Delivering Predictive Analytics for the College Game

There is a lot of buzz about analytics these days in college athletics. We have spoken with a number of college programs that are looking for ways to leverage analytics, but many are not sure how to get started. Some teams have developed advanced analytics with assistance from other academic departments, although they aren’t sure how to leverage the analytics that are produced.

At Competitive Sports Analysis (CSA), our approach is to understand the goals of the program as well as the coaches’ approach to the game. We strive to deliver predictive player analytics that are easily understood and help teams win. The CSA approach incorporates “People, Process, and Technology”. We have found that all three are needed to deliver meaningful and accurate predictive analytics.

People – CSA has the right people involved in developing our analytics – this includes subject matter experts, such as an NFL scout for our scoutSMART football recruiting analytics, algorithm analysts, and software developers. We also involve the coaches by allowing them to select their preferences and what is important to their style and scheme of play.

Process – A good process ensures that CSA has a way to consistently produce and improve our analytics. The process clearly defines the roles and responsibilities to ensure that the analytics are relevant, accurate and valuable.

Technology – Patented technology allows CSA to deliver highly accurate predictive analytics in a scalable, yet customized manner. We have found a way to customize predictive analytics for each college athletic program.

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Most professional sports teams have the resources (systems and people) to develop and use analytics. CSA’s customized, affordable approach can deliver valuable predictive analytics to college teams that are only available to the pros at this time.

If your college team is interested in leveraging player analytics to help you win, check us out here. And don’t forget to follow us on twitter!

Leveraging Athlete Tracking Technology in Predictive Analytics

The use of athlete wearable and tracking technology is growing, and a significant amount of data can now be produced for athlete performance. The next step is to leverage this data into predictive analytics that can be used by coaches for game planning and recruiting.

Here are some of the ways that CSA can leverage data produced from tracking systems into predictive analytics:

  • Optimizing the starting line-up
    • Predicting Readiness – An analysis of the athlete’s performance and biometric data can determine the “readiness” of a player for game day. Predictive analytics can incorporate this data into an analysis of the “optimum starting lineup”
    • Injuries – Performance data can be used to calculate the impact of an injury to the starting lineup and provide analysis on why a particular player is the best starter. Equally important is using this data to prevent injuries in the future or to prevent re-injury
  • Game planning
    • Coaches can use the data as part of the self-scouting process. The athlete performance data is an input into the analysis that predicts the strengths and weaknesses of the players against an opponent. This helps identify where team weaknesses need to be managed and opponent weaknesses can be exploited
  • Finding the “best fit” recruit or draft pick
    • Data points on the performance of the existing athletes on the team can be used to identify the weaknesses of a team and can be used in defining and targeting the “best fit” recruit that meets the needs of the teams

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Interested in learning more about how coaches find the “best fit” players for their teams? Make sure to check out our coaching tool, scoutSMART, and follow us on Twitter for all the latest recruiting updates and news.

-Diane Bloodworth, CEO of Competitive Sports Analysis

The Challenge of Recruiting at Mid-Majors

The world of recruiting is cutthroat and intense, but it is a very important part of colleges and universities. The process of recruiting varies among each level, but each faces its own set of challenges. Factors such as geography, academics, financial aid, scholarship availability and student life all have an impact on the program and recruiting process. Coaches must take into account all of these factors along with the recruit’s athletic ability when trying to find the best fits for their program.

Large Division I schools, such as those in the SEC and ACC, face stiff competition for the top recruits in the nation, but the schools with a limited recruiting budget may face the most difficult challenges.  These schools are not going after the All Americans that are well known. They must find the athlete that fits their program as well as the school they represent. Being a student athlete at these institutions is much more than just having a “job” as an athlete. High academic standards make it especially hard to find the best recruits.  Coaches have to not only find the players that they like on the field or court, but they must also be able to handle the schoolwork on their own.

The relationship between the athletic department and admissions office ends up being a significant one as athletics and academics are equally important in the recruiting process. There are programs that exist, such as Frontrush, that help integrate the process for these two departments.  Both sides can look at the profile of a player and assess where they are in the admissions process, how their academics compare and what sports they are interested in.

The challenging piece to quantify in all of this is the combination of each factor. Some very important questions must be considered. Does this student have the academic background and grades to be able to do well at this school? Are they good enough to play on a team here? Do they need financial aid, and if so is this something we will be able to provide? Division I and II schools have the ability to offer scholarships to student athletes, although they do not offer nearly as many full rides as top Division I programs. Division III schools are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships, so the money side of recruiting is even more important.

