When Nerds and Numbers Collide: Growing Job Opportunities in Sports Data Analytics

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Decision making that is data driven is something that many will be familiar with in the business world. These decisions are used in a range of areas, including supply lines, advertising, revenue projects and marketing. There’s no need for a hypothesis, assumption or guesswork – data mining ensures all of these decisions are made after available and accurate data has been analyzed thoroughly.

However, this decision-making process is now becoming even more predominant in the sporting world and not just in team operations where the sales of merchandise and ticket prices prevail. In fact, its being used in talent evaluation.

Dr. Lynn Lashbrook, founder and president of Sports Management Worldwide, suggests that this use of analytics in sport is just the start and that there is no end to the number of benefits it can offer. He also goes on to say that as sport continues to grow in areas such as media, gaming, gambling and fantasy industries, the need for analyzing this data is growing too.

The Longevity of Sports Analytics Careers

sports data analytics in sports careers.
Sport – playing football.

The book and film, Moneyball, helped to make sports analytics go mainstream as it showed how the Oakland As used data analytics to challenge what metrics can be used to predict how a player will perform. This propelled many into pursuing this type of career and perhaps undertaking online big data courses with companies like Simplilearn. However, this isn’t just a phase because the demand for this type of role is growing too, with careers in analytics and research constantly on the rise.

Lashbrook, who has also represented over 100 clients as an active NFL agent, goes on to say that analytics staff are becoming increasingly sought after in professional and collegiate teams. 10 out of 302 NCAA Division One Baseball teams have someone on their team who does Baseball Analytics and their research has indicated that in the not too distant future, most of these teams will have at least one person managing their analytics.

And that’s just baseball. There are also a growing number of roles arising in professional leagues in a wide range of sports, including gambling and fantasy as well as collegiate programs.

Whats Required From a Sports Analyst?

The image that may spring to mind when you hear the title Sports Analyst may be of a glasses-wearing geek, hidden away in his room with posters of geniuses decorating his walls. While having a passion for math and an ambition to be a genius is part of the process, there’s far more to these roles than just that.

Lashbrook explains that candidates need to understand statistics but they also need to be able to translate what they find to a coach in order for them to take this and implement it within their gaming strategy. If they aren’t able to communicate their findings effectively, all of their hard work could be proven fruitless, which is why having an understanding of a specific sport is also fundamental in these roles.

Introverts who want to hide away in their room crunching data aren’t going to be suited to this type of career. Instead, this role suits someone who is passionate about data and sports. They need to have a hunger to help create advantageous discoveries that will help a team and players performance.

Individual Athletes Start Looking at Data

As we’ve already seen, many teams have already started to become data-driven but this innovative new technique is also being used by individual athletes too. To analyze and monitor their performance, in order to improve upon it, they’re using this statistical analysis. Athletes across a number of sports have started to use this method to help them optimize how they’re competing and training.

For example, Kevin Durant, NBA star, started to work with Justin Zormelo, a personal analyst, to look at how efficient he had been at shooting from a variety of different positions around the court over the past few years. The result? In 2014, Durant managed to get Oklahoma City Thunder into the Western Conference Trials by winning the MVP.

This ambition to refine and optimize is being seen in a number of Olympic athletes too, as many begin to work with their own data analysts and personal statisticians to find out how they can prevent injuries, what pace they need to set, when the best time is for them to eat, ideal times for them to work out, what the best angles are for them, and so on.

The 2016 Summer Olympics will be another key turning point in the awareness of sports data analytics.

Christopher Dawson has worked in the HR department for many years, and is now a senior manager. He enjoys writing on a variety of HR / career based articles for an online audience.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, always revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance producer for USA Today, and a contributor at Technorati. She lives in Utah with her 2 kids and husband. Melissa Thompson can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter @melthompson88. Please follow and friend her on either site.