When it comes to getting more wins and championships, sports teams will look for any edge they can find that will put them over the competition. Perhaps it’s signing a superstar to the team. Or maybe it’s drafting that promising up-and-comer. Or perhaps it’s investing more in scouting and training. No single answer can account for a team’s success, but one new area of technology is quickly proving to be a valuable strategy for every sport out there: big data. While mostly associated with the business world, big data has made some major inroads in sports. What started in baseball with the Moneyball phenomenon has quickly transformed into a movement featuring some of the latest technological advancements and brilliant analytical minds. If a team wants to taste long-lasting success, big data seems to be the way to go.
Teams are quickly catching on to how successful big data can make them. A recent study from Temple University shows that an impressive 97% of Major League Baseball teams employ data analytics professionals. The National Basketball Association comes in second at 80% of teams, with the National Football League (56%) and the National Hockey League (23%) bringing up the rear. Teams that use big data analysis tools see it as a chance to study deeper layers of the game, gaining understanding that goes far beyond what normal statistics show. They’re making sure to use the latest technological equipment to do so.
Motion tracking technology has been around for years, but only recently has it been deployed in regular sports venues. Soccer stadiums around the world have installed a system of eight cameras which helps teams track player movement and interactions. This leads to nearly 1.5 million data points every game, and considering how it’s used in 12,000 soccer games globally, that’s a lot of data to analyze. With the help of automated algorithms, teams and organizations can get a better sense of how their players are performing and where changes to strategy can come into play.
Soccer isn’t the only sport utilizing motion tracking technology. Every arena in the NBA uses a similar system, helping data experts measure player efficiency and how effective they are on the defensive end. Based off of the findings from big data analytics, the NBA game has changed considerably in just the past few years. Now there’s a much greater emphasis on taking 3-point shots and playing at a fast tempo. The teams that use these strategies the most also happen to be among the most successful in the league. This use of big data can also extend to college basketball as well. Duke is one of the few teams that uses tracking cameras, and they just won the national championship.
In addition to motion tracking cameras, teams are also using wearable technology to collect data in order to get a better view of each player’s physical fitness. This can also be used to prevent sports injuries before they happen. By monitoring players’ stress levels and knowing exactly how much strain they are placing on their bodies, teams can urge more caution and limit playing time when necessary. In the NFL, sensors in equipment can measure how intense someone is playing and how hard they are hit. With analysis of historical data, teams can make sure players are checked for injuries after particularly vicious collisions.
Other sports are just scratching the surface of what big data can offer. Tennis can embed rackets with sensors to measure how well a player is hitting the ball, which can give them insight on how to improve. The same principle is used in golfing equipment to help golf players get better at swinging their clubs. Formula 1 racecars use sensors to collect a wealth of information to know precisely when would be best to refuel and replace tires. Olympic athletes are even using big data to measure the quality of sleep they’re getting. All in all, the very nature of sports is changing, all to help athletes reach new levels of excellence.
The future of sports with big data is a bright one indeed. As the technology improves and more experts enter the field, teams will only become more adept at interpreting and using data to become more successful. The level of competition will increase, and more excitement will result. In the end, everyone involved, from the teams to the players to the fans, will benefit.