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A Game Of Insights: Data Science in Sports


Stephen Smith


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It’s been just over 18 years since Al Pacino declared sport as a game of inches. His inches speech has been used countless times in multiples of industries because of the passion, energy and heart he displayed. It summed up what it took to WIN and showcased that it was more than raw talent that mattered. He spoke of the importance of timing, execution and decision making which for me emphasised the role of tactics and strategy but even that alone was not enough. Commitment, dedication, perseverance and sacrifice are central to success which I don’t think anybody would refute. But given that we are 18 years on and just like any industry, sport has evolved and changed enormously during this time it’s poignant to ask; Is sport still, a game of inches?

The big data and technology revolutions have meant that sport is not a game of inches anymore, but has become an industry that relies on data as much as tactics, strategy, talent and culture. But just as the data and technology revolutions have provided a proliferation of data and information, I’m not sure they have delivered on the expectation of understanding. We continue to speak to teams who are inundated with data but lack a true and accurate understanding of the value of this data and the insights it provides. Most professionals we speak with really aren’t sure if the data they are collecting is affecting performance or player health. If we as professionals are honest about the impact of data in sports, it’s been far smaller than the media suggests and a fraction of what marketing and sales departments will tell you.

As important as the big data and technology revolutions were, we need another revolution, the Insights revolution. We have to find meaning in the data to provide a real framework for proactive decision making. Only then can we refine the data we are collecting, become more efficient, put the data to use and actually impact performance. Then coaches will have the relevant information to make empowered decisions. This technology, data and insight will not replace people in our industry but will aid their decision making process and provide them with immersive rich information to allow them to use the skills, education, experience and intelligence they already possess to drive meaningful actions.

We have been driving a huge amount of research and analysis to look at the relationship between data collected by teams and how this relates to both performance and injuries. We have begun our very own insights revolution. This is more than smoke and mirrors or buzzwords. This is real data, real findings and real results.



  • CEO's Desk
  • Sport Performance Analysis
  • Sports Science

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  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen is Kitman Labs’ CEO and founder. He was previously Senior Injury Rehabilitation & Conditioning Coach at Leinster Rugby Club. Stephen holds a BSc in Sport & Exercise Rehab and MSc in Football Rehab from Edgehill University.

    View all posts CEO & Founder of Kitman Labs


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