At Competitive Sports Analysis, we recognize the difficulty, but also the importance, of coming up with a unified program that can help both the student athletes as well as college coaches. Finding the right fit is a challenge because there are so many factors that play into recruiting decisions. Through an application like scoutSMART, each side can find their “perfect match” based on what is most important. Check us out here, and don’t forget to follow us on twitter!

-Virginia Zakas, product marketing manager

National Signing Day 2015 Wrap Up

National Signing Day was every bit as exciting and suspenseful as I thought it would be. We headed to the College Football Hall of Fame where many of Georgia’s top recruits gathered to share their news. Here were a few of my favorite parts about the day:

  • It doesn’t get much better than seeing high school seniors announce their exciting plans for college. Dressed in suit and tie with their proud mothers and fathers standing by, each player had the chance to walk up on stage to announce their college choice. Afterwards they all spoke with the radio hosts about their decision as their entourage cheered them on.

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  • The College Football Hall of Fame itself is remarkable! The Touchdown Club of Atlanta announced that they would be hosting the “Biggest Signing Day Event in Georgia,” and the event definitely lived up to the hype. Over 150 seniors passed through! It was clear to see that Atlanta really does have some incredible talent right in its own backyard! There was even a mascot battle between the Chick-fil-A cow and Fumbles, the Hall of Fame mascot.

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  • The rivalries at the next level are going to be classic. From SEC battles between schools like UGA and Auburn, to classic Division 3 matchups between schools like Sewanee and Washington & Lee, National Signing Day brought it all. This might be the one time we see guys from Tennessee and USC sitting side by side cheerfully before they meet on the field in the fall.

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  • UGA and GT both pulled in strong classes and had representation at Atlanta’s biggest National Signing Day event. The Dawgs’ recruiting class is even in the top 10 overall for the class of 2015! Come fall, it’ll be exciting to see how the classes end up performing on the field. It is then that we will finally know which class ends up being the best. Recruiting is also more than just bringing in the most 4 and 5 star recruits for a team. Coaches have to bring in athletes that fit their system and that will perform well against top competition.

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And just like that, National Signing Day 2015 has come to an end. The fax machines are being stored away for the next 364 days until it is time to unveil the class of 2016. However, for now, fan bases across the United States are rejoicing over their exciting new players for the coming year. And one thing’s for sure, all of us at Competitive Sports Analysis can’t wait to see what these new recruits will do at the next level!

Interested in learning more about how coaches find the “best fit” players for their teams? Make sure to check out our coaching tool, scoutSMART, and follow us on Twitter for all the latest recruiting updates and news.

- Virginia Zakas, product marketing manager

Show Time – Predicting the MVP of Super Bowl XLIX

January is winding down, and for NFL fans that only means one thing: The Super Bowl is upon us once again. As we prepare for the big game this weekend (and the sadness that follows the end of football season), lets take a look at Competitive Sports Analysis (CSA’s) scoutPRO analytics to determine who will be the MVP for Super Bowl XLIX.

Now, in order to select the MVP, you must start by predicting the winning team. First, putting any team loyalties or personal opinions aside, we took a look at a review of the scoutPRO player analytics. These analytics incorporate both objective (statistical) and subjective data points on players and ultimately showed that New England has the superior team. In fact, most of the match-ups favored New England.

Assuming the New England win, the obvious and safe choice for MVP is Tom Brady. While it doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict Brady, diving into the understanding of the analytics is interesting. Once again, scoutPRO combines both objective and subjective data points. Tom Brady’s 2014 stats show over 4,000 passing yards and a completion rate of 64.1%. To incorporate the subjective skills of a player, we took years of player data and used regression analysis to determine what quarterback skills are the best predictors of performance. Through our research, the #1 predictor for quarterbacks is Game Management. This is definitely an area where Brady excels. While he doesn’t have great speed or rushing ability like Russell Wilson, he knows how to manage the game and win.

csa1The scoutPRO algorithm also looks at complimentary and offsetting skills and factors in injuries. And, with scoutPRO, players are not rated in a vacuum. To determine analytics for Super Bowl XLIX, scoutPRO looked at the offensive line around Tom Brady (complimentary skills) and the Seattle defense (offsetting skills). While New England’s O line has shown great improvement, Bryan Stork is battling a knee injury and missed the AFC Championship Game. According to Dr. Lalaji of Inside Injuries, knee injuries on offensive tackles are usually in the cartilage, bone, collateral ligaments or meniscus. In addition, stability upright under force is the most important attribute to an offensive tackle, and much of this force is placed on the knee vertically or with a twisting motion. Luckily, Stork’s injury has improved, and he was able to practice on a limited basis before the team left for Arizona. Dr. Lalaji says it’s important to remember though that Offensive line players tend to have many difficulties in blocking when they come back too soon from a knee injury. Ultimately, we believe if the O line is healthy, there is a positive impact on Brady’s performance.

