Tuesday, July 5, 2011

7 Ways to Use Resourcefulness in the Sports Industry

Are you seeking a career in the sports industry or are you already steeped in it? No matter where you find yourself, I have highlighted seven helpful ways to use resourcefulness so you can gain an advantage in the sports field.
1. Preparation Is Everything. It’s always a good idea, whether in your career or in life, to be proactive instead of reactive. The more resources you have prepared ahead of time, the better equipped you’ll be when life gives you a present; expected or unexpected. If you’re seeking a sports career, be proactive by making sure your resume, cover letter, and reference list are polished and ready to go.
If you want to take your current sports career to the next level, prepare by taking relevant classes or workshops to increase your industry knowledge – your professional accomplishments will shine bright. Remember, prevention is better than cure. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Seneca
2. Make Time Work For You. Write down how you spend your time; during the week andon the weekends. Just like a food or financial diary, keep a time diary for one week to pinpoint exactly where your time is going. Assess what pockets of time you can capture and re-direct toward your career goals. If you need to enlist the help of others, don’t be shy.
Think about who you know and trust and ask them if they’d take on a temporary “assignment” to help you with a task or just to exhibit an extra dose of patience while you laser-focus on your career. Don’t take advantage of the good nature of your family and friends and always show your utmost appreciation. “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” Harvey MacKay
3. Clarify And Define Your Challenges.  Use your resourcefulness to find solutions to specific career challenges that arise instead of wasting precious energy worrying about them. How severe is your challenge? Do you have a career crisis on your hands that needs an immediate solution or just a minor setback that allows you some time to develop an appropriate response?
4. Creative Thinking Is Your Friend. Brainstorm for logical, non-logical, and just plain crazy ideas. Make a list of companies you have only dreamed of working for. You might want to take some time and create a vision board of your ideal career. Choose pictures of what you want your ideal career to look like. Letting your brain travel outside the box is the perfect location for inspiration and workable solutions. Perhaps you simply need a temporary fix if you’re in an intolerable situation so don’t limit yourself by thinking you need a permanent solution this minute.
5. Don’t Repeat History. The saying by Sir Winston Churchill says, “Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” No truer words were spoken when it comes to your sports career. If you continue making the same career mistakes, you will stall your career progress. Use your resourcefulness to make sure you don’t repeat your mistakes.
6. Access Your Current Resources. Resources come in many forms. Think about how you can utilize and leverage the following:
  • People in your immediate circle
  • Social Media
  • Information
  • Former bosses, co-workers, and vendors
7. Don’t Think, Just Act. If an opportunity presents itself, don’t overthink it. An opportunist takes advantage of open doors before they close tight. This doesn’t mean you take haphazard, unwise risks, but rather take one giant step through an open door instead of allowing indecisiveness to create a career stalemate. Take to heart the famous words from Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Also, listen to the words of Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
This article can serve as one resource to help you take your sports career to the next level. Use the steps I’ve outlined to assess your current position and to forecast where you want to take your career. Inactivity breeds inactivity. Instead, implement what Wayne Dyer has said, “Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your decison.

Michelle Hill

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Beautiful Game goes Scientific

