A Winning Formula for Sports
Release Date: 9/12/2016
Dennis Lock (@LockAnalytics) currently serves as Director of Analytics for the Miami Dolphins NFL team. In his role, he supports football operations through research and statistical analyses. He has been a consultant for the Iowa State University men's basketball team and is a co-author of a popular statistics textbook.
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Bob Long: Die-hard baseball fans used to know the earn run average, the won/lost record or strike out totals for their favorite pitcher, or the batting average or RBI’s for their favorite hitter, but sabermetrics has changed that. Now we have TV sport network hosts that discuss statistics like wins above replacement or how a .300 hitter performs with runners in scoring position after the 7th inning. Sports fans probably know that professional football, hockey and basketball use new analytical approaches to evaluate their players too. Why don’t we hear more about that in those sports broadcasts? I’m Bob Long; we welcome you to Stats and Stories, a program where we look at the statistics behind the stories and the stories behind the statistics. Our topic today is the importance of statistical analytics in sports today, and our guest is a director of analytics for a NFL team. To prepare us for today’s discussion, Stats and Stories reporter Max McAuley spoke with statistician and author Jim Albert, a former guest on Stats and Stories, about some new trends in sports statistics.
Max McAuley: The information revolution is changing the way the world works and experts of all trades are reforming their operations to adapt to the new emphasis on data collection and analytics. One group leading the charge is the network of professionals responsible for measuring sports statistics. Jim Albert is an author and professor at Bowling Green State University, and an expert on baseball statistics. Albert says watching baseball with an eye on the stats allows him to appreciate the sport and its players on more complex levels.
Jim Albert: I enjoy baseball like anybody else but by looking more carefully at statistical things, to me I can enjoy it more because I understand a little more of what’s happening. Like for example, pitching to me is very interesting because it’s all about location and choice of pitches, and there’s a lot of decision making going on both by the pitcher and the batter. And when you watch a baseball game, you’re thinking about those decisions that are being made all the time.
McAuley: As a professor Albert builds his statistics class curriculum around concepts primarily used to analyze the game of baseball. He says a lot of those measures are really universally applicable.
Albert : For example, there’s this idea called regression to the mean; that extreme performances will eventually come back to be average. You see that in baseball, like right now you see extreme performances hitting home runs and that’s exciting, but what you should understand is that that’s not going to continue. That basically the performance next month is going to go back to the average. Just can’t extrapolate that short-term performance for the whole season.
McAuley: Albert says baseball is more obvious to measure than other major sports because of its stop-and-go game style.
Albert: Baseball has a longer history in terms of using statistics. And also, I think baseball being a discrete type of thing where an event is a pitch; while in football it’s a continuous thing, that’s very different. It’s a little harder to stop it, you know, at certain times, and see what’s going on. While baseball has a very clear structure, makes it easier to model.
McAuley: Albert says baseball leads the world of sports statistics by focusing on measures related directly to what brings a team more runs, and thereby more wins.
Albert: The neat thing about baseball is everything can be expressed in terms of runs and eventually wins. So everything a baseball player does on the field has some influence over runs scored or runs allowed, which gives you an idea of how valuable a player is. Now that idea should be available also for other sports. It’s just going to take us longer to find that.
McAuley: Albert believes what really makes a difference is statistics that prove a players value on both sides of the ball.
Albert : Steph Curry is a great offensive player, but the question is does he give up things by his defense? I don’t know, but the point is that you’re only looking at one dimension of his performance. Obviously, he’s such a great offensive player that I can’t imagine that his defense would offset that, but the point is you have to look at the complete player, and there’s more than just the shooting; there’s the defense, there’s the movement, ability to go on the fast break… and you want to somehow combine all those skills into one measure.
McAuley: Albert recently attended a data analytics conference held by the Society for American Baseball Research. At the conference, statistical experts revealed a new wave of specified measurement technologies.
Albert: There’s new kind of data being introduced in baseball called Statcast, which what they do is they put some sort of a marker on every single player so now they’re recording the locations of all the movements of all the players in the field.
