Analytics has been common place in the NBA for a number of seasons now, and its successes are well known, with last season’s champions, Golden State Warriors, putting it at the heart of their performance strategy. The benefits are clear, and it’s not just in professional sports that they’re having an impact - college and high school teams are also now increasingly looking at data to leverage insights into their own players and their opponents.
The costs of employing data techniques has often been considered prohibitively expensive, but the consumerization of analytics has made the tools available to organizations with far less means than before, and high schools are exploiting them.
One of the companies innovating in the area is Krossover. Founder Vasu Kulkarni says Krossover has about 5,000 customers, the majority of them high school coaches, although they also include the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kentucky Wildcats. High school basketball has always been big business, with coaches often paid in the region of $40,000, so study videos has been commonplace for a number of years. Many high school teams have long shot and analyzed video of games, with coaches often cutting up clips to show their teams, either for self-scouting or for an opponent. However, the process of tagging and sorting was essentially entirely manual, and a time consuming process. Krossover does all of this automatically, and puts them online so that players can also access them on a laptop or mobile phone so they can run their own analysis.
A team of four Krossover employees use a video-game-like interface to tag the whole game in about 45 minutes. The tags identify hundreds of events in the game, such as shots, steals, and fouls. ‘We found we had to do the tagging by hand,’ Kulkarni says. ‘We tried image recognition, but it was too hard and images from all those camcorders were not that great.’
‘We were in the stone age before,’ says Sharman White, the boys basketball coach at Miller Grove High School in Georgia. ‘Before, I would cut up DVDs to make highlights, and the time for doing that is very long. And even then, you can’t get breakdowns of all the different things that happen on the court without having to watch the tape a million times.’
Krossover is not the only company operating in the area. Another service, Hudl, allows coaches to send video and diagrams to team members over the web, while software company Gamebreaker lets coaches break down their video and share the edits on a site called HomeField.
Krossover costs just $1,000 to $3,500 a season, and is an early example of a growing trend: the consumerization of analytics. Big data is already huge, but for companies to really see the benefits, it has to be available and useable by almost all of its employees and organizations of all sizes, and by everyone in the company, not just data scientists. The availability of analytics to small companies does not just benefit the small companies themselves - large companies also benefit from them having the tools. High school analytics tools also help colleges and NBA teams build a better picture of a player’s abilities when scouting. Not only this, they can use the insights gained to identify the tactics that work which they can then apply. The same goes for all large and small organizations, and over the next few years we should see far more collaboration between companies as they look to share data and pool insights that work to both their advantages.