Sports are, by their very nature, highly competitive, and participants will look for any edge in their quest to be the best. Happily, there’s also a lot of money in sport, so there are many people willing and able to do what they can to help. Where the line is for gaining that edge can be murky though. Massive doping campaigns, covered up by aggressively lying and destroying other people’s careers, like Lance Armstrong, are bad. Technology, on the other hand, is largely good. It has already had numerous benefits for many different sports, and is set to continue benefiting them in ways previously unthought of.
Big Data can pinpoint a number of metrics useful to assessing performance, both during competition and in training.
One example of technology being used in-game is SportVU technology, which was originally developed for tracking missiles. Created by STATS LLC, SportVU uses three cameras per half court to gather data on 11 data points (10 players and the ball), tracking each point 25 times per second. From this, the system provides a wealth of data from which to evaluate, draft, and compensate players. It can even suggest to the manager how best a team should be constructed.
In training, there are now a plethora of wearables that are set to be a boost to athletes’ fitness, providing large quantities of data for analysis. This can pinpoint areas of weakness in physical performance which a coach can use to fine-tune training methods. Biomedical software has also been developed that can monitor every movement in an athlete’s kinetic chain - their muscles and joints, so as to fine-tune technique. Most importantly perhaps, it is helping to individualize regimes. Therefore, instead of athletes simply following fixed training routines that happen to be popular at the time, the regimes can be tailored to get the best from each individual.
2. Fan Engagement
The digital age has already seen clubs that were traditionally only followed by local fans, expand their reach globally. Matches and events are now beamed all over the world on television and the internet. The web in particular has allowed sports fans to enjoy virtually any sporting event around the globe in real time. Further, thanks to mobiles, iPads and readily available wi-fi, it is not even necessary to be in the home, and updates on the activities of your team are constantly at the ready.
Social media has also provided them a platform on which they can interact with others in real time, and even the players themselves. Giving the fan a participatory role so that they feel as involved in the team as possible is vital, and by analyzing social media activity, it is easy to look at how people are interacting with the team on a day-to day-basis.
Clubs can more importantly use Big Data to improve the fan experience, gathering information about how they are watching and their enjoyment. As the home viewing experiences becomes more and more advanced, with 3D TVs, clubs will have to enhance the stadium experience to guard against any drop off in numbers. For many teams and sporting events, ticket sales are a massive part of their income, and they will have to ensure that these continue to come in.
The wealth of real-time statistics is not only a boon for performance, it also makes the game more compelling for fans, with their often-obsessive nature meaning that many will pore over them.
Preventing injuries is paramount to any club. Per Reinhall, Mechanical Engineering Department Chair at the University of Washington and CTO of VICIS, points specifically to the benefits headware technology will have for kids playing NFL, following the many concussions in the sport. He argues that without a solution to the issue, the NFL will likely not survive.
Injuries can be huge for players, and the consequences for the team fatal. The same data taken from biomedical software to note muscle and joint movement can also be used to analyze potential signifiers such as an imbalance of movement, which could suggest an injury in its early stages.
4. Democratizing Sport
Sport technology is often seen as expensive. There has long been an exclusionary nature to many sports anyway thanks to the clubhouse culture, and the access to better equipment wealthier children have has enhanced it. Many of the Big Data tools now available however are fairly cheap, and in many ways it is enabling poorer young people to get into sport at an early age.