Athlete Data: 3 Emerging Trends That Will Transform The Industry

Stefan Wagner

Get your competitive edge.

It’s a statement that’s used frequently in the sports industry. The goal has long been to empower athletes to become star performers—men and women who not only achieve big scores on the court and field, but also grow fan base interest and profits. To obtain the highest possible level of athletic performance, organizational efficiency, and player talent, sports organizations must turn to data today.

Data is at the heart of on-field performance and team revenue

As Inc.com contributor Mandy Antoniacci points out, data will be prioritized by sports properties with the goal of achieving a predictive edge in scoring and performance. And data will only get larger in the future.

The collection of data is not new; many organizations do it even at the college level. But the way in which these organizations use and apply this data will continue to evolve.

Here are a few emerging trends in athlete data that will shape the future.

#1: Data will help discover new insights

While raw data can be a powerful resource, it is often not useful to organizations, which need the right tools and resources to transform that data into useful bits of information. Those organizations, athletes, and teams capable of transforming raw data into valuable insight will dominate well before the competition.

Stats and figures, for example, provide only a basic glimpse of how an athlete is performing. However, downloaded and digested, this raw data can show patterns, mistakes, and methods, enabling coaches, athletes, and organizations to create more refined goals, strategies to improve performance, or even modifications to guidelines and rules to enhance outcomes.

Any organization that evolves from gathering data to creating insights will be prepared to compete at a higher level.

#2: Usable data will become visually usable

Another key step is to turn to raw data into more than just words. It needs to become visual.

Imagine an athlete wearing connected technology on the court. This technology reports very precise information about the player’s movements. GPS, heart rate, fitness trackers, and other connected devices are already available. Ohio University reports that wearable technology will be the single most important change in the industry this year.

But that recorded information is only numbers and figures—it lacks usability in its raw form. Turning those numbers into visual data makes it instantly usable. Data users are not IT pros; they do not have time to spend analyzing numbers. When data is turned into visualized insights, however, the information becomes instantly usable.

When data is visually presented, it is easier to understand. Athletes can see specifically what they are doing well, what specific changes they should make, and even the exact moment when changes need to occur. This provides instant feedback and real-time opportunities.

One key Big Data trend occurring in the sports industry is the ability to turn data into visually impactful information. It enables athletes to efficiently take steps to reduce injury risk or to make modifications that improve performance.

#3: Data will infiltrate every component of the sports industry

As Forbes contributor Leigh Steinberg stated, every professional sports organization today has an analytics expert on staff, if not an entire department dedicated to data analytics. Some teams are also utilizing data to make scouting decisions. Such use of data will impact every component of the industry.

Reduce injuries

Data will also become an effective tool for predicting injury, enabling sports teams and coaches to minimize risks to players. Data will inform coaches and players of risks and advise how and when to pull back, which in turn will help players more efficiently.

Enable scouting

Starting at the grade school level and growing more intense in high school and college, scouting is one of the most challenging components of the sports industry. Real-time data can analyze information and turn scouting into a numbers game rather than the subjective decision of a single scout.

Contract negotiations

Data can also be a valuable tool for coaches and players in contract negotiations. It provides tangible information, even in visual form, which all individuals can bring to the table to negotiate the terms of a contract. The amount paid to professional athletes can be backed up by facts and figures rather than hopes and assumptions.

Utilization of data is increasing and impacting every area of the industry, from team performance to fan engagement. Gathering, transforming, and using data is no longer a future goal; it is the present in many industries. Sports teams that want to remain in the game must adopt data analytics and digital tranformation now.

To learn more about digital transformation in the sports industry, click here.


Stefan Wagner

About Stefan Wagner

Stefan Wagner is Global Manager of the Sports & Entertainment Business Unit at SAP. Through intensive contact with international premium customers and many co-innovation projects, Stefan’s team supports the sustainable development of this nascent branch of SAP. Of key importance is the close collaboration with SAP’s development teams. In his free time, Stefan is an avid skier, tennis, and rugby player.