Our look at the offsetting skills, however, reveals a record setting defense for the Seahawks. We are sure that New England will find ways to exploit the few soft spots in this defense, but the offsetting skills do have a negative impact in our analysis of Brady’s performance. Nonetheless, some of Seattle’s players are also suffering from injuries, most notably Thomas’ shoulder injury and Sherman’s elbow injury. Dr. Lalaji shares that shoulder dislocations are fixed by relocating the joint and getting an MRI to make sure that there is no cartilage or labrum injury. This process takes at least 3-4 weeks. However, since it is the Super Bowl, even if there is a minor tear, Thomas may just receive injections of pain medication and deal with the injury after the game. For Sherman, he is lucky not to have a complete UCL ligament tear. An outside blow to a full-outstretched arm directly to the elbow causes this injury. Again, injections and healing will allow him to play this weekend without much pain, but if the injury becomes aggravated it may require him to leave the game. Sherman was able to practice last week and as of right now expects to fight through the injury. Thomas has not practiced as much in the past two weeks, but he says there is no doubt he will take the field. Therefore, don’t expect these injuries to slow these guys down too much.

While talent plays a key role in winning games, we also know that it takes more than just talent to win. Both teams playing this weekend have outstanding coaching staffs and a will to win at crunch time. Ultimately though, based on our analysis, we expect the MVP trophy to be raised by Brady at the end of the night.

Want to see what we’ll be saying during the game? Join in on the conversation and follow @scoutPROFantasy on Twitter.

Happy Super Bowl Everyone!

Diane Bloodworth

- Diane Bloodworth, CEO of Competitive Sports Analysis

Fantasy Sports Trends to Look for in 2015

This past weekend was the Fantasy Sports Trade Association’s annual winter conference. While we were not able to attend in person (although we wish we could have had a weekend in Vegas) we did check in on the conversation on Twitter. From that we are able to provide you with some of the top fantasy sports trends to look for in 2015.

The demographics are slightly shifting:

-Teenagers are the fastest growing demographic, which means fantasy players are getting younger and younger and starting to play at an earlier age.

-Female representation was once again lacking at the FSTA conference, as noted by many twitter users there. While there are an increasing number of females playing fantasy sports, the gender gap is not improving.

-In 2014, over 80% of fantasy sports players were male.

-An important discussion was how daily fantasy sports needs to push back against the perception of the activity as gambling by focusing on skill. AJ Donalson, spoke at the conference and noted that the fantasy space was “pretty white and pretty male,” which doesn’t lineup with lawmaker demo.

The Daily Games are Exploding

-Talk of Daily Games dominated the FSTA Winter Conference, which is a good indication of where the fantasy sports space is headed.

-More users mean the need for more content from sites like scoutPRO. Daily fantasy sports players are also likely to consume more content than just season long players.

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-During the conference, keynote speaker, Adam Krejcik made a bold prediction that in 2020 the DFS industry will be estimated at $17 BILLION. Now that’s a lot of money!

-Currently, only 1 million of the 41 million fantasy players in the US and Canada play daily games, which means there is a lot of room to grow.

-Krejcik also notes that DFS fits nicely in a mobile consumerscape dominated by Uber, GrubHub, Pandora, Twitter and mobile games.

Fanduel and DraftKings are dominating the daily space

-As of now, Draft Kings and Fanduel clearly own the daily space, but one participant asked “is there room for a third?” At this point, however, the answer is simple- No. Not without differentiation at least.

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-Currently, DraftKings and Fanduel own over 95% of the DFS market share.

-Fanduel raised $70M and DraftKings raised 41M in funding during the 2014 fantasy football season.

-Just how significant is Fanduel’s growth over the last year? Here are some numbers and charts courtesy of Krejcik:

  • In 2014, FanDuel totaled $57,261,642 in revenue. They totaled over $621 million in entry fees and over $564 million in prizes.
  • The number of fantasy sports players continues to increase year over year.

