So I ventured down to Melbourne recently for the Sports Analytics conference World Series. By title it sounded like a prestigious sporting competition that was reserved for elite. Well there was some truth in that, some of the great analytical and innovative and bright minds in technology and sport shared their insights and revealed (or not) the secret recipe in how to measure athlete and team performance in the most effective way.
The professional sports industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s a result driven business and on-field success stimulates growth and revenue. These factors contribute to the extensive investment from the professional teams in both on-field and off-field operations to harness and support the growth of the brand.
Conventional roles within the professional sport organisations have existed for a long time and formed the basis for any on-field operations team, but over time they have become more extensive and specialised, as the industry has demanded it. Roles like Performance Analysts and Data Scientists have become an integral part of high performance teams but it wasn’t all straight forward in the beginning.
When I began my journey as a Performance Analyst at the turn of the century within professional football, the reality of having a specialist fulltime member of staff in-tow with innovative analysis software was overwhelming. There was a lot of reservation about the need and requirement for such an ‘expensive luxury’. More often than not manager’s egos were such that they viewed this tool as a nuisance, as it wasn’t going to tell them anything they didn’t already know as far as they were concerned. Too often in the early days it was used as a tool to be critical of individual and team performance and so of course ‘the Analyst’ was under great scrutiny amongst the players and staff from the beginning. But over a relatively short period of time, we begun to add value through insights and benefit from the innovation in sports technologies and we were able to mark our territory.
Fast forward another 10 years or so and now more than ever in this vibrant highly competitive market, teams and organisations are very reliant on performance analytics to find the ‘winning edge’ through human and technological innovation. Cutting edge sports technology companies like STATS LLC (Prozone), Catapult Sports, Fusion Sport to name a few have revolutionised how training, strategy, match day performance and Talent ID is approached, monitored and presented. Analytics have become the drivers in assisting, complementing and enhancing athlete performance as well as asset management tools. The landscape and culture within high performance, particularly within team-based sports has changed beyond recognition for the better. There is a new breed of specialists driving performance to new levels as the objective measures become more refined and relevant. The talent pool coming through into professional clubs now is now far greater than it ever was because the demand is there. Higher educational institutions have moved with the times to infiltrate this growth with the relevant academic studies. A Masters in Sports Analytics is something that would have never even entered anyone’s psyche 15 years ago.
So where is ‘Performance Science’ heading? In short my belief is that powerhouses like Microsoft, KPMG (who have a ‘High Growth Venture’ division that supports start up in the world of data analytics) are all becoming big influences in a world where business and technology meets sport.Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are two very hot buzzwords being discussed. Imagine a moment in time when performance can be predicted and the impact that could have in a sporting context? These are just a couple of reasons to get excited about the future of sport. It’s fascinating where this wonderful, engaging, slightly crazy world of professional sport is navigating next…