McAuley: Albert says the markers will allow statisticians to measure virtually every move each player makes, and how they make it.
Albert: For example, if a player makes a great fielding play we can actually look to see how fast he moved to that ball or how far he went. Now we can talk about how fast a runner’s getting to first base or we can talk about stealing, about how big the lead was. That’s all being measured now.
McAuley: Some people are wary about statistical emphasis and say it’s just a phase, but Albert argues these methods are here for good.
Albert : Some players now even have special coaches who focus on statistics. And I think pitchers have to be very, very aware of their tendencies in terms of pitch location and types of pitches. And all the batters know things about the pitchers, and like batters we know a lot more about their tendencies about hitting to certain fields and certain directions and you can tell that by all the shifting going on in baseball so I think that’s going to continue with the game. That’s always going to be a big part of the game.
McAuley: With Stats and Stories this is Max McAuley
Long: Joining me for Stats and Stories today are our regular panelists Miami University Statistics Department Chair John Bailer and Media Journalism and Film Chair, Richard Campbell and our special guest is the director of analytics for the Miami Dolphins, Dennis Lock. He supports football operations through research and statistical analysis; he’s also finishing a PhD in statistics from Iowa State University, where he also has worked as a consultant for the Iowa State Cyclones men’s basketball team. Welcome to our show Dennis.
Dennis Lock: Thank you very much.
Long: I don’t know why but for some reason I really like the Iowa State Cyclones, I’m not from Iowa or anything like that.
Lock: Glad to hear it.
Long: I did want you to start off, because it seems like people who are sports fans, they hear a lot, I think, about baseball statistics, but it seems like we don’t hear as much, for example about the NFL, just wanted to get your feeling of why that probably is.
Lock: See, I think we’re a little behind baseball, I mean, the idea it’s much easier to statistical analyses within baseball, so it got momentum much sooner, and you saw teams utilizing it quite a long time ago, and the media tends to be a little behind what the teams are actually doing. So, baseball was well above and really rolling with it for a long time and then Moneyball came out and suddenly the media realized that all this stuff was happening more and more and more. So, I think right now we’re kind of at the point back before Moneyball came out, where maybe the media doesn’t really know what’s happening, but we’re starting to catch up to the level that baseball’s is at, and getting there.
Long: Yeah, because some of those things like Wins above Replacement, that are familiar terms now in baseball, they’re there in football, but people just aren’t really, as you said, utilizing them.
Lock: Right, the hard part is every team wants to keep their own information in-house, so it’s intentional that the media hasn’t heard wind of some of these things.
Long: John Bailer, I’ll go to you for the next question.
John Bailer: Well, Dennis, it’s great to have you on the program, it’s so good to have you visiting Oxford, and it’s really fun to listen to some of the work you’ve been doing. One of the things you mentioned in a presentation you gave on campus was a quote that you said really resonated with you which was that ‘Win Probability is the holy grail of analytics’ and I thought that it was fun to think that there might be a holy grail of analytics, and I’m sort of picturing you on this quest. So, can you tell us a little bit about your quest for this Holy Grail and why is that the Holy Grail?
Lock: So, yeah, I should mention first that I stole that quote from Burke. So I can’t take credit for that.
Bailer: You cited it properly
Lock: I did cite, got to get it cited properly here too though. The idea is that for better or for worse, in sports, it all comes down to wins. Success is entirely measured by wins. What you want to get is essentially, the win probability is an idea of looking at wins, and where are they coming from, and how can we maximize the wins, what players can help us maximize the wins, what plays can help us maximize the wins. And you can’t do any of that if you don’t first have a good way of measuring the win probability values. So, in order to get an idea, and get a good estimate of wins, you need a good way of estimating the win probability at various moments throughout a game to really get an idea of where the impact is coming from.
Long: Richard Campbell.
