Do you wonder what it takes to build a successful career as a sport analyst?
“Turn your hobby into your career;” you have probably heard that said many times.
The truth is we all know it is not as easy as it seems, that is why the question “what would you do if you never had to worry about money?” sometimes come up.
Some people are however fortunate because they can easily turn their passion into their career unlike some that probably have to worry about finances or whose passion is not viable when it comes to making a career choice.
But whatever the case, we all agree that there is something fulfilling about loving your job. If you are a sports enthusiast who for one reason or the other cannot be actively involved in the sport itself, then you can be a sports analyst.
Instead of spending hours analysing sport and games with friends and family, you could be putting enthusiasm and passion to good use earning money.
In this age where content is king, data is also everything and that is where analytics, in general, comes in.
Who is a Sports Analyst?
A Sports Analyst gathers data from occurrences, plays, events and sometimes even behaviour to draw a conclusion on a certain sport situation. Sports analysts have different specialisations; some serve as data scientists as consultants to clubs, government or policy makers, sports association/organisation amongst others, others serve as presenters (on TV or radio analysing sport) talent scouting agents or opposition report compiler.
Starting as a Sport Analyst
Sports analytics is a very competitive aspect of data analysis. The reason for this is because sports is popular entertainment that many people enjoy and many people want to make a career out of their love for sports; sports analysis usually is the viable choice if they cannot play or get involved in the administrative side. Besides, apart from actively playing, coaching or refereeing, sports analysis is also the career path that can make you feel more involved in sports as against administrative work.
What is the implication of this for you? it simply means that it will take hard work, determination and having something extra so as to have an edge over the multitude vying for the same position.
The first thing you need is to get an education … a degree. While there are no universities or colleges that offer Sports analysis as a degree course, there are other courses you can go in for if you want to be a sports analyst and then further get certifications. The courses you can major in include Data Science, Data Analytics, Computer Science or Engineering, Statistics, and Mathematics and sometimes even Economics, Psychology, and Anthropology. It is not absolutely necessary to get a degree in Data Science; if you know your onions, you will be sought after. However, it is highly advisable that you do get some kind of education in Data science.
It is also important to develop a certain skill that will make you succeed in the field. Education is not enough to carry you if you want to be a sports analyst, you need other skills if you want to be one of the best in the field.
Communication Skills: You are going to have to do a lot of communicating, both oral and written as a sports analyst. It doesn’t matter what area of the field you decide to specialise in, communication skill is very necessary. If you are not good at communicating, then you need to start practising. Sports analytics is not for shy or timid people. You also need to learn to write and speak the English language because it is the language of computers and even data science internationally. So alongside your native language, if you desire is to broaden your scope beyond your locale, then a good knowledge of English language is necessary. Read extensively, write extensively and practice public speaking so you can be an excellent communicator. As a sports analyst, you will be communicating complex data to laymen, so you need to master the art.
Mathematics and Statistics: If you are a person who cringes at the sight of mathematics or statistics, you will need to get over your fears or dislike because you cannot do away with it if you want to be a sports analyst. The trick about overcoming fear or dislike for mathematics – like every other thing in life – is to realise you can overcome it, you just need more practice. Attitude and character are said to trump talent, so you can do better than a math genius if you put in more work than a maths genius. You will need mathematics/statistics to calculate or measure events and occurrences so you can get to a logical conclusion. There are other mathematical problems that you will need to solve as a sports analyst and there is really no way around it; you either do the work or do the work.
Databases: To formulate and work on large projects of sports analytics, learning relational database design will come in handy. You should also learn SQL as well to further improve your skills.
Programming: In order to build yourself up as a successful sports analyst, learning computer programming languages is also very important. Programming languages like Python, R, Java, Julia, Scala amongst would be necessary to implement your analytics project. Most programmers don’t learn all the languages in-depth, you can learn the basics of all and then go in-depth in one or two. If you have to pick one or two, Python or R might be more beneficial for you.
Machine Learning: A number of schools have advanced degree program in Machine Learning but you could learn it outside the classroom if necessary. You would need to learn the major algorithms in machine learning and learn how to devise machine learning problems to generate productive results.
Data Visualisation: Although this seems similar to having communication skills, it is quite different from it. Data visualisation is the art of communicating your analysis drawn from your data to your target audience. You have to first have full knowledge of your analysis and then communicate it in a way that your target audience will understand and then, in turn, respond to you the way you expect. So what this means is that you have your analysis or conclusion or even data to communicate but you expect something back from those you are communicating to; either helping them make an informed decision or persuading them on the decision to make. You can find free data visualisation tools online to get started.
Critical Thinking: Critical thinking will serve you because you will need to interpret a large volume of data to bring out a logical conclusion.
Organisational Skills: Having organisational skills will also serve you to handle the volume of data you will need to interpret and reports you will need to write. To avoid getting overwhelmed, you will need organisation skills to handle all this information without getting stressed.
How to Build Your Career
Now that you have learnt all you need to know to start off as a sports analyst, it is equally pertinent to have a good knowledge of what you need to build and sustain your career
Passion: There is no venture that does not come with its own challenges; that is why it is important to have passion for whatever one is doing. You cannot work as a sports analyst without passion because it is actually a very competitive niche. It is a career path that comes in handy for many people because it is connected to sports but only those who have passion will stand the test of time. Also, being a sports analyst is not as easy as it sounds, it is clear from the above that there is more that goes into it; passion is what will keep you going.
In-Depth knowledge of your sport of interest: Sports analysts usually have a particular sport they specialise in, so whatever sport you pick, you need to have an in-depth knowledge of it. You have to live and breathe that particular sport. You can also find a complete list of football blogs to follow
Keep making research, keep learning, and keep reinventing: In whatever space you find yourself, if you want to grow, it is important that you not only enjoy learning about your field but that you keep improving and reinventing yourself. The truth is that the knowledge of the last two years might not be applicable this year. If you want to have an edge, then keep up with the innovations and be ready to grow with it
Working in a club is not the only option: Most people are fixated with working with a sports club. While that is a valid dream, you don’t have to waste time waiting for a job at a club when there are other ways you can work as a sports analyst. You can work as a consultant, work for data companies in the media as a presenter and you can even be a blogger, once you are regarded as an authority, more opportunities will come your way.
Like every venture, it takes hard work and determination to be a sports analyst. If you can work on this, then you are on your way to the peak of your career.