Sports Analytics 'Shows Management What Our Eyes Cannot See'

We sat down with Jake Schuster, Performance Director for the Men's Program at USA Field Hockey


When sports analytics first exploded in popularity, it began being applied to almost all areas of sports management. Over time, though, injury prevention and fitness have emerged as the areas in which data analysis can have the biggest impact, and clubs are investing heavily in it as a result. 

Jake George Schuster is currently Performance Director for the Men's Program at USA Field Hockey in their push to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Armed with an MSc from World #1 Ranked Loughborough University, Jake worked with the New Zealand Women's Rugby Sevens team in assisting in preparation for their Silver Medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and completed research projects in the areas of speed and power.

Ahead of his presentation at the Sports Analytics Innovation Summit this July 24 & 25 in San Francisco, we sat down with Jake to talk all things sports analytics. 

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

Advanced load management via acute:chronic and more recently exponentially weighted workload monitoring. The big picture element of this has been the emphasis on systems and managing workloads intelligently, taking the performance+medical staff to coach relationships into the next dimension. Only a few leagues around the world are consistently excelling in these areas, but it's getting there!

What do you think are the key areas in which sports analytics can help sports teams and organizations?

Showing management what our eyes cannot see, and/or confirming what we do see, while managing more information than we can possibly do alone. Again, workload monitoring is the first area which comes to mind, but performance monitoring as well; for example, I test how fast my athletes are in great detail and track the variables carefully.

Have we now hit the point where all top-level sports teams and organizations are all in on analytics? If not, how can we achieve greater buy-in?

Not yet, unfortunately not even close. I'd also say that at least half of the teams which are 'all in' are biting off more than they can chew. Everybody does this and it's completely normal, but the big movements in the next few years will be not to get more buy-in (that will come in time) but rather how to use the data more efficiently and build a real culture around it.

Other than buy-in and engagement, what are the key challenges for sports analytics professionals going forward?

Desire for data and decision making as backed by data outpaces the current technologies we have available to us. Therefore we make decisions based on shaky tech, or at least tech which isn't quite ready for what we want it to be useful for.

What can audiences expect from your presentation at the summit?

A clean and clear explanation of what force-velocity-power profiling for sprinting is, why it's useful, and how to do it. 

You can hear more from Jake, along with many other industry-leading sports analytics specialists at the Sports Analytics Innovation Summit this July 24-25 in San Francisco. To see the full schedule, click here

BONUS CONTENT: Bill Gerrard, Data Analyst at Dutch football club AZ Alkmaar, discusses the role of spatial analytics as a coaching tool at the Sports Analytics Innovation Summit this April in London.



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