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Changing the Game with Big Data

March 11, 2014 No Comments

While the courtship between sports and data analysis has been going on for decades, only recently has it really taken off.

Think Moneyball.

We’re seeing data analysts for professional teams across all major sports in the country. We’re seeing universities and colleges offering degrees and advanced degrees in sports data analysis and statistics.

It’s the perfect arena and perfect time for big data cloud technology to enter. Sports are extremely popular across the globe and they’re an enormous revenue-generating machine. Billions and billions of dollars are poured into sports each year. Finding a competitive advantage is vital to the success of any team on any continent. Big data can make that happen.


Already, a lot of coaching that goes on in during pre-game preparation comes from data analysis, but much of what goes on during the game comes from what the head coach and his assistants see — and they do a very good job of analyzing what they see. The opportunity that they miss, though, comes from what they can’t see. With big data they could monitor and analyze the movements of every player. They could then tell at what percentage of optimal performance the player was operating. They would be able to see if a player was at an increased risk for injury. They could see which players were performing above optimal levels and then analyze why. They would be able to verify which players performed best together and at which levels they performed the best and worst. Game management would be drastically changed with the hope that performance would drastically increase.


In conjunction with coaching, big data technology makes the analysis of the real value of a player on the game much easier. Again, coaches can rely on what they see combined with what they’re not seeing. In soccer for instance, the distance a player covers during the match can be tracked and compared with the other members of the team. The speed at which they were running at the beginning of the match as opposed to the end of the match can be measured and compared to their performance in previous matches and compared to that of players in similar positions. This type of monitoring puts an increased pressure on athletes to perform at peak levels all the time. They can’t be lazy, because even if it’s not noticed by the naked eye, the data will be gathered. It will also help coaches and staff understand what helps their players perform at optimal levels, and tailor their trainings and preparation to that.


Big data technology is making enormous strides in injury prevention. Similar to what we mentioned above, most of the injury prevention that currently goes on comes from what athletes feel in their body and what the staff sees. Many internal signs the body gives off are unfelt and unseen, and so go unnoticed. Big Data can track these signs. By monitoring players over time during trainings and games and then comparing it to the daily performance of the individuals, the coaches and staff will be able recognize warning signs from the player. Stress fractures and muscle tears can be prevented and, again, performance can be optimized. In football, this will be exceedingly important for concussion monitoring.


One of the huge benefits that big data offers is its ability to monitor data in real-time. Nothing could be more important than evaluating in real-time how an athlete’s body is responding to treatments. With this information trainers can gauge the effectiveness of their treatments and restructure and change them as needed. Not only does this help athletes return to action sooner, the data can be stored and used again when the same athlete suffers a similar injury. With big data the recovery process becomes much less generic and much more personal and, of course, effective.


The sheer amount of data that teams will have to prepare for opponents will be incredible. It’s not just game film anymore that they’ll be analyzing. They’ll have stats and data on each player, when they perform at peak levels and when they don’t. They’ll also have real-time stats on opponents during the game, which will make their in-game planning that much more dynamic. It will force the players to perform at peak levels.

This, by no means, is a comprehensive list. Every aspect of the game is going to change with the implementation of big data technology. The shift from evaluating players based on what is seen to what the data actually says is only going to increase.



Gil Allouche is the Vice President of Marketing at Qubole. Gil began his marketing career as a product strategist at SAP while earning his MBA at Babson College and is a former software engineer.

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