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It’s the Natural Progression of the Growing Trend of Data Analytics in Sports

            Someday soon, as professional athletes suit up for their games, their uniform will include a sensor to monitor heart rate, body temperature, physical speed and other physiological measures that affect their performance. That’s where early adopters of sports data, like Miami Heat player Shane Battier, believe the trend called analytics is going. In fact, many teams are already using so-called “wearable tech” in practice. In a story titled “Numbers Men,” Armen Keteyian reports on the increasing use of analytics in sports, particularly pro basketball, where a data camera system is now used in every game and every arena, on the next edition of 60 MINUTES SPORTS, airing Wednesday, May 7 at 9:00 PM, ET, only on SHOWTIME.  Watch an excerpt.

          Battier has been using data about his opponents’ playing tendencies for years to help him adjust his game. Both the quality and quantity of that data have reached unprecedented levels, he says, and are headed even higher.  “Everyone is eventually going to have a chip… on their jerseys at some point,” says Battier.

Brian Kopp of the sports analytics company STATS is at the forefront of the trend.  He convinced the NBA to mount a data collecting camera system called Sport VU in all its arenas. The system collects more than a million data points in each game, tracking every movement of every player on the floor, plus the ball. Now STATS is partnering with companies that make  wearable tech.  “One we’re working with is actually… a wearable patch… And what that’s collecting is your heart rate, your body temperature, how well you slept last night… your readiness and your  recovery,” he tells Keteyian.  “That’s what everyone’s gearing towards… it’s all about making sure you’re in the right position to perform.”

So far, those wearable sensors are being used only in practice, but Sport VU is up and running in every NBA game. “So now, for every shot you don’t just know there was a shot, you know where he was, where the closest defender was, how many dribbles he took… it is almost limitless,” Kopp says.

Battier explains the difference today’s analytics bring to the game.  A typical report on an opponent when Battier joined the league 13 years ago consisted of a page that made key points, such as the direction a player favors when he drives to the basket.  “Nowadays, [new analytics] say, ‘Well, Joe likes to go left 70 percent of the time, but you know what? He’s 10 percent less efficient going to his left,’” says Battier.  “‘Now when he goes right and shoots a layup, he’s a top fiver in the league… never let Joe Smith drive right… because he’s going to beat you.’”

The implications of the new technology are clear to people like Battier and to coaches who say they can use it not only to coach players more effectively, but to identify the best players to draft or sign.  But not everyone champions it.  Some coaches say the numbers can never beat good old-fashioned observation and coaching instinct, and says it’s dangerous to rely solely on them. Even Kopp admits that Sport VU generates so much information that only 25 percent of the teams have mastered its myriad uses.  But he believes it’s here to stay. “We’re never going to take away from the great coaches and the decisions they make…[Analytics]  is going to be one of the factors that goes into it,” he tells Keteyian.  “But I think we’re gone of the days – at least in the NBA – [of] teams not looking at the information.”

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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