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Posted September 13, 2016 by

Sport analytics careers: 5 skills college grads should master for career success

Young businesswoman explaining graph to business team

Young businesswoman explaining graph to business team. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

The field of sport analytics is growing, fast, and colleges, universities – and employers, are taking note. In fact, Syracuse University’s Falk College recently announced the development and 2017 launch of a new Bachelor of Science in Sport Analytics – the first undergraduate program of its kind in the country. The goal of the Syracuse University Sport Analytics program is to provide students with “a deep understandig of math, statistics, research methodology, sport economics, database management, finance, and computer programming integral to sport analytics. The degree also includes a mandatory foreign language requirement to prepare students for the global sport industry.”

The use of analytics in sport became popular with the release of the 2003 book Moneyball by Michael Lewis, which showed how Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane used analytics, statistics, and data to assemble and develop a cash-strapped baseball team. In 2011, a movie by the same name was released, bringing the use of sport analytics to the big screen and to the attention of sports fans everywhere. Today, sports enthusiasts are focusing on sport analytica careers as a way to gain employment with the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, WNBA, MLS, and other professional or minor league sports franchises, or businesses within the sports industry. The College Recruiter profile titled Sports analytics careers: Recent college grad discusses keys to success, provided an insight into what it takes to succeed in sport analytics careers. In addition, it’s no secret employers in all industries, in and outside the world of sports, are using analytics to recruit and hire college students and recent college grads. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the sport industry generated just under $500 billion in 2014-15 – making it the fifth largest economic sector in the U.S. economy. BLS data also revealed that jobs within the field of “data analyst” are growing at a rate of 27 percent per year – which is more than double the 11 percent national job growth average.

But when talking to Rodney Paul, a Syracuse University Sports Economics Professor and Sports Analytics Program Director who, along with Syracuse University Professor Michael Veley, researched and designed the curriculum for the Syracuse University Sport Analytics bachelor’s degree program, one thing stands out:

The focus of the program isn’t all about sports.

“To use a sports analogy, we want to develop a true 5-tool player,” says Paul. “We want graduates of our sport analytics program to be well-versed in a wide variety of core competencies relative to what is needed to succeed in a career in sport analytics.”

Those five key skills that the Syracuse University Sport analytics program will focus on include:

Mathematics: At some point, it became acceptable for high school and college students to stop challenging themselves with math, says Paul. That’s because math is hard, and requires strong analytical skills. But those who relish the challenges of math, and the analytical and critical thinking skills required to succeed in math, are on the right path to a successful career in sport analytics. “Math is difficult,” says Paul. “But the more you understand math, the more you can learn, and challenge yourself, the deeper one can dive into sport analytics.”

Computer/Information Technology Systems: Programming skills, knowing how to code, database management – proficiency in these areas and other industry technology/software programs is crucial. This is always evolving and will continue to change, but knowing the basics of key industry programs is a must. Showing one can apply these technical skills, and learn new skills/programs on an ongoing basis is going to be important for ongoing career growth.

Business Economics: A strong business acumen, and understanding of economics, and how it applies to sports is important.

Communication: Soft skills are important in the field of sport analytics. Professionals must have strong interpersonal, and communication skills to work within a team, with a diverse group of co-workers, clients, vendors, or colleagues. Being able to communicate data, analytics, and the theories behind sport analytics to co-workers, clients, prospects, senior management, and members of your team are integral to career success. This is true in any industry, sport analytics included.

Foreign Language: Sport analytics careers are available worldwide. Think about this, Paul says: The KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) is widely known as “the Russian professional hockey league.” But, in reality, the 29 teams are based in Belarus, China, Croatia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Russia, and Slovakia, and expansion to other countries is likely. Major League Baseball has a large presence in Latin America. The NBA brand is exploding in China. The NFL is playing games in Europe. The NHL has a worldwide presence. Soccer? It always has been an international game.

“Sport industry executives repeatedly tell us that students who are bilingual are highly sought after, especially in growth areas including South America, China and India,” said Falk College Dean Diane Lyden Murphy.

The core curriculum of the Syracuse Sport Analytics program includes a focus on principles of research methodology, sport economics, database management, finance, computer mathematics, statistics and economics. Upon graduation, students will be prepared to think conceptually and analytically while applying these principles to real issues in sport organizations. The Syracuse Sport Analytics program prepares students for a variety of different possible analytics career paths on the player evaluation side, business side, or both, says Paul.

