If you haven’t noticed via various posts and examples, like our Fantasy Football Leaderboard, we are big sports fans. Over the past year we’ve gotten to know Ryan McNeil (a former NFL defensive back) pretty well. Learning about the subtleties of college and professional football, as well as sports media, has been fascinating. As you will see below he is very excited about the new season and the opportunities for better use of data in the profession. Or it could be just that his Hurricanes are currently 3-0. Enjoy!
I love this time of year. The anticipation of the first week of NFL football always gets my “juices” (pun intended) flowing. I’ve been astonished by how much data has changed the game since my playing days.
While Sabermetrics, APBRmetrics Moneyball and sports analytics conferences are now well known, the use of data in sports is still in its infancy. The use of information is still exclusive to team leadership (owners, GMs and coaches) and their analytics team. The next wave of data in football and all sports is just starting and ironically I have the same feelings of anticipation as if a new season is just starting.
The next wave is the use of data across many new audiences including agents, players (professional, college and high school) and fans. This doesn’t mean that we’re going to turn them all into data scientists or that soccer moms will be sharing their R analyses with coaches, but it does mean that data becomes a much bigger part of the sports conversation.
The greatness of football (and sports in general) goes beyond the game experience itself; we also love the conversations, bonds, and memories that are created at every game. What I’ve learned over the past couple of years, particularly being so involved in the media business, is that enhancing these conversations among players, between players and coaches, between agents and teams, and between teams and their fans enhances the sports experience.
So, what has to happen for this next wave and these conversations to take place? First its not about just giving everyone a new playbook or raw data, but delivering data applications.
A data application is a focused solution that attempts to answer one question or explain a single idea. Questions like:
How do you visually represent effort or desire, e.g. hustle plays?
What is the right way to compare players who play the same position across several metrics?
Which player(s) should be on the field or court when the game is on the line?
How can you identify play patterns of opposing teams or players across hundreds of plays?
Data applications often benefit from being available on mobile devices and should be visually engaging, leveraging the latest data visualization techniques.
Visualization is the WOW factor. It can engage players to better understand coaches and agents. It can improve younger players learning curve. Have you ever seen the three ring binders we got to learn plays? For the fans, it can further draw them into the details of the game.
The season of data is only beginning and it’s very exciting. I’d love to hear what you think some of the data applications should be as well as what questions need to be answered to get players, agents and fans more engaged with data. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m anxious to hear what you think. Now, are you ready for some football?