Athlete Data: 3 Emerging Trends That Will Transform The Industry

Get your competitive edge.

It’s a statement that’s used frequently in the sports industry. The goal has long been to empower athletes to become star performers—men and women who not only achieve big scores on the court and field, but also grow fan base interest and profits. To obtain the highest possible level of athletic performance, organizational efficiency, and player talent, sports organizations must turn to data today.

Data is at the heart of on-field performance and team revenue

As contributor Mandy Antoniacci points out, data will be prioritized by sports properties with the goal of achieving a predictive edge in scoring and performance. And data will only get larger in the future.

The collection of data is not new; many organizations do it even at the college level. But the way in which these organizations use and apply this data will continue to evolve.

Here are a few emerging trends in athlete data that will shape the future.

#1: Data will help discover new insights

While raw data can be a powerful resource, it is often not useful to organizations, which need the right tools and resources to transform that data into useful bits of information. Those organizations, athletes, and teams capable of transforming raw data into valuable insight will dominate well before the competition.

Stats and figures, for example, provide only a basic glimpse of how an athlete is performing. However, downloaded and digested, this raw data can show patterns, mistakes, and methods, enabling coaches, athletes, and organizations to create more refined goals, strategies to improve performance, or even modifications to guidelines and rules to enhance outcomes.

Any organization that evolves from gathering data to creating insights will be prepared to compete at a higher level.

#2: Usable data will become visually usable

Another key step is to turn to raw data into more than just words. It needs to become visual.

Imagine an athlete wearing connected technology on the court. This technology reports very precise information about the player’s movements. GPS, heart rate, fitness trackers, and other connected devices are already available. Ohio University reports that wearable technology will be the single most important change in the industry this year.

But that recorded information is only numbers and figures—it lacks usability in its raw form. Turning those numbers into visual data makes it instantly usable. Data users are not IT pros; they do not have time to spend analyzing numbers. When data is turned into visualized insights, however, the information becomes instantly usable.

When data is visually presented, it is easier to understand. Athletes can see specifically what they are doing well, what specific changes they should make, and even the exact moment when changes need to occur. This provides instant feedback and real-time opportunities.

One key Big Data trend occurring in the sports industry is the ability to turn data into visually impactful information. It enables athletes to efficiently take steps to reduce injury risk or to make modifications that improve performance.

#3: Data will infiltrate every component of the sports industry

As Forbes contributor Leigh Steinberg stated, every professional sports organization today has an analytics expert on staff, if not an entire department dedicated to data analytics. Some teams are also utilizing data to make scouting decisions. Such use of data will impact every component of the industry.

Reduce injuries

Data will also become an effective tool for predicting injury, enabling sports teams and coaches to minimize risks to players. Data will inform coaches and players of risks and advise how and when to pull back, which in turn will help players more efficiently.

Enable scouting

Starting at the grade school level and growing more intense in high school and college, scouting is one of the most challenging components of the sports industry. Real-time data can analyze information and turn scouting into a numbers game rather than the subjective decision of a single scout.

Contract negotiations

Data can also be a valuable tool for coaches and players in contract negotiations. It provides tangible information, even in visual form, which all individuals can bring to the table to negotiate the terms of a contract. The amount paid to professional athletes can be backed up by facts and figures rather than hopes and assumptions.

Utilization of data is increasing and impacting every area of the industry, from team performance to fan engagement. Gathering, transforming, and using data is no longer a future goal; it is the present in many industries. Sports teams that want to remain in the game must adopt data analytics and digital tranformation now.

To learn more about digital transformation in the sports industry, click here.

Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine

The Digital Athlete Brings Science To Sports

Sports are beautiful. Visually striking, poetic, and lyrical.

While there will always be art in sports, today it is science that is dominating the genre. Science is shaping how athletes train and perform. Science is guiding how teams select players, develop game plans, run practices, and scout opponents.

The digital transformation seen in so many areas of business and society is coming to athletics. Digital sports is playing an ever-increasing role in how athletes game and keep a competitive advantage.

What’s driving digital?