Richard Campbell: So, I’m trying to imagine that you’re doing this work for the Dolphins, and the Dolphins are in a huddle, and it’s like there’s two minutes left in the game and they’re two touchdowns, and is the quarterback going to talk about your work on win probability, and bring that up in the huddle, what’s our win probability here? Two minutes left and we’re two touchdowns behind. So, part of this is to ask you how the Dolphins are using your work?
Lock: So, no it’s more that I have the win probability in there, so I’m the one actually calling the plays down to the quarterback. Kidding, of course. I obviously can’t get into specific details about how they’re utilizing the work entirely just because it’s propriety, but it’s impactful towards everything we’re trying to do, in terms of in-game decision making, in terms of player evaluation, it comes into play in most of what we’re trying to accomplish there, as a team and as an analytics department.
Long: John Bailer
Bailer: You know, one thing that you mentioned in conversation that Richard might be interested in, is during the games, when a game’s occurring, they’re not allowed to have a computer. So if they had any kind of impact on this, it’d have to be hard-copy of some analysis that you could reference, so that there’s not a simulation component to that, which I thought that was really interesting, that computers were banned, and that’s a league policy I assume.
Lock: Yeah, it really limits the impact a computer nerd like myself can have. Because if you can’t have a computer in there, you have to essentially have everything prepared ahead of time and ready to roll.
Campbell: Is what you do, I mean I know you can’t talk about proprietary stuff, but is it similar in terms of what Moneyball taught us about the way of going out and finding certain players who were good in certain situations that would lead to more wins if those players were in the game at a particular time.
Lock: That’s very similar, yeah. Unfortunately in the Moneyball movie, I would be the Jonah Hill character and not the Brad Pitt character, but yes, that’s the idea, yes, so where can we…how can we essentially get unique way to look at these players that nobody else is doing that can give us that competitive advantage, and that extra little bit that we need to go just a little extra farther.
Long: I know we talked about the fact that baseball is a little bit ahead of everybody else right now, from one sport to another though, I’m thinking win probability’s probably, they’re not all the same…things would be different, like for example in the NBA and the NHL, than what they are and what you’re dealing with in football, is that correct?
Lock: It is, yeah, actually something that I’m trying to work on right now is a win probability method that applicable to any head to head based competition, so you can utilize it across you know, football, or basketball, hockey, soccer, baseball, I mean you name it. The end goal is to get it…I mean the problem with win probability estimation is everyone does it in a different way, and so you get different errors coming and going, whereas if we’re all doing it in a consistent way then we’ll all know the errors, there’ll be errors, but we’ll be on a level playing field and understand what those errors are.
Long: You’re listening to Stats and Stories where we discuss the statistics behind the stories and the stories behind the statistics. Our topic today is the science of using analytics in both professional and college sports. I’m Bob Long along with our regular panelists, Miami University Statistics Department Chair, John Bailer and Media Journalism and Film Chair, Richard Campbell. And our special guest is the director of analytics for the Miami Dolphins football team, Dennis Lock. He supports football operations through research and statistical analysis. I’ll go back to John Bailer for the next question.
Bailer: Now, when you think about analytics, when you think about sports, and you think about analytics as applied to sports, do you think there’s taxonomy of game types? You know, that there’s baseball versus soccer, or hockey versus competitive diving or- so as you think about this, what do you think are some of the-what is the taxonomy as you think about sports and analytics applied to it, and then what are some of the challenges that is intrinsic in having those differences?
Lock: Yeah, so the challenges, essentially with a sport like baseball you have your set plays, set outcomes things that are going to happen whereas a sport like soccer or hockey, it’s really a flow sport, where there’s no set play at all, I mean soccer you really have no set plays, except maybe a throw in corner kick, that kind of thing, so it’s flowing the whole time, so the data that you’re getting is completely different for a soccer match than it is for a baseball game or a football game or a hockey game or, getting more extreme into diving, swimming, golf. You’ve got situations where it’s not a head to head situation there’s a whole field of people that could win and it creates a whole new slew of problems and challenges that you need to overcome.
