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What is Sports Analytics?

The practice of sports analytics has been around for decades, but recent advances in data collection and management technology have broadened its scope significantly. The use of data and statistics has become prolific throughout most major sports. In fact, a large portion of professional teams in the United States now routinely draw on the services of professional statisticians to support their operations. Tracking a baseball player’s batting average as a basis for measurement of potential or ability is just one of many examples of applying analytics to sports.

Applying Statistical Analysis to Sports

Essentially, sports analytics is the practice of applying mathematical and statistical principles to sports and related peripheral activities. While there are many factors and priorities specific to the industry, sports analysts use the same basic methods and approach as any other kind of data analyst. Establishing parameters for measurement, like hit or fumble rate, and consistently collecting data from a broad sample is the basis of the analytics process. This data is then curated and optimized to improve the accuracy and usability of the results.

On-Field Applications

Analytics has many on-field applications in a sports environment, including managing both individual and group performance. Coaches can use data to optimize exercise programs for their players and develop nutrition plans to maximize fitness. Analytics is also commonly used in developing tactics and team strategies. With thousands of games worth of data to study, analysts can look for patterns across a broad sample size regarding formation, counter strategies and other key variables.

Uses in Team Management

Practical data analysis has plenty of applications for the business side of sports as well. Since most professional sports teams function as businesses, they are always seeking ways to improve sales and reduce expenses across their organization. Some sports analysts specifically focus on issues regarding the marketing and sale of sports tickets and team merchandise. Modern marketing and fan outreach efforts also rely heavily on analytics to predict their consumer base and identify opportunities to increase brand engagement.

Related Resource: Top 13 Best Sport Management Master’s Degree Programs

Careers in Sports Analysis

On a professional level, sports analyst falls under the umbrella of a statistician and other analytical fields. While some professionals specialize or expand their academic programs with sports-related courses, many have a degree in statistics or a related mathematical field. Analytics professionals may apply these skills in a number of settings, including sports team management. Overall, statistician careers in the US are projected to rise significantly through 2022, with a current median annual wage of roughly $80,000 across the profession, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With hundreds of professional and college teams across various leagues, there are many ways to leverage data to gain a competitive or commercial advantage. Many fans are also interested and engaged with data-driven presentation and it is crucial for to businesses that conduct gambling operations. Thanks to numerous practical applications both on and off the field, sports analytics is becoming increasingly essential to virtually every aspect of player, team and organization management.