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Interview With Dr. Dan Weaving, 1st Team Sports Scientist At Leeds Rhinos RLFC

We sat down with Dan to talk all things sports analytics

18Jan

Dr. Dan Weaving holds a dual role as Post-Doctoral Research fellow at Leeds Beckett University and Sports Scientist at Leeds Rhinos Rugby League club where he leads the monitoring process for the 1st team squad, with a Ph.D. that investigates the methods of monitoring the training load in team sport athletes. Dan continues publishes articles in this area which underpins his applied practice. His main focus is understanding how best to filter and analyze the multiple data sources we collect across sports performance to assist the understanding of the demands faced by athletes and their relationship to outcomes such as injury and changes in ‘fitness’. This helps to inform the journey that such data takes from collection through to feedback to decision-makers at the club.

Ahead of his presentation at the Sports Analytics Innovation Summit in London this March 22, we sat down with Dan to talk all things sports analytics.

1. What, in your view, have been the key developments in sports analytics in the past few years?

I think a key development in sports analytics in recent years is the miniaturisation of technology and the ever-increasing variables that we can now collect in the field that were previously limited to investigations in a laboratory. This has created many opportunities to understand the complexities of sports performance. However, the next frontier of challenges is how we manage and make sense of these multiple data sources.

2. How important do you think collaboration between clubs and technology companies is when developing new products?

As the development of a technology solution is an ever growing process I think such collaborations are very important to ensure synergy between the product and the end user. It is ultimately the club (i.e. the consumer) that has questions that it feels can be answered with a particular piece of technology. However, technology is only as useful as the benefits that the person/club derives from using it day-to-day. The technology company should be striving to answer these user-defined questions in the best way possible and engaging with the end user can only facilitate these developments. I actually think there should be another stakeholder within this collaboration- universities who research in the specific space in which the technology is used. This can help to bridge the gap between what the user/club wants from the tech POV and how you can actually implement these needs into a tech solution.

3. Does sports analytics have limits on how impactful it can be within a club or organization? Will we reach a saturation point?

In 2018, we can now easily collect large volumes of data, yet data is only as useful as the decisions you can derive from it. The most important aspect to deriving decisions is to ensure an appropriate infrastructure/process is in place to collect, store, clean, analyse and visualise each data point collected. If we collect more data than we can get through this process, we become overloaded with data and struggle to provide clear insights for decision makers. In this case, decision makers may become disillusioned with data as a decision-making tool and instead rely on 'gut instinct'. Rather than always collecting more data, understanding what our data streams mean is an important and cyclical process and I feel we won't reach a saturation point if we can filter out important and non-important data streams. After all, not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted! (Einstein).

4. What are the areas in which you see analytics already having the greatest impact?

Sports analytics is having large impacts across a number of areas. Whilst this might be a slightly biased answer and although we have a long way to go, understanding how we prepare and manage players for competition and reducing negative outcomes injury risk has benefited greatly from sports analytics.

5. What can the audience expect from your presentation at the summit?

The audience can expect examples of published research that I have conducted in the field to understand the training and match demands of professional rugby league players and how this 'slow' research process can help to facilitate the 'fast' decision making that is needed to ensure we prepare players optimally during training. 

You can hear more from Dan, along with many other sports analytics experts, at the Sports Analytics Innovation Summit this March 22 in London. To see the full schedule, click here.

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