Long: Richard Campbell
Campbell: I was watching the Blackhawks-Redwings hockey game last night and there was discussion, I remember the Blackhawks were up 1 to nothing at the end of one period and the announcer started reading off numbers, and it was something like ‘The Redwings are four and 12 when they’re behind by one goal after the first period and the Blackhawks are 21 and 1’ I think that’s actually pretty close to the truth ‘when they’re ahead after the first period.’ And I’m wondering, I mean they’re just stating sort of factual information, this is actually true of this year, but what would you do with information like that. I always wonder, what am I supposed to do? I’m a Redwing fan so I was depressed for the rest of the game.
Lock: It was already over.
Campbell: - and they lost 5 to 1.
Lock: So, yeah, so that fact would be less interesting as to why that might be. So you need to know that fact initially in order to get to the why that might be, but I guess the difference between media analytics is that media analytics only cares about those little interesting facts and tidbits, whereas the type of analytics you’re doing for the team, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, that’s what that starts, then you look into why is that. So you want to get into why that’s happening, so, if you’re the Blackhawks, you don’t change anything. If you’re the Redwings, you’ve got to figure out, are we having trouble getting adjustments when we’re behind, are there various reasons we could be doing this, and so you want to use that fact to figure out how you can improve, and essentially change that statistics.
Campbell: Ok, thank you.
Long: I think that’s a good point as far as the media statistics that we hear, I mentioned at the start, I hear all the time ‘well this guy, he’s a 300 hitter but he’s only batting 230 with runners in scoring position after the 7th inning’ or something like that. So I mean, those are facts, obviously they have statistics to back that up, but what you’re saying is that at a different level, you know people like you who are helping the whole franchise understand what they need to do, that’s a whole different ball game from what people are hearing on TV, radio, those kind of things.
Lock: Yeah, the stuff we’re hearing out there in TV and radio, those are really the surface level things, whereas what we’re doing actually within the team organization, we’re trying to get much much deeper in term of- I think it really is the why is the next level. Within the team, we don’t care so much about what the statistics is, we care about why the statistic is what is, and how can we change it.
Long: John Bailer
Bailer: I want to follow up on that idea that some of the things that are being reported are, often feel to me as really dangerous extrapolations.
Lock: Yeah, I agree with that.
Bailer: Because you know, the case that Bob just described I want to say, well how many times did that happen, how often did you see that, was this over the course of a career? I mean, and you know that there are trajectories of player performance over careers, what’s the relevance of some of this early information for projecting later career performance if you’re looking at an individual player? What do you think about extrapolation issues when you think about applications and analytics in sports?
Lock: Yeah it can get real dangerous. Especially, the media tends to take it real far sometimes. Like you’ll get the ‘he’s batting 600 on his birthday against lefties and those go real far where that’s not helping at all, sure maybe it’s interesting, he does great on his birthday, but what does that actually tell us about the player, probably not very much.
Long: Yeah, I think a great point you make, let’s say some guy has faced a pitcher ten times and he’s one for ten, that’s a little different than the guy who’s faced the same pitcher 150 times, over his career, and you get a much better feel for how he performs over time, not just this particular season.
Lock: Right, but the media wants what looks flashy, and often what looks flashy is going to have that small sample size.
Campbell: One of the roles I play on this show serves an obligation that I think we have to our journalism students here and the way that they tell stories that have data and statistics, and I thought it might be helpful if you talked a little about errors, mistakes, things that you notice particularly when statistics are used by sports reporters, or maybe when you’ve been interviewed by journalists to talk about what it is you do?
Lock: Yeah, I think I have a good one, it’s my personal pet peeve, and you see it a lot, is when they compare analytics to traditional scouting as if they are two competing entities. Where you have analytics on one side and traditional scouting on the other, when in reality the only purpose of analytics is to support and try to enhance what is traditionally being done. Because let’s be honest, if it’s analytics against traditional scouting, I don’t have a chance, traditional scouting is always going to win, so it really, analytics isn’t a competing and different entity it’s an enhancement of what’s already being done.
