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UConn Sports Analytics Symposium Showcases the Numbers Behind the Games

UConn Sports Analytics Symposium Showcases the Numbers Behind the Games
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The UConn Sports Analytics Symposium returns for a fifth edition April 12-13 at UConn Storrs. The symposium is tailored for students who are just beginning to explore or have been interested in the study of sports analytics, and provides an economical way for participants to get a first-hand look at the field. Registration for the event closes Friday, April 5.

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“We always wanted to put our focus on students with this conference in terms of a technical level, accessibility, and cost,” says Jun Yan, a UConn professor of statistics who leads the organization of the event. “We want to attract students who are interested in sports analytics, but also those who want to engage in data science. They may not be sure what they are interested in, but this is a very good way to get them started.”

The event will start Friday, April 12 with workshops at McHugh Hall. Each participant will take part in four workshops and can choose which ones to attend. Topics include analytics in basketball and baseball and scraping the web for sports data.

The Saturday, April 13 sessions, which take place at Monteith Hall, will feature presentations on a number of subjects, including a session with UConn’s famed Kory Stringer Institute, which provides research and education on heat-related fatalities in athletes and other individuals, and also a session on Olympic sports.

“Sports analytics is using data science and statistical techniques to work on any data generated from the sports industry,” says Yan. “This data not only includes information from the performance of athletes and teams, but also includes financial information and how good a team is in running their business. We look at anything that stakeholders in sports need to be interested in.”

The conference has received funding through a National Science Foundation grant, which is in the second of its three years and helps bring in student presenters at the event.

This diversification of sports analytics will be the topic of a panel discussion April 13 called “Sports Analytics for Life: Many Different Paths,” and will include representatives from Major League Baseball teams, the Canadian beach volleyball national team, and the medical field.

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One of the featured keynote speakers will be Nathan Chen, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in figure skating, who is currently a senior in statistics and data science at Yale University.

The symposium also includes a poster contest, in which issues in sports analytics are presented and graded for motivation, innovation, execution, and contribution. Six of the 30 poster presenters are finalists of the USOPC data challenge who will showcase their work to help the United States gymnastics teams optimize success in the Paris 2024 Olympics. Entry deadline for the posters has passed, but the winners will be announced during the Saturday session. The poster contest is part of a new relationship between the symposium and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).

“This conference connects many people who have different goals,” says Gregory Matthews ’11 Ph.D., an associate professor of statistics at Loyola University Chicago. “There is in-game strategy, as in who should play in a game. There are personnel decisions about whether a player’s contract should be extended and how much a player is worth. From a media perspective, how can a broadcaster make the game more interesting for fans at home? There is also preventing injuries and the medical area. It is a very board set of techniques that fall under the umbrella of sports. All have different goals and needs.”

Matthews is part of the planning team for the Sports Symposium along with Yan and Brian MacDonald, a lecturer and research scientist in the Department of Statistics and Data Science at Yale.

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“Sports analytics can be a way of ‘tricking’ students into learning about analytics. That is how I got into it,” says Matthews. “I can play with sports data and then apply it to anything from public health to anthropology. Anyone interested in sports or data should attend this type of conference. Even if sports is not what you want to do for a career, you are still going to learn something.”



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