It’s no secret that science is one of the most influential forces in sports today. From player development and rehabilitation to front-office decision-making and marketing, science plays a big role in nearly every facet of today’s top sports organizations. What started as pioneering explorations into biology and statistics has quickly evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry that’s expanding each year. Here to trace that evolution, we’ve compiled insights from some of the industry’s top experts on sports science. Learn more about where this rapidly growing industry has been and where it’s going from those who know it best.
Sports Science: Where It All Started
Since the inception of sport, people have been finding ways to approach physical games analytically. Everything from performance techniques and training methods to in-game statistics and fan reactions has been cataloged to varying degrees of depth. Mike Ableson, a seasoned sports writer, points out that “the box score, which has become standard across sports around the globe, dates back to the mid-19th century and New York sportswriter Henry Chadwick.” In the past few decades, however, increased emphasis has been given to the data and analysis side of sport. For many, this emphasis started with “moneyball.”
It was the mid-1990s, and player speed, size, and a few scouting reports were the foundations on which baseball recruiting and trading were built. That changed when Oakland Athletics’ General Manager Billy Beane decided to use a wide range of sabermetrics — empirical statistics in baseball — to influence decision-making. His decision paid off. Just a few years into the new millennium, the Oakland A’s were winning over 90 games each season. Competing organizations began to take notice. Among them, the Boston Red Sox and their general manager Theo Epstein. As Mike Ableson writes:
“It may have been Beane’s teams that helped legitimize the use of analytics in crafting teams, but it was Theo Epstein who perfected the practice. Epstein was named general manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2002 and two years later built a roster that brought the Red Sox their first World Series title in 86 years. He followed that momentous feat 14 years later when he built the Chicago Cubs into a winner ending their century-long curse.”
In just a decade after Beane had begun “moneyball,” “sabermetrics” had become the standard for decision making in professional baseball. From a larger perspective, the practice of using in-depth data as a force in sports was nothing short of a revelation. What began in the MLB quickly spread to other professional leagues.
Technology in Sports Science
One of the biggest ways that sports science has influenced sports today is through the development of advanced technology. New tech gives organizations access to new data and new patterns, which in turn can help organizations make better choices. One of the best examples of this can be seen in the NFL, where wearable Zebra technology tracks player performance and position, giving the league significant insight on ways to maximize safety. Similar technology has been implemented in the MLB: MLBAM’s Statcast platform measures a baseball’s launch angle and exit velocity—both key ingredients in determining the impact of each hit. Lastly, many professional soccer leagues and the NBA are using wearable cameras to gather “Player Tracking” data and collect a wealth of nuanced insights from each moment of every game.
Technology is affecting sports performance off the playing field, too. One notable example is through marketing analytics, which has been shown to improve many a team’s revenue markedly. In the NBA, the Orlando Magic partnered with SAS, a predictive analysis provider, to analyze its fanbase and create personalized marketing campaigns. The results are nothing short of magic themselves. Despite being NBA’s 20th largest market, The Orlando Magic have become one of the top revenue earners in the NBA.
Technology has also made its presence known in the video room. Henrik Teisbaek, Founder and CEO of Veo Technologies, an autonomous and comprehensive AV platform for sports organizations, illustrates the many ways in which modern platforms like his own can be game-changers:
“Sports analytics has drastically changed over the last 10-15 years. From recording internally at the club, saving the matches on DVDs, to now having centralized match databases stacked with statistics and clips from the present day. With modern tech, we can cut out all variables like elevation differences, shifting video formats, bad camera operators, loss of battery and complicated software. Veo is for everyone — affordable and easy to use at all levels.”
What platforms like Veo bring to users is more than just the video recording itself. It’s the technology that turns video into meaningful, easy-to-access data. For the biggest organizations in the world, this data is a goldmine. It’s used in the game. It’s used for team marketing. It can even be used for security. Take a look at what Joe LoBello, CEO of LoBello Communications and partner with global business development giant Orion, has to say about a growing security field within sports: credentialing.
“Credentialing is a very hot topic right now: helping leagues and teams manage all the badges and passes they give out to ensure the right people have access to the venue and within the venue. This prevents the wrong people from getting on the field, being in locker rooms (and stealing Tom Brady’s jersey, for example). Now, it’s all high-tech versus folders and spreadsheets.”
“Hi-tech,” in Joe’s words, is a reference to both the hardware (cameras and alarms) as well as the software (facial recognition and artificial intelligence) that helps sports security teams do their jobs better. It’s one of the many examples that illustrate the true breadth and depth of sports science today.
Explore Sports Science and Invest With Our Experts
Want to learn more about the rapidly-expanding sports science market? Interested in adding sports science to your investment portfolio? Speak with our experts at Red Grass Ventures to take the next step!