The sports world owes its latest evolution to some technological developments that shaped its nature in the past thirty years.
While numbers were once only a partial help, now predictive sport analytics became the main reason for future investments.
Considering all this, how far can we go by combining Big Data and Sport? Is it true that we can measure every single thing or are we just imagining a utopian scenario?
First of all, data application is a fundamental stage not only for athletes and their teams but also for sports environment itself. Media and users – intended as fans, supporters, followers – are part of this development too, being at the same time recipient and target of these data.
The physical progress of an athlete, his technical and strategic improvements during training or matches, can be for sure enhanced by advanced statistics and sports analytics. But how can we manage the emotional motivation usually provided by coaches? Is there a machine able to replace those perfect speeches in Al Pacino style that can trigger the pride of a player?
Purists say that no machine can substitute the experience of coaches that live on the game field 24/7, and they have no doubts that math and stats won’t be the next trainers of an NBA franchise or a famous European football team.
The role of the coach is indeed a central one: he is a sort of father for the team family, he knows how to organize the work and blend together professional figures with different background and way of thinking completely opposite between each other.
Whatever sport we’re talking about, managers won’t be in control of any single aspect of the training, instead, they will have to learn to analyze and synthesize all the information they will come across.
What’s the risk of this process? An overexposure of data: the amount of information available will be so huge that its management and reading won’t be easy at all.
In the circle of Sport, working team will be composed of numbers experts and mental coaches, two professional and very different figures able to balance their expertise and work perfectly together.
These professional figures will drive the approach and the choices of managers and coaches. To lead a team and decide the path to follow for the development of single players they will only have to sum up all the collected insights and turn them into a convenient strategy. There is nothing more difficult to take in hand.
It is clear how too many information can even be an obstacle for our work if we don’t know how to read and summarise them into few and simple principles accessible to players and co-workers.
In many sports we can already see a distinction of expertise, take for example the split between coaches with offensive and defensive skills: these figures will have to work shoulder to shoulder to the sports analytics experts we talked before.
The need of Data is then fundamental to define the development of specific abilities and departments, but on the other hand, numbers must be supported by an emotional and mental work.
All this, however, it is not possible without a clear company/team Vision. An example that can help us understand the useful contribution of sports analytics and mental training is Joe Lacob.
Owner of the Golden State Warriors, he was one of the first managers who believed in the integration of technology in the organization of his team, not only on a technical level but also in the fan base management and all the services related to the Warriors facility. Not a coincidence if in just four years the franchise gained the NBA title.
A change is then possible, but it has to start from a deep cultural switch involving the whole structure, from the management to the team organization. To accomplish this, the entire company must have a Data-driven approach.
However, is it all measurable? At the moment definitely not, but we believe that future developments will impose a legit question: is the “Analytic mental coach” a possible professional figure in the coming years? We believe we will see interesting evolutions in this direction.
Many studies are now focusing on the integration between Big Data and neuroscience, mostly in the medical panorama, even if by now the creation of dedicated tools is still a far hypothesis.
But everything happens so fast these days that what seemed impossible last week is now clear and obsolete: that is why the role of Analytic Mental Coach could be an important topic to take into consideration in our future strategies and organization of sport and companies working team.