To understand how the digital athlete is possible today, it’s important to understand the trends that allow the transformation to happen.

Hyperconnectivity allows us all to be connected at anytime from anywhere via mobile devices. Cloud computing and supercomputing make it easier to collect, store, analyze, and retrieve vast quantities of data. Analytics programs can interpret information and offer athletes and coaches insights, all in real time.

All that data is made possible by the Internet of Things (IoT), the vast network of objects connected to each other. These objects can detect, collect, store, and send data thanks to embedded sensors, software, and wireless connectivity. Lastly, advances in cybersecurity keep data on athletes protected.

The digital athlete

What does the digital athlete look like? First, she is outfitted with wearables that track performance measures such as speed, agility, respiration, and heart rate. This information is fed in real time to coaches and trainers.

Mobile apps let her and her coaches review data and recommendations on the fly. Platforms collect the data from myriad sources, the athlete, and her teammates. Structured data, such as that from wearables, and unstructured data, such as video footage, can be captured and analyzed.

The collected data gives a comprehensive, 360-degree view of the athlete. Her trainers can identify the strain of workouts or potential damage due to improper form. Doing so can prevent injuries, or help injured athletes return to competition sooner. Coaches can pinpoint advantages that can be exploited during competition. Training regimens can be created to suit specific conditions, opponents, or competitions.

Our digital athlete can gain insights far faster than before. Video footage does not need to be broken down. Instead, insights are delivered in real time. The same immediacy is possible with data, collected either from practices or even within a contest, allowing for immediate adjustments.

The athlete also has more insights on her competitors. Scouting reports on opponents can contain richer arrays of information. Data interpretation happens faster. Virtual reality and gamification let athletes simulate situations without risking injury, getting more practice without fatigue.

The digital athlete can relay information about opponents during the competition to staff. Acting on that information allows coaches to recommend new strategies in-game.

Barriers to usage

The art of sport will certainly continue. There are nuances and intuition that will guide many decisions. But incorporating science into sports may take some time, particularly among teams and coaches who may prefer traditional approaches. That reluctance is an advantage to early adopters who seize upon the opportunity in these early stages of digital athletics.

Athletes, coaches, and owners may resist these innovations for other reasons. Jobs, revenue, and public opinion are on the line each season. Sports receive far more media attention than most any other industry. Many sports professionals may prefer to take a wait-and-see approach and reduce perceived risk.

Digital athletes will benefit most when teams, leagues, and owners focus on simplifying procedures. Complexity impedes adoption when data cannot be interpreted and used without complicated steps in conversion, uploading, and storage. To work effectively, data collected from multiple sources in different formats needs to be reconciled quickly to be useful.

In many cases, athletes do not have the luxury of time. The next competition is often just days or hours away. Preparation and practice time is limited and must be maximized. Opponents may not be known until the last minute, leaving little time to create, implement, and perfect a strategy. Collection, analysis, and retrieval of data needs to happen quickly.

The future is here

In many cases, digital athletics and athletes are already here. In a 90-minute singles tennis match, technologies can record 60,000 to 70,000 discrete records. During an hour of football (soccer) practice, 77.7 million data points are generated. By 2019, IDC projects there will be 111.9 million smartbands sold worldwide. One Major League baseball game produces 7 terabytes of uncompressed data.

Consider a recent decision by the Women’s Tennis Association. Players can now access real-time performance data during matches. Coaches can instruct players during match play based on the provided information.

In coming years, more athletes will be wearing sensors during practice and competition. Sensors connected to baseball bats, tennis racquets, and polo mallets will tell coaches how strong players are striking balls and how accurate their impacts are.


Athletes are always looking for a competitive edge. Today, digital transformation provides advantages to athletes that were the stuff of science fiction earlier. Armed with detailed information collected from multiple sources and analyzed in real time, digital athletes will soon be the norm. Those athletes and sports organizations that see the potential possible through digital innovation will remain a step ahead, a few seconds faster, and have more wins in their record book.

To learn more about digital transformation in the sports industry, click here.

Internet of Things – Digitalist Magazine