Predicting Sports Outcomes Through Human Analytics

As SMG Technologies’ sports science expert, Naomi Wallis talks about the power of using Human Analytics to help manage and predict a sporting team’s performance. According to Naomi, the guesswork has been taken out using Human Analytics and will really help in the development of tailored strategies and programs for individual athletes and teams.

The movie “MoneyBall” highlighted the life one of the greatest baseball managers of all time. Billy Beane was a great baseball manager. It is as simple as that. He took an off the cuff baseball team and trusted data over signing potentials and big dollars. And it paid off, taking the Oakland A’s from a losing team to a formidable force. The utilisation of linear data is just the start of where the future of sport is heading. Analysing data to get the most out of the sporting talent of our generation is putting it lightly. Trusting truth over instinct will result in greater performances on and off the field. Combine this truth with, the best in wearable technology and biometric tracking factors such as underlying health issues, nutritional intake and sleep with the very best medical knowledge to provide individual insights and predictions. At SMG, we call this concept “human analytics.”

A high-performance team manager may have a team worth millions on the field at any one time. The risk of losing one athlete is detrimental, especially if they are your star player. Athletes return valuable data, providing insights into how they respond to training loads, potentially leading to injury or illness resulting in long stints on the sideline. After working as a Sports Scientist for a number of years, I have seen this on many occasions.

An athlete returns higher heart rate averages than normal, his wellness data is comparatively lower than usual, his perception of how hard the session was is considerably higher than his teammates, yet his completion rate was low. As a Scientist. I would have been alerted to investigate this further. In this particular case, and after careful investigation and analysis of data, a potential ACL tear was highlighted and preventative measures put in place. This saved a young footballer from nine months on the sideline and losing his contract.

Data from multiple sources including wearable technologies, on field tracking devices, medical x-rays and records and mobile applications provide information that leads to creating that bigger picture of our athletes. We now have higher understandings on wellness, performance, nutrition levels, mental health, heart-rates averages and hydration levels, due to our capacity to accurately measure data in real time. From the data, trends and relationships can be identified, and a picture of not only the “now’, but rather the “future” of one’s performance metrics can be determined. How far someone has run, in relation to their wellness responses, in relation to their performances in a game can highlight discrepancies that even an athlete themselves may not have noticed. Coaches are using these insights to create individualised training and nutritional programs for players at risk. This is the advantage of analytics, allowing us to do more preparation for the unknown in less time. This in turn assists athletes and performance staff in how they formulate recovery plans to ensure they get the most out of every performance.

However, at the end of the day all of this data is useless unless you have the tools to analyse it. This is the power of human analytics. Aggregating the information provided by wearable technologies, health and wellness metrics, performance monitoring tools and underlying health issues to provide individualised insights into how and when something might occur. Some could call it predicting the future!

At SMG, our predictive analytics engine (XELA) removes the guesswork. Algorithms aggregate data from multiple sources to highlight trends & trigger alerts. Real-time predictive alerts quickly identify high risk or high performing players, mitigating likely risks. Human analytics not only benefit the athlete but the club also. Duty of care to players is facilitated and in some cases, the centralisation of player records can reduce insurance premiums and liability risk.

We can now remove the guesswork and ensure we are providing exact data to, in return, get the most out of our athletes. This is the future of sport as we know it. However, do not let your mind be limited to just sporting performances. Human analytics can be applied in almost every working sector to assist in the development of successful businesses ventures.