True statisticians have to be insatiably thorough about recording and analyzing data. The more granular the information they have to analyze the wiser they’re able to be when making decisions based on it. Advanced analytics were slow to break into the sports world. Everyone was happy to glean numbers that told one side of the story and rely on the instincts of scouts. That is, until people like Billy Beane showed up and mopped up the floor with everyone, using the applied statistical analysis, cybermetrics, to put success in a different light.
These advancements have all been great for front office executives with millions of dollars in cutting edge resources and man-power, but what about aspiring athletes? They’ve been stuck improving traditional numbers like the 40 yard dash, which only make them look good on paper and don’t help them rack up important in-game stats.
Luckily, the success of wearable trackers like Fitbit, paved the way for athletic sensor technology that can do more than count steps. It’s a new day and advanced analytics are accessible to everyone. Only, information about useful sports analytics is still hard to come by. Below are game-play factors athletes can start recording and working on to improve their performance.
If you’re a running back trying to hit a hole, a defensive end bursting off the line, a base runner trying to beat the throw to second, or you’re leading the break after a steal you are using acceleration. Athletes rarely get the opportunity to gradually build up speed or run unimpeded in a straight line, so how quickly they can accelerate really affects their play. Johnny Manziel was an extremely successful, mobile quarterback in college, but he ran a less showy forty time. If you delve deeper into the tape, though, you’ll see that for the first leg of his forty he kept up with most of the other burners.
Catching line-drives, breaking up passes, snagging rebounds all depend on vertical leap. This isn’t a new measurement, but it’s one that’s rarely tracked. Athletes obliterate their calves on leg days, run in funky, front heavy shoes and do God knows what else to improve their vert, but do they actually ever know what’s working or if their numbers are even going in the right direction? We see the on-field and on-court results when Odell Beckham reels in a one-handed catch or Russell Westbrook skies up for a dunk, but we don’t see all the training and resources that nurture those skills.
I’m not talking about overall speed, I’m talking about game-play speed. What’s the thing we hear athletes struggling with when they get to the pro-level? The speed of the game. Whether it’s the pitches being thrown to you, competition trying to beat you to a rebound or beat you to your spot all aspects of sports only get faster. Which is why athletes need to keep increasing factors like bat speed, jump speed, sprint speed and even rotation speed.
Something that makes improving so hard is we often have to change something we’ve excelled at for most of our lives because we’re doing it wrong. This can include how we swing a bat, throw or run. In order to improve the factors mentioned above, sometimes we need tighten up mechanics to use our bodies more economically. While some of these, like swing efficiency, are easier to track than others, typically peripheral analytics like acceleration will tell you when you’re being inefficient. Improving mechanics early can take you to the next level or put you in a position to succeed when you get there. You don’t want to learn to throw after being a first round draft pick like Tim Tebow do you?