Fine Margins and the Rise of Data Analytics

November 2, 2021

Written by Tom Murgatroyd

For decades, within elite level team sport, there was a hesitation and resistance towards the use of data analytics and the importance which they carried towards improving performance. Though sports such as athletics, swimming and motorsports have relied on data for superior performance for decades, only recently have team sports such as football and rugby began to follow suit. Why trust numbers over experience and methods tried and tested?

Though the statistics recorded, and conclusions drawn are based solely in science, a scepticism with regards to the relevance of the data collected still exists in some sports today. But like with anything else, with results comes acceptance, and now it seems unbelievable there was time that existed when such resources were available and still neglected.

Data Analytics are used in all corners of a sporting organisations structure, from improving athlete performance to informing the specific rehabilitation programs necessary for injuries and recruitment models that exist for acquiring new players.

Every facet of in game performance is now monitored using a variety of different technology. Distances covered, players top speeds, energy levels and heart rates are measured from a physiological perspective. In football, number of touches with each foot, reliance on either your left or right foot and passing statistics can all be monitored with a piece of technology that now fits on the back of a player’s boot. AI technology allows for the statistics of each individual player and team to be recorded to assess a player’s performance, many of which are made available to public consumption to be debated over in the pub on a Saturday afternoon.

Many of these techniques are complimented by data recorded within training and gym sessions to create an overall picture of a player’s functionality and peak performance expectancy. In 2015, Athletic Performance Director of England Rugby Dr Scott Drawer stated that they depend on data for both player performance and player welfare.

The challenges posed on how to best gather this data has been solved by forward thinking companies such as Stat Sports, Catapult Sports and VEO, who have been able to provide off the shelf solutions to record different quantitative and qualitative data, reducing the costs to clubs and allowing the technology to be used on a far greater scale.

The massive growth in the volume, specificity and accuracy of data within the sports industry is ultimately helping organisations to adapt not just training to individual needs, but also IQ and technical understanding, recovery and diet.

Ultimately the success in data lies in the ability to know exactly what question you are asking and knowing exactly how to find the answer. Organisations creativity with how they use the data now at their disposal, and how to then tailor their processes to each individual around it, is where the fine margins now exist.

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