Data will shape the future of sports.

May 22nd, 2017

Moneyball. The book written by Michael Lewis started a different way of thinking within the sports industry. Moneyball did not only transform baseball, it changed professional sports as a whole. The traditional approach that was once dominated by intuition was replaced for an evidence-based approach in which the performance of players was being tracked. Professionalism takes over.


Nowadays, the big professional sports teams have an analytics department or multiple analytics experts working for them. Developers create databases consisting of possible signings for the club. Analysts then ‘crunch numbers’ to determine which players fit the club best. Instead of scouting players solely on intuition, data can help crafting a complete player report – giving clubs the opportunity to determine what player is worth signing based on data. Data analytics is the future and needs to be used to gain competitive advantages.

Take the top tier teams in football now to see how analytics has changed the way player performance is being measured. Every player on the pitch wears an item that tracks his movement on the pitch with a set of cameras. The result is a bunch of data that can provide new statistics that consider pace, distance, ball possession and more. While many clubs currently gather this data, there are still some problems with what to do with it.

Data helps to analyse play, create new strategies and boost players’ performance on the pitch, but data can be overwhelming. There are so many opportunities within the data, what should big changes be based on in the first place? There’s not one correct answer to that question. Both data scientists and members of the technical staff should work together to gather the right insights that can deliver meaningful impact. Easier said than done, though.

One thing is for sure; analytics used in sports will keep on developing in the future. Whereas some professional sports teams do not value the effect of analytics just yet, there is no doubt that it will soon become one of the key factors of making decisions within the sports industry. 

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