The beautiful game, football (soccer), has been undergoing a quiet revolution in the land of its birth – England.
English clubs have always sent football talent scouts the length and breadth of the country and further afield too. Decisions on footballing matters and transfers were once based on nothing more than a hunch, a gut feel, and an ‘eye’ for talent. Admittedly there have been numerous success stories from these unsophisticated methods – I think of the late George Best being plucked from Belfast at the age of 15 by Manchester United scout Bob Bishop. Best went on to become a successful player winning several team and individual honors and was notably the European Footballer of the Year in 1968.
As for today, across England a data revolution is taking place as various top Premier League clubs are starting to realize the benefit of data and statistical analytics. You could say that football has finally embraced the premise of Moneyball (now a movie with Brad Pitt, which is set to be released in September). English football has become scientific.
Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, written by Michael Lewis, proved that data does matter in sports and can often be the difference between winning and losing.  Lewis’ book focuses on the Oakland Athletics baseball team of the early 2000s, who, under General Manager Billy Beane, assembled a winning team by focusing on an analytical approach to evaluating player performances. Beane concentrated on statistics like on-base percentage as an indicator of offensive success, going against the conventional thinking and trusted player performance measurements of the time.
Much like at the Oakland A’s, number crunchers at various English Premier League (EPL) clubs are now playing a vital role in footballing strategy. Player statistics that truly matter have been isolated. Presentations you’d expect to be given by a “quant” at an investment bank are becoming the norm. Nearly every minute aspect of a football match can be recorded and analysed. The ‘nerds’ are ‘over the moon’, as pundits and players like to say in England. Numbers are beginning to give clubs an edge.
There are numerous advocates of the data revolution.
Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal FC, an Economics graduate and keen mathematician, was an early pioneer of using data to make decisions on player transfers. Even at Monaco in the late 1980s, before his success at Arsenal, he had realized the importance of data and was collating and using factual evidence on players. Manchester City now has a performance analytics division, while Chelsea has a performance director – Mike Forde.  The role of a performance director, like Forde, is to support the coaching team by looking at all facets of performance outside of coaching and bring structure, policy and procedures to it.
In a recent Financial Times article, Forde, who studied Psychology in Beane’s hometown of San Diego and has studied American sports, illustrated the staggering amount of data at his disposal:
Weve somewhere around 32 million data points over 12,000, 13,000 games now”.
Other clubs, such as Bolton, have also adopted the more scientific approach. Former manager Sam Allardyce is an old school football man and is somebody you’d probably expect to favor the more traditional methods – like intuition –but he too is a disciple of data. The approach certainly worked for him at Bolton. Not a historically fashionable or wealthy club, Bolton enjoyed a period of unprecedented success under his management with the team never finishing outside the Premiership top ten from 2002/2003 – 2006/2007, as well as qualifying for the UEFA cup in 2005/2006 and 2007/2008. This was an extraordinary achievement for a club of its size and limited financial resources.
Allardyce’s signing of Welsh international Gary Speed, aged 34, for Bolton is a prime example of how he used data to evaluate a transfer decision. Many would have expected Speed to have been a dud at an age when most players have hung up the boots. However, Speed’s physical data compared favorably with younger, more celebrated and, more importantly, more expensive players such as Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard. Allardyce had no hesitation in signing Speed, a relative bargain, who went on to play until he was 38 at Bolton. Speed incidentally is still playing today for Sheffield United. It is little surprise too that Mike Forde, now at Chelsea, was at Bolton with Allardyce.
So what are the numbers and statistics that really matter for football success?
There is probably no holy grail and if there is, it hasn’t been found. Possession doesn’t necessarily win matches in football (unlike in, say, rugby) and finding a relationship between distances covered by midfielders and winning has not been proven either. Most of the key statistics now being used by top clubs have not been shared, which isn’t surprising. We do at least know that clubs are focusing on the distances covered by players at high speeds which they term ‘high-intensity output’.  Another approach is to measure a host of data on a player, including the number of passes, tackles and distances covered, and then monitor those data sets over a number of years. This at least reveals when a player regresses and is comparable to a risk management methodology by clubs. Another challenge for the number crunchers is comparability. Can you realistically compare a striker scoring a heap of goals at the top of the Championship with a striker plying his trade in the  basement of the Premier League?
Is data really making a difference?
It is probably too early to conclude whether or not the number crunchers in English football are holding the keys to the unlocking of sustained success. At times talent is so obvious that you don’t need data analytics to support a decision in football. I doubt whether Barcelona FC needed any statistics to support their decision to sign a young Argentine  by the name of Lionel Messi when he was just 13. You might also argue that statistical analytics has hardly been working at Arsenal recently as the North London club last lifted a trophy in 2005.
However, surely anything that gives you an edge in football – a multi-million dollar industry where the margins between success and failure are so slim – is worthy of embracing. It is for that reason that data analytics in football is here to stay.
Chris Conway