Campbell: Do you think that’s partly because of the movie Moneyball, where it’s sort of where you’re often these two competing sides feed a narrative that’s more dramatic?
Lock: Right, the story’s a lot better if it’s the analytics guys against the traditional scout that’s judging prospects by the attractiveness of their girlfriend, I think was the example they used.
Long: John Bailer
Bailer: You’re talking about scouting and the work of analytics as being complimentary to what a traditional scout would do, and I think that’s a neat way of considering this, but it’s much broader as I get a sense of what you’re doing, in terms of the responsibilities of someone that’s working in analytics or someone who’s applying analytics tools in a sporting context. There’s issue of, not just selecting the players for the team, but evaluating current player performance, or thinking about players returning to fitness, and how it’s involved in that, or during competitive play, what are the best choices and decisions in terms of that. What other opportunities are there in terms of having analytical contributions to team performance or player assessment.
Lock: Right, so I guess I’ll focus on football because that’s where my experience lies. Essentially in the National Football league once the season has started, there’s very little player procurement process. You have the players; they’re your guy that’s what you’re going to be going with. So then, you want to figure out, how can we get the most out of these players? So we want to monitor as much as we can about what they’re doing, so you can get peak performance on Sunday, and hopefully prevent injuries, so hopefully you get the two as one and the same where you’re getting your guys-the best out of them, and keeping them healthy and out there on the field. And I think that the sports science and peak performance is the next major boom in sports analytics.
Long: You know I saw something about chips that NFL players are wearing like in their shoulder pads, and that this is helping to determine things like speed, movement, and things like that, is that something you’re talking about that’s kind of the new wave, new things that are going to help provide additional data about players?
Lock: Yeah, so they’re calling it “next-gen stats” where during the game we have ten times a second the x y coordinates of every single player and the ball. So we’ll actually be tracking every single movement these individuals are making, we already are, and they’re hopefully releasing the data within a month or two now.
Long: Now, you mentioned health, which I think a lot of people forget about, that sometimes they look at a guy and they go ‘oh he’s having a bad year’ well maybe what they don’t know is that he’s not 100 percent, well nobody in the NFL is ever 100 percent, but I mean, that is something that you have to look at, you know like if somebody’s slowing down, they’re not able to do what they did two or three years ago, that kind of information is critical for the management folks to understand, and the coaches to understand.
Lock: Oh, it’s very valuable, from both looking at your own players and looking at opposing players, there’s a lot of value in that. And the danger is when a guy’s slowing down just a little bit, suddenly they’re much more prone to injury because they’re not moving the way they’re normally moving and you never know what’s that’s going to do on the rest of their body. So if you can catch it they start to slow down that can be very valuable.
Long: So is this chip technology is that something that’s brand new, I mean is that something that’s just now-
Lock: So they were testing it on teams in 2014 and every team had it for every game in 2015, and it will be on there from this point on.
Bailer: And everyone has access to that data set?
Lock: Everyone will have access to that data set. It hasn’t been released yet, the competition committee is reviewing it, I believe this April, and then they’ll decide when it comes to us.
Lock: For a data guy, that’s exciting.
Long: So you’d be getting this stuff on other teams then?
Lock: So we’ll have it for all games
Bailer: All players, all games, all situations. Wow.
Lock: Powerful data set.
Campbell: How will that like in salary negations, when you start- you can point to actual data, physical performance that somebody is slowing down. And this is all going to be available to everybody.
Bailer: You’re going to have not only an agent; you’re going to have an analyst that’s working with you.
Long: That’s coming.
Lock: Some agencies have analysts now to help show how much their guy’s worth. So it’s kind of the analytics guys are competing just like the agents and the front office guys are competing.
