How Big Data Is Transforming Sports

Big Big data may be a hype for many, but not for sports which has become a major testing ground for big data. They have started replacing the sports statisticians who noted every move of the players, every miss and pass, and recorded every swing.

High-definition cameras and sophisticated algorithms records every move and coach and the other support staff can access it directly. For fans—it’s fun to predict scores; for players—it’s more about raising their performance.

In USA, various pro and college basketball teams are already aware of these data machines, and they understand their importance in analyzing the game.

“We can extrapolate a ton of information on what they are doing on the floor … through machine learning processes,” said Ryan Warkins, associate vice president at Stats, a Chicago-based firm that owns the SportVU system of cameras in all 29 NBA arenas

SportVU, apart from using the high-definition cameras, also uses algorithms that uses data to predict the next movement of opponent players. Machine learning and predictive analytics are not merely jargons, they are part the animated discussion.

The success of big data in sports have caught the attention of scientists. “Sports are watched by millions and millions of people – yet, pretty much all of the strategic decisions are made by humans in a split second.

“I wanted to build predictive analytics tools to help teams make these decisions,” says Cynthia Rudin, associate professor of statistics at MIT, “For instance, If we know, for instance, that in certain circumstances, a particular coach on the opposition team tends to make a particular decision, then we can be ready for it.”

And it’s not just about improving performance, predictive analytics models can help avoid the probable injuries and help them keep feet.

In high-injury contact games such as rugby or boxing, this becomes all the more important. Players are using sensors to monitor the fatigue level, intensity and collisions – all of these are analyzed to predict their limit and avoid injury.

Based on the data, coaches can change the training schedule of players. All of these things are turning them to perform better. This can find a huge application in athletics.

Wearable technology and big data can monitor the athletes heart rate, hydration levels, and general fitness level.

And it’s not just team games such as football,basketball,or baseball—individual games such as boxing, F1 racing and tennis can use it. For example, predictive analytics models can help predict the tendency of the opponent and self.

Big data, predictive analytics, and hadoop are transforming sports in many ways. From predicting the ticket demand and scores to myriad other things. The possibilities are just endless.

Forbes magazine, in a fantastic report on soccer, gave a hint on how it’s transforming the game. The report mentions about Arsenal, premier league soccer team, has invested millions to develop its own predictive analytics and algorithms to collect and analyze the data in a better way.  It tracks every player and their interaction.

Coaches and players can analyze ‘all passes by Neymar that were unsuccessful’ or ‘all successful tackles by Lionel Messi’.

However, it’s not just the big data, but all emerging technologies seem to converge—be it wearable devices, big data, virtual reality or predictive algorithms. The teams have understood that the cost of implementing the technology can be quickly recovered if their most valuable and expensive players can be saved from injury.

Interesting part is that  it’s not just players, even fans are being monitored when they vent out their frustration on Twitter or Facebook.

It has been said time and again that sports is about humans competing on the field. But, the union of wearable devices, big data, predictive analytics seems to hint that this is just partial truth.

The performance will also be decided how efficiently the codes are written.  You may be disappointed to know that. But truth is that the sports has long ago has seized to exist as a pure play activity.


Chief Content Strategist

An active journalist and blogger with more than a decade of experience. He has worked with various national and international publications. Sharing behind the curtain news is his passion.

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