The field offers high job growth, great salary potential, and a lot of advancement opportunities. But where do you start? How you know if it’s right for you?
We spoke to Rodney Paul, a sports economist and professor in the Department of Sport Management at the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics at Syracuse University. He’s also the faculty advisor to the Baseball Statistics and Sabermetrics Club.
Here is a look at what he had to say about preparing for a sports analytics program and pursuing one of the best areas of sports jobs:
What Successful Students Do
Some people might not realize the level of expertise and knowledge you need to be successful in a sports analytics college program. The coursework can be daunting if your strengths don’t align with what you will be studying and doing in your day-to-day.
From Paul’s experience, he’s seen many students succeed in his classes, which include courses on analyzing hockey and baseball organization, sport data analysis, and baseball data analysis.
“The characteristics I see in successful students in our program consist of mathematical aptitude and excellent computer software and database skills,” he said. “Another important trait is the ability to effectively communicate results to different audiences.”
This is the nature of the job. You’re not only crunching numbers and diving into databases, you’re also reporting results to different groups of people. Whoever you’re presenting information to might have a limited understanding of data. Breaking down complex concepts into simpler terms is essential to your success in this career.
The Most Common Mistake
You’re bound to make mistakes when you pursue any sports jobs. In fact, mistakes are often great learning opportunities for you.
However, when it comes to pursuing your education, you want to be prepared and able to manage the workload to avoid a sinking GPA or wasting your time and money on classes you drop out of.
More importantly, you want to ensure that you’re getting into your field for the right reasons and understand that building a career is different than following something you love.
“If a student likes sports and sports statistics, that does not always translate into successfully using big data analytics,” Paul said, before reiterating the importance of math and computer skills.
Before you pursue this field, conduct research so you have a clear understanding of what big data analytics actually looks like. Connect with current professionals, join professional or student organizations, and conduct informational interviews. This might even open doors for you to shadow a few people so you see the day-to-day in various sports jobs related to analytics.
How to Prepare for the Program
Earning acceptance into a sports analytics program is a big step in the right direction, but you want to feel prepared to earn high grades and grow. Paul had some simple advice for aspiring students.
“Students should take as much high-level mathematics as possible,” he said. “In addition, taking courses in Excel, Databases, SQL, R, Python, and similar focuses will be very useful. Staying current with sport research and player/team statistics is also important to know where the industry is and where it is heading.”
If you’re not currently enrolled in college courses, consider online resources like Coursera or Udemy. Also, sign up for one of the best free resources online — Codecademy. It’s highly interactive and offers a supportive community, so it’s perfect for all levels.
The Benefits of a Sports Analytics Program
With sports jobs continually evolving at an incredible rate, you want to enter your career ready for the long haul. Enrolling in a sports analytics program is the best first step for your career.
“Our students are required to take high-level math, computer, business, communication, and foreign language courses to prepare them for the future of the industry,” Paul said.
“The mathematical and computer courses allow them to effectively model and work with data, the business background provides a foundation for the determination of prices and sales figures, and the communication and foreign language courses help them to explain their findings to an audience across the world.”
Hands-on experience is a big part of the Syracuse program, and they also focus on encouraging collaboration. “In addition to the courses,” he said, “our students work on group projects, compete in analytics competitions, and make presentations to industry professionals to help prepare them for a future in the analytics field.”
Sports analytics is the future of the industry. Where do you fit in?
How are you preparing for your sports analytics career? Share in the comments below!