Long: You’re listening to Stats and Stories, and again we’re focusing this time on the importance of analytics in professional sports today. Again, I’m Bob Long, our regular panelists are Miami University Statistics Department Chair John Bailer and Media, Journalism, and Film Chair, Richard Campbell, and Dennis Lock is our special guest today. Dennis is the director of analytics for the Miami Dolphins and supports football operations through his research and statistical analysis, and I also mentioned he’s working on a PhD in statistics from Iowa State University, which brings me to my next question. We’re talking about the pro-level, I’m assuming a lot of this stuff is working its way down into collegiate sports am I correct?
Lock: You are, there actually are a lot of college football teams are now using player tracking data on the practice field, so they’re tracking their guys, every movement they make using GPS data to know the exact distance they ran, every acceleration, deceleration impact, to get a good idea of what kind of toll it’s taking on their guys.
Long: John Bailer
Bailer: That data would be available then when drafts come about, and I think that would be the kind of thing that a player-you know I wonder about some of these combine data that gets generated within the sport that you work. You know there are 40 yard times, there are long jumps, there are sort of standard performance things, it seems like all of that would be eclipsed if you had things, it’s not clear what the validity is, or the predictability is of something in the abstract versus acceleration in the course of play, or in the course of practice, may be much more interesting to you than whether or not this person runs a 40 in 4.692.
Lock: Right. Because some of the value of the forty, you can get the idea, how fast are they getting down there on a kick-off, but now we can literally see, how fast are they getting down there on a kick-off.
Long: That’s really interesting, because I think, again, a lot people don’t understand how much data is available in today’s world. How does this apply, though, to coaches? Because, you know, many of them aren’t trained, obviously, in statistics, and so, how do they know how to use the data that people like you and your staff and providing to them.
Lock: So that’s just as important, in my job, as the actual analyses that I’m doing, is how can I translate them to explain them to somebody who’s probably never taken a statistics class in their lives, and know football, not stats, how can I make stats sound like football, and make it so we’re all operating on the same page.
Long: And that’s how you try to do it, because the coaches obviously don’t know, they know you’re giving them the data; they know it’s probably, they have a good feeling for how accurate it is, they just, how to apply it, I guess, is the big question.
Lock: Yeah, and I’m not going to ask the coaches to speak my language, I’m learning how to speak their language.
Bailer: Well that, I think part of being a good, effective statistical consultant or communicator requires that, and same thing for a journalist.
Campbell: That’s right, and that’s what I say journalists are supposed to do. They translate the world into sort of common sense so people can understand it. Sometimes they do a good job, sometimes they not.
Lock: Sometimes I do a good job and sometimes I don’t.
Long: Well lots talk about because the NFL, and of course I know you can’t talk about the Dolphins specifically, but the NFL draft, you know with it coming up, how that-the kinds of information management, the general managers and the coaches are looking for from somebody like you as you try to analyze all the players that are out there, and what the teams needs are, and trying to figure out, who do we go for in this particular situation?
Lock: I mean I consider myself a scout in my own right; it’s just a different way of scouting. Whereas the scouts go out there, they watch video on the guy, they talk to the guy, they get a feel for the guy, and I’m not doing any of that. I’m just looking at the numbers on the guy, and seeing what I can get just purely based on numbers that we have there.
Long: Yeah that’s what I’m thinking, because you mentioned earlier, the scouts, they have their own file of things based on things they’ve actually witnessed, or from talking to somebody, but you’re-like you said it’s not a competition thing-you’re just giving them additional information that they may not have been able to gain from what they watched.
Long: Richard Campbell.
Campbell: Let me switch directions a little bit here, because Bob talked before about you finishing your PhD at Ohio State-
Bailer: Iowa State
Campbell: Oh, Iowa State, I’m sorry oops. You talked- I know you come from a family of statisticians and mathematicians, and in my family my kids ran as far away from me as they could, you know, in terms of what they were going to do in their profession, how did that happen? What’s that like? I mean you have very prominent, you have prominent parents, you’ve- how does that happen when it doesn’t happen in other families.
