The 5 Plays That Sports Data Visionaries Use to Win

Geelong Cats Changes the Game of Football with Data

Jun 12, 2018
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Overview

Unlocking the power of data helps sports teams:

  • Understand each player and their game
  • Provide coaches with real-time vision for analysis
  • Obtain winning insights

While it may be hard to envision, having a Data Visionary is an integral part of a winning formula. Peter Varszeghy, Data Visionary and IT manager at the Geelong Cats football team in Australia, explains: “We've won nine premierships and three since 2007, making us one of the most successful teams in the Australian Football League (AFL). And data plays an important role in that.” Those winning games come down to five key strategies.

Put People at the Center of Your Data Strategy

Varszeghy is a firm believer that the power of data lies in its usefulness to people. “By understanding their needs, you can map your data strategy to deliver on their goals.”

In his case, the coaches, players, fans, and physiotherapists at the Geelong Football club all had different requirements. “Coaches need live match and training vision, and statistics for player recruitment and development,” he said. “Players want relevant stats, and vision analysis so they can work on personalized training programs. Fans want real-time stats on team performance during a match. And physiotherapists need health and well-being data.”

Thinking about all of their needs holistically helps plan an end-to-end solution. In the case of the Geelong Football Club, video footage, live GPS data from the players on the pitch, and vision from drones all needed to be orchestrated, managed, and packaged to suit the audience–an app for fans, a training app for players, video vision analysis packages for coaches, and so on.

Be Ready for Anything

Peter Varszeghy also believes that Data Visionaries can’t sit on their laurels. “People’s expectations will always increase, technology will always improve and that means your data strategy needs to be dynamic.” The club handles a huge volume of data made up of vision footage and statistics. “If you’re going to truly unlock the power of data you need to be able to turn it into something useful through analytics and then move it to where people need it–from an app to a website or digital scoreboard.”

Imagine Better

According to Varszeghy, Data Visionaries are always looking for the next possibility. For him, that manifests itself in many ways. “Right now, we’re looking at improving the experiences of fans by mapping their journey and then looking at the touchpoints where data could bring them more value–from special offers or game-day deals to player, team, and club updates.” In terms of coaching and player performance, he also has big ideas. “My next step is to look at machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other ways to do predictive and prescriptive analytics.” And finally, he recognizes that when you have a holistic data solution, you can take a broader view on how data could be used in conjunction with partners–from the AFL to local transport providers and retailers.

Build Your Strategy off of Dependable Technology

Confidence is at the center of any data strategy. Varszeghy comments, “In an elite sport environment you need to know that your data is available at all times. We can't afford any downtime, so having a robust production and disaster recovery environment is fundamental. With NetApp we get both high performance and availability. And that's critical for us.”

See Data as the Beginning, Not the End

According to Peter Varszeghy, every Data Visionary needs to either be, or hire, a data scientist. That’s because the value of data lies in how you’re able to interpret it and make it available to the right people at the right time. “We create what we call ‘edits’ for our players so they can understand key performance indicators in their training and gameplay at a glance. For our fans, it’s a user-friendly mobile app. For coaches, it’s packaged-up match vision and stats. In each case, the user interface is key.” Your role doesn’t end with simply providing a data stream, it’s about how that data is packaged and delivered, so that the true value is unlocked by the target audience.

Learn How to Thrive in Digital Transformation

The Geelong Football Club is based in the city of Geelong, Australia. The club was formed in 1859, making it the second-oldest club in the Australian Football League (AFL) and one of the oldest football clubs in the world. The club has over 56,000 members and features as a top team on the AFL ladder.

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