Monthly Archives: November 2020

Sports and Data Science: A Crossroads

To be completely honest, when I hear data science the first thing that comes to mind is complex data sets being manipulated by very smart people with very smart computers, which isn’t a bad thing! However, there are many other applications and uses for data science and analytics that attract different people with different interests. One of those applications that is particularly interesting to me and hopefully to you as well, is the use of analytics and data science in the sport industry. 

My name is Kade Peterson and I am a sophomore marketing major and sport management minor. I recently started working with CADS as a marketing intern this fall semester, to gain marketing experience and understand how Miami University uses data science around campus. I saw an opportunity to connect what I have been learning through CADS with my love of sports to investigate the use of data science in athletics. I had a conversation with my roommate, who works for the university’s baseball team as a student manager. He told me about the different data collection methods they have for the baseball team. As well as the processes they go through to analyze this data and present it to the rest of the organization to recommend action and show what is effective for the team. 

After having this discussion, I wanted to further investigate the use of data analytics in the sport industry in different areas of the market. I was drawn towards researching the use of sports analytics in golf because that is one of the sports I am most passionate about. One of the biggest stories of the year in the golfing community was the development of a much larger, much longer hitting Bryson DeChambeau. He has earned himself the nickname of The Mad Scientist, because of his devotion to tracking data and the mechanics of the body. Upon returning to competition after the COVID-19 pandemic, Bryson had added 30 pounds to his frame from daily workouts and strength training. He has become a much larger player which has resulted in him hitting the ball a LOT further. He is averaging 330 yards off the tee this season, which is up almost 40 yards from his previous seasons average. This massive increase has put him in first place for average driving distance on tour, nearly 10 yards ahead of his closest competitor (Source). 

Following the return to competition, there were lots of questions surrounding BeChambeau and if this change was worth it. He silenced all of those questions this year, placing in the top 10 in 9 of the 17 events he played. As well, he earned his first major title (a major is one of the 4 biggest tournaments each year U.S Open, The Open, The Masters, and PGA Championship) winning the U.S Open this year. Bryson DeChambeau is a breath of fresh air in a sport that has long been stuck in its ways and lacking diversity. He is a self-described nerd in the game of golf and has turned towards data in a game that is generally feel based. When promoting the launch of an app that helped players pick the best golf ball for themselves, Bryson said “ the data analytics aspect of golf has helped me understand, from a percentage standpoint, where to hit shots, how to play a course, what clubs to use based on conditions, etc…” (Source). Bryson has turned to data analytics to try and give himself an advantage over his competition, combined with his physical transformation he has become one of the most talked about players on tour. 

We are at a point where nearly every sport being played has some sort of data tracking and analytics aspect involved with it. The reach of data analytics in sports has increased over time. For example, The University of Connecticut just hosted a Sports Analytics Symposium with over 300 participants including students at the undergraduate and high school level. The purpose of this conference is to provide information to students who are just beginning to work with sports analytics or do not know much about it but know they are interested in sports and math. The symposium had four keynote speakers including Brian MacDonald the director of sports analytics at ESPN (Source). Universities are starting to offer more sports analytics opportunities to students. Miami University gives students the ability to gain a sports analytics certificate as well as a sports analytics minor. The crossroads of data analytics and sports has become more prominent in the sport industry and schools are moving to accommodate this industry shift.

In conclusion, the sport industry is usually not the first thing that comes to mind when discussing data analytics. However, it is a quickly growing segment in the sport industry that offers a unique use of it. This shows the wide spread of data analytics and how it impacts so many different industries in the world.

About the Author

Kade Peterson is a sophomore majoring in marketing with a minor in sport leadership and management. He also interns for the Center for Analytics and Data Science’s marketing team.