ASA Hits One Out of the Ballpark with Sports Statistics Webinar

Last month, the ASA and its public education campaign, ThisIsStatistics, conducted a sports statistics webinar featuring Dennis Lock, director of analytics with the Miami Dolphins; Stephanie Kovalchik, senior sport scientist with Tennis Australia; and Scott Evans, senior research scientist at Harvard University and member of the New England Symposium on Statistics in Sports. More than 100 undergraduate and high-school students from across the country participated in the event, learning what sports statistics is versus what it isn’t and what professionals in this field do on a daily basis.

While the public perception of sports statisticians is that they memorize numbers on player performance, the speakers explained the field is far more involved than that. “I often see my role as being one that provides a new perspective to an organization and one of my responsibilities to address some of the biases that are common,” said Kovalchik.

ASA Hits One Out of the Ballpark with Sports Statistics Webinar

Knowing how many sacks a player had last year is “base-level sports statistics” notes Lock. While the media reference such base-level terminology as quarterback rating, passing yards, and third down performance, “the big thing [in terms of sports statistics] is the ‘why’—understanding why a team was 2 for 13 on third down—and identifying how we can change that in the future.”

One of Lock’s favorite projects in his job concerns using statistics in resource allocation during the player procurement process. “How we’re building a team and how we’re getting the players is fascinating. In the NFL, everyone has the same resources, and the team that utilizes those resources the best is the team that’s most likely to win once the season gets going.”

Kovalchik is particularly interested in the mental aspect of tennis. “One of the things we are looking at is how players handle pressure.” We want to know, “How do the thinking, processes, and routines that a player experiences influence his/her performance?”

For more insight on careers in sports statistics, access a recording of the ASA’s sports statistics webinar.