Analytics and Sports
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So you want to work in sports analytics...
Preparing for a Career in Sports Analytics
Looking at Last Year's Rookie QB Class
Not My Ideas
Thinking and Reading about Analytics

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Analytics and Sports

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Preparing for a Career in Sports Analytics


I often speak with students wondering what courses to take so they have the skills to get into sports analytics. Below are a set of useful courses – by no means exhaustive – courses that provide relevant skills for the field. These courses are from Coursera, and many schools have similar classes as well. ·        

  • Introduction to Databases-  This course covers database design and the use of database management systems for applications. It includes extensive coverage of the relational model, relational algebra, and SQL.

Not My Ideas

Three mind stretching analytic articles from the past week that everyone with an interest in analytics should read:

1) Phil Birnbaum (who I had the pleasure of sitting ona panelwith at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference) argues that analytics is best used toeliminate stupidity.

2) While I'm not necessarily a fan of the study or agree with the outcomes, at least Dave Berri is trying to ask interesting questions aboutmeasuring the impact of coaching. I think this is a very difficult topic and one that is not at all settled.

Thinking and Reading about Analytics

Below are three articles that I saw this week that caused me to think. I don't necessarily agree with everything in them, but each provides an important perspective on the use of analytics.

1)Recruiting Analytical Talent Requires Cultural Change- Discusses the need for organizations to have executive sponsorship of analytics and a path for analytic personnel to grow in the company.

2)Can You Balance Innovation and Execution?- While not directly discussing analytics, the message can be applied directly to building and maintaining an analytics group.

Don't Believe in Super Heroes

My guess is that most adults do not really believe in super heroes. They do not believe that there are people that are born with super human powers that allow them to perform acts that are not thinkable for “normal” humans.  Yet this is exactly how we tend to view athletes. Somehow, when we see Michael Jordan fly through the air and dunk, or Adrian Peterson bully his way through the line of scrimmage and then outrun defensive backs, or Usain Bolt appears to be literally faster than a speeding bullet, we attribute these feats to something called “natural ability”.

Data and Decisions

The same scene plays itself out repeatedly in my classroom. I begin by asking my Sport Management students whether they believe that players can "hot" and that the phenomenon of the "hot hand" is real. Most if not all of the hands go up at this point. Then we spend time working throughGilovich, Vallone, and Tversky'sseminal paper on the Hot Hand. The paper is just one of many that seeks to find evidence that the Hot Hand exists, and finds no support for the hypothesis. After working through the data and analysis in the paper I ask my students for a show of hands again on the belief in the existence in the Hot Hand.

Interested in a Career in Sports Analytics?

I have had a lot of conversations recently with two groups of people: 1) students/recent grads who would like to work in the field of sports analytics, and 2) executives in pro sports that are looking to hire students/recent grads who would like to work in the field of sports analytics.

In an effort to help facilitate these two groups finding each other, I would like to start a database of prospective sports analytics professionals so that when I get the call from an executive, I can send them a couple of names quickly - without relying on my memory of past conversations.