadcasting and fan interactions with instant data feeds: HDTV isn’t the only technology that has upended sports broadcasting standards. The ability to generate and analyze data in real time to inform replay commentary, offer game-day facts and provide up-to-date player statistics can allow broadcasters to do a better job of interacting with fans and keeping them informed. Fan communities are more data-driven than ever, especially with the increasing popularity of stats-heavy activities like fantasy leagues. The more real-time data sports commentators can feed to fans, the better the broadcasting experience for everyone.

Ultimately, the goal for athletes, trainers, coaches, broadcasters and others involved in sports decision-making is to leverage real-time data to improve live performance. Like smaller companies that must find an edge to compete successfully with larger enterprises, a team with a smaller budget or more limited pool of athletes can use big data and analytics to gain an advantage. In that way, big data can make sports smarter.

Image credit: Eugene Onischenko/Shutterstock

Anil-kaul-580x388Anil Kaul is Co-Founder and CEO of Absolutdata. He has over 22 years of experience in advanced analytics, market research, and management consulting. He is very passionate about analytics and leveraging technology to improve business decision-making. Prior to founding Absolutdata, Anil worked at McKinsey & Co. and Personify. He is also on the board of Edutopia, an innovative start-up in the language learning space.

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