Lock: I think it kind of happened naturally, I don’t think we all went in initially planning to get our PhD’s in statistics. I will say within my family now there’s Dr. Lock, Dr. Lock, Dr. Lock, Dr. Lock, and Dennis Lock. So I’ve really got to finish up here. My wife also has a PhD in statistics so lot of pressure there. But Yeah, I think it happened organically, it’s what we all were good at, so we wanted to do what we were best at, they say if you want to be happy find something that you can be better than anyone else at and do it, so I think we all kind of went that way.
Campbell: I should mention too, I love the title of the textbook.
Lock: I actually voted against that.
Campbell: Unlocking the Power of Data.
Lock: I thought it was too cute.
Bailer: What was your preference?
Lock: I don’t think I gave an alternative option, which is probably why I didn’t succeed.
Campbell: Well you know what struck me, it’s an intro book, it’s for a very basic level, and it’s kind of like- you seem to partly be mining this ground on helping people understanding statistics at a basic level. You have to do that in your job, and I think the textbook also is about that kind of thing.
Lock: Yeah I think working on the textbook helped me a lot in the position I’m currently in and so did teaching an introductory class, cause I had to teach stuff that they don’t understand to the students, and now I kind of have to do the same thing to coaches and scouts.
Campbell: Is there a particular thing that’s a stumbling block that you find when you’re trying to explain something to somebody who, like me, hasn’t had a statistics course?
Lock: One of the challenges that I didn’t foresee is what the true meaning of a probability is, so the idea that if you say that the probability of something happens, after it happened, there is no probability, it either happened or it didn’t. Beforehand, that probability was still there, and could still have been perfectly accurate, even if I say it’s a 10% chance that something’s going to happen, then it happens, that doesn’t mean that my 10% was wrong, it just means that it went the other way, there was a 10% chance, and that’s a challenge that I’ve found the before and after of probability.
Long: John Bailer
Bailer: I’m curious if there are people listening to this show that are thinking ‘I might want to do this too, this might be fun to be involved in sports analytics’ if there was someone that was interested in being involved, and doing this, or in reporting sports with lots of quantitative components, what are some of the courses that you would recommend, or some of the experiences that you might suggest for someone to get into this.
Lock: Yeah, so especially for, specifically a student I would recommend, first computer science courses, and even more than that I would recommend taking advantage of the situation that you’re currently in, because any university you have all these teams that may be interested in getting some free labor, someone to come in and kind of take a look at what they’re doing from a completely different approach. So that’s what I did at Iowa State with the basketball team is I just volunteered to help out doing some analyses for them, and it gave me huge experience working with these coaches and then when I went to actually look at jobs I could say you know, I have this experience working with coaches and it can be very beneficial. So something you can take advantage of is right here at the university and it can lead to great dividends later on.
Long: I wonder are there a lot of internship-type opportunities available for people who think this is something they’d like to do as a career?
Lock: I think so, I think there’s quite a few out there, I think, in my mind the best route to do it is to do it with a collegiate team that you’re currently there, because then you can even mix it in with your studies, which is what I did. If you do it with a pro-team, we ask a lot of our interns, so I mean, you’re going to get really, thrown under the bus so to speak, you’re going to be working 14-15 hour days, and not getting as much out of it as you probably would if you did it in a collegiate atmosphere.
Long: John, I think we have time for one more question here today.
Bailer: What do you like best about what you do?
Lock: I like seeing my analyses impact the game on Sunday. Seeing something that happens that came from something I’d been talking with the coaches about leading up to it. I think that’s my favorite thing, to be actually at the game watching and see the impact that I’m having on a NFL football game.
Long: Dennis Lock is the director of analytics for the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League, and Dennis we want to thank you very much for sharing your insights with us here today on Stats and Stories-
Lock: Thank you
Long: And if you’d like to share your thoughts on our program you can send us an email to email@example.com be sure to listen for future editions of Stats and Stories where we always talk about the statistics behind the stories and the stories behind the statistics.
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