Data Visionaries with the Geelong Cats football team use data to:
- Understand each player and their game
- Provide real-time player stats and analysis
- Unlock powerful insights to win more games
It's a $498 billion industry—expected to grow to nearly $614 billion by 2022. With its high-paid athletes and die-hard superfans, the global sports market is one of the most lucrative in the world.
But what if data had the power to influence sporting outcomes? What if total games won relied no longer on athletic ability alone, but was also weighted by data-driven strategy? According to Peter Varszeghy, Data Visionary and IT manager at the Geelong Cats football team, data holds a unique power and influence in the world of sports.
"Data has played an important part in increasing our winning percentage," said Varszeghy. "We've won nine premierships and three since 2007, making us one of the most successful teams in the past 10 years."
The Geelong Cats are one of 18 teams in the Australian Football League (AFL). During every game and training session, each Geelong Cats player wears a GPS unit that collects data, enabling them to track real-time location, speed, and distance traveled.
"The data gives us vision, statistics, analysis from player positioning, all the way up to player screening, player well-being, player education and development," explained Varszeghy.
The Geelong Cats practice a person-centric data strategy, which means that the value of data lies in the ability to make it available to the right people at the right time—be it players, coaches, fans, or team physiotherapists.
"Coaches need live match and training vision, and statistics for player recruitment and development," said Varszeghy. "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."
Data-driven decision making and what's next in sports data
In an elite sporting environment—especially one that embraces a data-driven culture—data must always be available and actionable. Effectively communicating data informs data-driven decision making, which means that the team must be able to get the data from server to the playing field quickly.
"NetApp Flash technology enabled us to do that. We're getting live-stream data coming at us to make correct decisions," said Varszeghy. "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."
Varszeghy recognizes the importance of a dynamic data strategy in the wake of continual IT modernization. This what's-next approach manifests in terms of coaching and player performance, plus how data is packaged and delivered to unlock true value per target audience.
"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," he said. "My next step is to look at machine learning, artificial intelligence, and other ways to do predictive and prescriptive analytics, which will enable us to keep our players fit and healthy, keep them on the park a bit longer and hopefully kicking even more goals."
The Geelong Football Club is based in the city of Geelong, Australia. Founded in 1859, the Geelong Cats represent the second-oldest club in the Australian Football League (AFL) and one of the oldest football clubs in the world.