Too Much Information for Sports

Many of us deal with lots of data and information, sometimes conflating the two when they are really separate things. Our jobs usually revolve around somehow  helping others to extract useful value from the data we store in some way. This could be with reports, or with transfers to another system, or even a simple explanation of what data in a column means from a business perspective.

Like many industries, pro sports have been using more and more data to help them better manage their business. This was popularized with Moneyball, a book (and movie) about baseball. Since this time, plenty of other teams across many sports have started think about data analytics. The NBA gathers lots of data for each team, even making some available publicly (including spatial shot data). The NFL uses lots of sensors, and more sports, especially Olympic sports, are gathering data to help athletes perform better and learn more about the impact of their decisions.

However, more data isn’t necessarily what makes decisions on the field of play. There was a great quote from Doug Baldwin, an American Football player for the Seattle Seahawks. In looking at all the data collected, he noted this:  “Yes, the data and information is useful, and give it all to me. But at the end of the day, the user has to use it the right way.”

That’s a great quote, especially considering the owner of his team is Paul Allen, founder of Microsoft. More data doesn’t necessarily solve a problem, tell you what to do, or how to do it. Instead, data analytics and analysis is still a bit of an art with some science behind it. Data matters, but when we reduce a problem to a simple set of statistics, we can be missing the subtleties of the actual situation.

I wouldn’t think most industries could do without data gathering and analysis, but people still need to be involved and work with the bits and bytes. Whether you’re in sports or business or some other area, it’s important to use data, but don’t discount the human factor in applying experience and understanding to extracting information from that data.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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