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  • The number of unique paying players on Fanduel was up 425% year over year.

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  • Google Trends: Keyword searches on Google for Yahoo Fantasy Football is still drastically higher than for any DFS site, highlighting the opportunity for growth.

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Ultimately, the most important takeaway from the FSTA Winter Conference is the growth and transformation of the daily games and where the fantasy space is headed. At scoutPRO, we understand the needs of daily games players, which is why our rankings and projections can be tailored to the scoring systems of Fanduel and DraftKings. We also have weekly position reports that assess the value of each player based on their matchup and salary that week. You can check out our site here, and be sure to follow us on Twitter for the best fantasy football content.

- Virginia Zakas, product marketing manager

 

scoutSMART SELECT Wrap Up

Yesterday, December 29, Competitive Sports Analysis, in partnership with The Touchdown Club of Atlanta, had the pleasure of hosting scoutSMART SELECT: an invitation only combine for metro Atlanta high school football players looking to play at the college level. scoutSMART SELECT is the only known combine to incorporate predictive sports analytics and provide its participants with a custom analysis based on their performance. This year we had 25 eager players join us for the day as they received their custom scoutSMART analysis as well as an evaluation of conventional measurables and drills. The day started out pretty gloomy, but once the combine revved into high gear, the clouds cleared and we had a beautiful, sunny day at Woodward Academy. Here are some of the top highlights from the day.

  • Mike Hagen, an NFL scout with extensive scouting experience, led the 25 athletes as they were given opportunities to showcase their strengths and show off their skills throughout the day. First, the participants received standard measurements including height and weight before going through four other drills: vertical jump, long jump, 40 yard dash and L drill. Once those were complete, the final task of the day was skill drills. Here the quarterbacks were able to show off their strong arms, the wide receivers flashed their hands and the linemen showed their explosion off of the line. Overall, the players were able to show off the strengths and skills needed to make it to the next level.

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  • Another feature of scoutSMART SELECT was an injury talk from our partner, Dr. Anand Lalaji, of Inside Injuries. During the session, Dr. Lalaji stressed the importance of allowing enough time for injuries to heal. Most importantly, he discussed the hot topic of concussions and explained why they are nothing to be taken lightly. He said, “It’s always important to remember that each time a player gets another concussion, the next blow to the head has more and more of an impact.”

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  • Ultimately though, the most innovative part about scoutSMART SELECT is the analysis that we are able to produce for the athletes. Each participant will receive a one-of-a-kind evaluation that includes a scoutSMART stat score and skill score, along with all of their times, measurements and an in depth analysis with expert feedback that can be passed along to coachers and recruiters.

Overall, we had a great time hosting the athletes and seeing their skills yesterday. Competitive Sports Analysis is the only company with a scouting and game planning system that combines historical tendencies and subjective experience to identify and prioritize the strengths and weaknesses of recruits. And scoutSMART SELECT definitely proved to be an excellent way to capture data points and help these kids get recruited. To learn more about scoutSMART be sure to visit our website and follow us on Twitter today.

- Virginia Zakas, product marketing manager

How Technology Innovated Sports in 2014

For more than 20 years, my vision has been that technology can change the competition of sports. As the year is winding down and I look back at 2014, I realized that a number of advancements in technology and analytics are turning that vision into reality:

  1. Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.07.41 AMData and analytics have a bigger impact than ever on players and teams – Analytics are helping coaches make smarter decisions in game planning and recruiting. For example, the NBA has installed cameras that allow teams to track player movement and record up to 25 data points every second. At CSA we believe that it is important to provide analytics that are useful, relevant, and help teams win. Our initial coaching analytics solution, scoutSMART, uses game changing technology that helps college football coaches make objective decisions and determine the fit of a recruit for their teams.
  2. Technology is helping players perform better and prevent injuries - Players continue to improve and maximize their performance through the use of wearable sensors, provided by companies such as Catapult Sports. These sensors improve player training and performance and can even help determine when a player is over training. This then allows athletic trainers to monitor and adjust as needed. CSA is interested in leveraging sport science data into our player analytics and player ratings. CSA’s player analytics also incorporate factors, such as injuries, into our predictions. Our partnership with Inside Injuries helps us better understand the prevention, impact, and recovery of injuries. We are also encouraged by progress in the prevention of concussions through the use of sensors such as Brain Sentry.
  3. Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 11.07.24 AMThe fan experience is improved - Not only are coaches and players using analytics to drive decision making and training, but teams are also sharing new stats with fans. And just in case you aren’t a numbers person, I recently attended a session where the Atlanta Hawks demonstrated their 3D projection system. The response from the crowd proves that the evolution of technology and analytics in the sports industry appears to benefit everyone.

