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The scope of sport performance analytics

This is an excerpt from Sport Performance Analytic Methods With HKPropel Access by John R. Todorovich.

SPA serves the sport industry and decision makers by giving them information that is pertinent, relevant, and important to their decision making. Specifically, SPA can provide coaches and others with complex technical, strategic and tactical, and physiological analyses. Advanced analytics can provide predictions about team and individual performance. Player safety may also be improved with the use of SPA.

Technical Performance Analysis

When many people watch sports, they focus on the skill level of individual players and how players implement those skills with their teammates. This could be a beautifully placed three-point fadeaway shot in basketball, a perfectly executed bending corner kick in soccer, or an efficiently performed handspring in gymnastics. Well-executed skills in sports in conjunction with physical strength and conditioning are the hallmark of the successful athlete. Moreover, when these skills are executed in proximity to other skillful players, the positive synergistic effect is hard to ignore. As a result, coaches want the most skillful athletes on their team because coaches know that skillful athletes simply make it easier for them to achieve their goals.

Historically, athletic skill development was conducted through feedback and repetition based solely on the coach’s and players’ past experiences or observations of others. Today, it is more common to find players participating in strength and conditioning and skill development programs developed by specialists to improve various athletic and technical abilities. The improvement of biomechanically appropriate well-executed skills involves a careful analysis of the skill within and without the game setting. It is valuable to assess performance during both competition and practice because the emotional and mental stress of competition sometimes influences performance. For example, an athlete may kick a ball a little harder or run a little more quickly when challenged by an opponent during a competitive match as opposed to a practice designed with developmental learning objectives.

The sport performance analyst uses a variety of tools to evaluate the technical skill of athletes. The biomechanical patterns of a baseball pitcher and the technique of a pole-vaulter are examples of technical skills that can be carefully analyzed. ­Analysts also employ tools to measure how a skill is applied for effective or ineffective performances within competition. As a result, SPA can be used for both team and individual technical skill analysis.

Physiological Analysis

Players are affected by their health and fitness levels. Data that reflect physiological components such as blood pressure and heart rate are known as biometric data. Ongoing collection of biometric data is useful for analyzing physiological attributes of athletes before, during, and after training and competition. Over time, biometric data can show gains or losses in conditioning or other physiological attributes and can provide a baseline for discovering underlying problems or altering training practices. At the most complex level, physiological data can be analyzed to determine the degree of player fatigue and how to best utilize the athlete during a competition. For example, one might be able to use biometric data to evaluate the amount of perspiration an athlete produces during a game to determine how much water or supplemental nutrients are required to maximize peak performance during competition. Some variables can be analyzed during a competition to determine when to remove the player and substitute another player based solely on physiological analysis. These decisions are critical to the success of the team because physiological performance is directly related to skill execution, which affects how athletes can be used during competition by coaches.

Safety Analysis

SPA plays a promising role in improving player safety (Finch, 2006; Seshadri et al., 2021; Wilkerson et al., 2018). Whereas many might assume that analysis of sport injuries can provide only a postevent record of what and why injuries occur, evidence has shown that using a combination of biometric data, complex modeling of injurious sporting events, and other data can provide suggestions for how to better train athletes or advocate for new rules and procedures that can improve overall player safety (Finch, 2006). Some teams are even exploring data such as the number of hours a player sleeps before a game as a data point that determines how much they may be able to contribute to the team during competition without an increased risk of injury

Strategic and Tactical Analysis

To appreciate the role of SPA in analyzing sport strategies and tactics, one must first understand the difference between the two. In sports, a strategy is a plan to reach a specific goal, and a tactic is an action or collection of actions taken to implement the strategy. Both can be analyzed and provide meaningful information to coaches who are planning an upcoming game or making decisions in the middle of a competition.

Strategic analysis would likely include data collected over the course of several games, a season, or perhaps even multiple seasons. The data for strategic analysis are usually very expansive and could include team performance data, opponent performance data, individual player data, and even such things as time of day that competitions occur. Strategic analysis can also be conducted at the individual game level, where the outcomes of a planned strategy are analyzed after the competition.

Tactical analysis may occur after a game when a coach is contemplating changes to strategic plans or evaluating player performance. However, sport teams more regularly use modern data collection instruments and other tools to conduct tactical analyses during games to provide real-time data to coaches, who may adjust their coaching decisions in response to the tactical data analysis. This type of analysis is often discussed within sport broadcasts for the benefits of the fans watching the competition.

Prediction Analysis

Advanced statistical procedures have the capacity to look at variables related to past performance to make informed decisions about future performance. While not everything can be accounted for and chance things can occur, some statistical models can be very strong in their predictions. Predications could include such things as what play the opponent might run next or what part of the field has the highest shot percentage in lacrosse. Chapter 6 covers these procedures and their efficacy. Predicting outcomes is a valuable asset for a team interested in improving performance.

More Excerpts From Sport Performance Analytic Methods With HKPropel Access