“Sports is the central part of all this and what ties students together,” says Paul, “but developing these skill sets is what is needed to launch a successful career in sport analytics.”

Sport analytics careers are growing at a rapid rate. Master these five key skills to get ahead in the fast-growing field of sport analytics. Want to learn more about trends in sport analytics careers? Stay connected to College Recruiter by visiting our blog, and connect with us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

Rodney Paul, Sports economist and program director for the Syracuse University Sport Analytics bachelors degree program.

Rodney Paul, Syracuse University

Rodney Paul, is a Syracuse University Sports Economics Professor and Sports Analytics Program Director who, along with Syracuse University Professor Michael Veley, researched and designed the curriculum for the Syracuse University Sport Analytics bachelor’s degree program.

Posted January 22, 2015 by

What to do with a Sports Management Degree

Laura O. Tolentino

Laura O. Tolentino

If you’ve earned a degree in sports management and find yourself asking “what can I do with a sports management degree?” you will be craving some good information on the popular and unique job opportunities that are available to sports management degree holders. Since this degree is related to the business side of the sports world you have a number of options, from financial positions, marketing and promotion positions, and even manager and agent positions. (more…)

Posted August 19, 2014 by

How to become a professional wrestler

So you are probably an avid fan of professional wrestling. You probably have every kind of poster featuring your favorite wrestler, the T-shirts, the magazines and most likely consider WWE news more important that national or international news. That is what passion looks like: to eat, breathe and sleep wrestling. You may even want to turn your dreams into reality by getting into pro wrestling.

Now, before you go shocking your family (you must realize that unless you come from a wrestling family, everyone expected you to get over this ‘phase’), you need to have a plan on how you can make it on one of those posters in your room, just like you always dreamed. (more…)

Posted July 22, 2014 by

Are You Negotiating for an Entry Level Job? 6 Tips that Can Help

Before accepting an entry level job offer, there may be something that you would like to negotiate.  If so, the following post has six tips that can help you during this experience.

When you’re negotiating with someone who has more sway than you, it’s an understatement to say it can be intimidating. It may seem like fighting an uphill battle, even defending opinions, services or products you passionately believe in. Fortunately, you can prepare yourself ahead of time and use strategies during

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Posted May 13, 2014 by

3 Ways College Recruiting Compares with the NFL Draft

Last week, we saw many young men achieve their dreams of being drafted to the NFL.  If you think about it, college recruiting is similar to this annual sports event.  In the following post, learn three ways college recruiting compares with the NFL Draft.

NFL General Managers and CEOs alike are often asked about their top annual objectives. Although exact wording may vary, their answer is always something to the tune of “finding the right young talent to help grow our…

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Posted February 21, 2014 by

Sportscasters, Do You Appreciate Your Entry Level Jobs?

For those of you who have entry level jobs in sportscasting, the following post shares two reasons why you should appreciate these positions.

When McPherson (KS) High School lined up for the opening kickoff of the 1990 football season, I broke into a cold sweat. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized the severity of the fact that, in four years as a broadcast…

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Posted July 31, 2013 by

You’ve Landed an Entry Level Job! How to Succeed at the Next Level of Your Career

Perhaps, you are a recent college graduate and/or had an internship, and now have landed an entry level job.  So, how can you make a great first impression?  The following post has tips to help you succeed at the next level of your career.

This week, NFL players are in full swing at training camp, and by July 27th, all teams will be busy evaluating players and prepping to get the top spot in the league come Super Bowl. As players get into rigorous exercises and testing, it’s only natural for me to think, in terms of career, how professionals can take a

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Career Training Camp: Are You Prepared for Your Next Season?

Posted August 30, 2012 by

22.3 Million Americans About to Waste Work Time on Fantasy Football Preparations

NFL fans cheeringWith less than two weeks to go before the opening kick-off in the National Football League season, the estimated 22.3 million employed Americans who participate in fantasy football leagues will undoubtedly spend several hours in the coming days fine-tuning their draft selections and opening-day rosters.  Unfortunately for the nation’s employers, some of the time spent on player research may come during business hours.

According to a very rough, non-scientific, non-verifiable estimate, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., if 22.3 million American workers spend one hour each week managing their fantasy football team during the average 15-week fantasy football season, the cost to the nation’s employers in terms of wages paid to unproductive workers could approach $6.5 billion.

“Before fantasy football players around the country launch a letter-writing campaign lambasting our numbers, it is important to realize that even if this figure was verifiable and accurate, it would not even register as a blip on the economic radar,” said noted John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. (more…)