As both industries gear up for a new year, I am excited that my vision is becoming reality. And, I am even more excited that CSA is able to be a part of this movement to change the competition of sports. To stay up to date on how CSA is driving change in the industry make sure to follow us on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn today.

Diane Bloodworth - Diane Bloodworth, CEO + President of CSA

Broadcasters and Data: A Predictable Marriage

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 2.14.34 PMHave you ever tried watching a sporting event without the sound on? The experience is totally different without the influence of the broadcasters. The way that we watch sports is changing and evolving year after year. Broadcasting is a transforming field that changes how commentators and viewers approach the game. Broadcasters now have an endless stream of relevant, real-time data to present to viewers. This data can be something as simple as the 1st down marker in a football game or hockey puck tracking to something as complex as tracing player movement and converting it instantly into real-time graphics. Viewers can have a much more up close and personal experience due to the marriage between data and broadcasters.

Without the influence of commentators, you as a viewer are left to come up with your own thoughts and opinions on the game. Broadcasters have a lot more influence than we often give them credit for on our interpretation of what happens in a game. The Big Data evolution is adding to the impact that broadcasting can have on a sporting event and each sport has its own way technological innovations and data are influencing viewing. Let’s take a look at baseball. 20 years ago, determining if a pitch was a ball or strike simply came down to what you saw or the opinion of broadcasters. Now viewers and broadcasters have the ability to use a visual strike zone to determine where a pitch ended up. In soccer, we can track if a ball crossed the plane of the goal, and in tennis we can now determine if a ball was in or out. This data leaves much less to chance and less room for assumptions and questions by viewers and commentators.

pitch zoneThere’s also far more complex ways that data now influences broadcasting. We have the ability to access in-depth player analysis in real-time as statistics are constantly being streamed. This information is not only valuable to coaches and players, but also to the viewers. Therefore, it is the broadcasters job to relay the data that we will find most valuable and interesting. A good broadcast has the ability to engage us and make us think, allowing our collective analysis to be more comprehensive. We become the expert. Advances are being made across all sports in capturing, storing and analyzing data, and this means that the marriage between broadcasting and data will continue to grow and evolve to cultivate a positive fan experience.

At Competitive Sports Analysis, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to provide highly accurate data and analysis across the sports industry.  To learn more and stay up to date with our analytics check us out here and follow us on Twitter today.

- Virginia Zakas, product marketing manager

Tale of 2 Players with the Same Injury

Calvin Johnson Interactive Injury Locator

Calvin Johnson Interactive Injury Locator

We see it happen a lot: two players suffer the same injury, but face two very different roads to recovery. The question is why does this happen? To help fans understand, lets take a more in depth look into Tom Brady and Calvin Johnson’s ankle injuries.

Tom Brady suffered a rolled ankle with an ankle sprain. This is treated with stabilization, icing, anti-inflammatories and rest. For a quarterback, the ankle is a form of support, but it is not the most important part of his physique in relation to performance. There are multiple other parts that are more important, such as the shoulder. Calvin Johnson has also suffered the same type of injury this season. As a wide receiver, however, his ankle is one of the most important parts of his performance physique. Most importantly, the use of his ankle is crucial for initiating speed and for misdirection during a route or to plant after a catch.

Therefore, it is no surprise that Calvin Johnson has found it difficult to return to 100% performance. The amount of force that gets applied to the ankles for wide receivers is incredible. Tom Brady, on the other hand, did not miss a game and was able to perform at a top level. This is because his ankle has much less of an emphasis on his performance. Ultimately, while it may look the same on paper, comparing Brady and Johnson’s injuries to each other is not comparing apples to apples. In fact, it would be more of an apples to apples comparison if Tom Brady injured his shoulder.

At Inside Injuries we have downgraded Calvin Johnson’s report card from A- to C+ due to repeated ankle injuries. However, Tom Brady has stayed at an A-. As partners, Inside Injuries and scoutPRO combine the best of a player’s medical information with statistical analysis to predict accurate performance for fantasy football players that can help you win your league. For more information on how injuries may affect your favorite player visit InjuryReportCard.com and optimize your roster in scoutPRO today.

anand_lalaji - Dr. Andrew Lalaji, Founder of Inside Injuries and Chief Medical Officer of The Radiology Group