Data Scientists – New Members of Sports Franchise

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Have you ever kept track of the total number of runs scored or wickets taken by your favourite cricket player when you were a child? Have you ever compared the bowling figures of players from different cricket teams or tried to guess which team was going to win a match? If you were brought up in India then chances are high that the back pages of your school books were filled with such records. Fast-forward to 2016 and we have big data which is a hot topic of discussion in all fields. Business analytics and data science are advancing at a rapid pace thanks to the developments in the technological world. Though the concept of using data analytics in making sports decisions is not very new (crude methods were followed by individuals), the art was never as advanced as it is today. There are software products, analytical tools to do this and most importantly there is a supporting system of technological devices available to gauge and record data. All these factors are transforming the way how sports teams are managed. Thus the need for data scientists in sports is increasing at a slow pace.

Data Analytics and Sports – How are they Connected?

Data science or data analytics is one concept that can be applied to any field that involves recording of data. The idea of using data analytics in sports, just like it is used in business, is to improvise performance of a team or a player and set strategies to increase the probability of winning games. In the past, critical decisions in sports were made based on instinct or experience of sports professionals. Today, with advanced methods of handling performance records, gauging vital factors (bowling pace, bat swinging speed, running speed etc.) and smart tools to calculate and get valuable insights, data scientists are able to support coaches, managers and other sports professionals in making decisions and enabling the team to grow stronger.

How is Data Science Applied in Sports?

There are various ways in which data analytics/data science can be applied in sports. Though the concept is still in its budding stages in India, in countries like the US the idea is developing at a promising pace virtually acquiring every area of sports management. Sports clubs and franchises are involved in hiring data analytics consultants to handle data storage and work towards generating a new dimension/insight of already existing bulk information. The role of data scientist goes to an extent where the running speed, pitching speed (baseball), bat swing speed, style of performing and other factors are measured and suitable recommendations are made to enhance performance while avoiding injury. Data analytics is turning out to be a powerful tool in the design and engineering of sports equipment and costumes that are custom-made for players. The analytics concept can also help in athletic sports where time, distance and accuracy are crucial. Scientists are required to check the style of athletes and work with coaches to give valuable ideas/feedback.

On the commercial side of gaming, data scientists are concerned about retaining, increasing and entertaining fans of sports teams. Social media and other online channels are helping analysts in understanding the pulse of fans and deliver ad campaigns accordingly. In cricketing world, one news related to data analytics that made headlines was ICC’s idea to use the concept for the 2015 world cup. The idea was to give interesting statistics/information to audience based on past records. With new sophisticated equipment to gauge/capture every moment of the game and practice sessions the teams/clubs/franchises will be making more use of data analytics in future. A day may come when data science concept is one of the most effective strategies to winning games.

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