The 12th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference took place this past February, providing a forum for industry professionals and students to discuss the expanding role of analytics in the global sports industry. The MIT Sloan School of Management is dedicated to encouraging growth and innovation in this space, and the conference enriches opportunities for learning about the sports business world. UIC Business’ own Kaushik Kompella, a graduate student currently pursuing a dual degree in Business Analytics and Finance, attended this conference in hopes of expanding his knowledge. He competed and participated in various workshops and attended sessions with high profile speakers, such as former President Barack Obama. We caught up with Kaushik to talk with him about his experience at the conference:
Where did your interest in sports analytics originate? And what made you want to attend this conference?
I always loved to solve puzzles and was also inclined towards stats and data. This made me pursue Business Analytics at UIC. I am also passionate about sports and was involved in close to 15-20 sports. I soon realized analytics in the sports industry will be very useful and create a revolution similar to other fields (like healthcare, finance, etc). Later, I did some research and learned that every year MIT conducts the world's largest Sports Analytics Conference, the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. I highly recommend this conference to any individual who is fascinated either with sports or data analytics.
What was your favorite part of the conference? What piece of information will stick with you the most?
To be honest, every part of the conference was worth it and fun. I enjoyed every bit of it, as it was a great learning experience. My selection to the Hackathon was the initial accomplishment and a happy moment for me. However, in spite of all this, I would pick Barack Obama’s speech to be my favorite part of the conference. It was really amazing to listen to him speak live! He shared some golden words about how a good leader can use the right data from the right sources, which will stick with me forever.
Describe one of the competitions that you participated in.
The theme for this year’s Hackathon was “Storytelling with Data.” Each Hackathon participant was challenged to develop a story that could be used in the preparation of a matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. I got shortlisted and was able to participate as well as present.
I used NBA Advanced Stats in the form of optical tracking data collected by Second Spectrum. This was provided to participants by ESPN. I developed an analysis to explore player gravity, the impact of player movement on offensive efficiency, impact of defensive movement on offensive efficiency, and identification of efficient plays/defensive tactics.
On the day of the Hackathon, participants received access to approximately 15 games of optical tracking data that included five games for both the Warriors and Rockets. We could augment the optical data with other data sources, but the optical data was the center of the story, so it was recommended to focus on stories that cannot be told without the spatial data.
We were given 4 hours to work on the data, build applicable statistical and machine learning models and come up with our analysis. At the conclusion of the Hackathon, all participants were given a brief opportunity to present their submitted presentation. The biggest challenge was that each presentation should be no longer than 90 seconds!
In which sport do you consider analytics to be most important?
I believe in this competitive age, analytics becomes crucial for most sports! This is especially true for team-oriented sports. Sports leagues like the NBA (basketball), NFL (American football), NHL (ice hockey), MLB (baseball) are already implementing/incorporating a lot of analytics to drive their strategies and also for player sourcing.
I feel analytics would play a major role and create an impact in cricket. At present, analytics and data science has not been exploited or used extensively in cricket even though there is a lot of scope. So definitely, cricket analytics would be the next big thing in the sports industry.
In your opinion, where is the future of sports analytics headed?
Well, analytics is something new for most of the industries, especially in sports. It also gets difficult because sports has an additional characteristic of emotional quotient attached to it. It may take few more years to implement in a full-fledged manner in all the sports at all the levels. However, it has penetrated into few sports at the highest level like basketball. A lot of coaches are relying on analytics to strategize their plans depending on the game needs.
Currently, usage of analytics in basketball, football, and other sports is producing great results, which shows that it is sitting in a strong position and heading in the positive direction. This will help to boost analytics into various other sports like Golf, Cricket, Swimming, Shooting, etc and create a larger market. Therefore the future of sports analytics is in safe hands.
Thank you to Kaushik for his insight! For more information on The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, visit sloansportsconference.com