How to Break Into a Career in Sports Analytics

Student & Alumni Stories Analytics

Data-driven decision making is a vital aspect of virtually all business, and the sports industry is no exception. Below, we discuss what sports analytics is, what a career in the field involves, and explore how one Northeastern alumnus broke into a career in sports analytics.

What is Sports Analytics?

Sports analytics is a field that applies data analysis techniques to analyze various components of the sports industry, such as player performance, business performance, recruitment, and more. The learnings from these analyses are then used to make informed decisions that enhance the performance of a particular team or sports organization. Now more than ever, sports teams are leveraging skilled sports data analysts to create a competitive advantage both on and off the field. 

Sports Analytics Careers

According to data from ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for jobs in sports analytics is approximately $93,092 per year; however, this number can vary based on a variety of factors such as location, level of education, and experience. 

Those who have an interest in sports and possess an analytical mindset have the unique ability to turn both of these passions into an exciting and rewarding career. Just like the practice that goes into becoming a professional athlete, aspiring sports data analysts should practice and develop their skills in order to be successful in this role. 

One of the best ways to gain and refine the skills needed for a sports analytics career is to develop your knowledge of data analytics. For example, Northeastern’s Master of Professional Studies in Analytics prepares students to identify and communicate data-driven insights for informed decision making in a wide range of fields. 

Breaking Into Analytics: How Jordan Sperber Turned His Hobby Into a Career

Northeastern takes great pride in hearing about our graduates using the skills they acquired in class in their day-to-day life. Jordan Sperber took his love of sports and interest in analytics and turned it into a full-time career. Below, Jordan shares his journey.

An Interest in Data Analytics

I first became interested in data analytics after reading the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game early on in high school. The book covered the story of how the Oakland A’s used analytics to find undervalued MLB players. After reading that, I continued reading about sports analytics on the internet and started doing some of my own research. At that time, I took my first statistics class in high school and applied a lot of what I was learning to sports.

The Start of a Sports Analytics Career

I started my blog, The Hoop Vision, as a junior in high school. I put it aside for most of my senior year but then brought it back in college in full force. The blog is centered around college basketball analytics. I write blog posts heavily focused on data and film to analyze college basketball teams, players, and trends. In the last few years, I shifted to doing the same type of analysis but in the form of a newsletter instead of on the blog. Through the newsletter, I’ve been able to network with more people in the college basketball world.

The blog has been a major source of success in my career. Early on in college, I had two Division 1 basketball coaches reach out to me after reading my blog. I stayed in touch with both coaches and even did some consulting while I was still an undergrad. Upon graduation, those coaches gave me my first two jobs in the industry. I started as a graduate assistant at the University of Nevada and then moved on to New Mexico State as a video coordinator. In both cases, the blog enabled me to get my name out there and put myself in a position to get future jobs.

A Day in the Life of a Sports Data Analyst

The college basketball world is very seasonal. So from November to March our focus is on how to win games and get better as a team. From a data analytics perspective, that means using data to evaluate our team as a whole and all of our individual players. We also analyze our opponents and put together more effective game plans and scouting reports.

Out of season, we use data analytics very heavily in recruiting. Not only do we evaluate potential new players to decide if we want to add them to our roster, but we also use analytics as a major selling point to land them. That means I put together presentations on how we will use data to take the recruit’s (and our team’s) game to the next level.

Skills for Success in a Sports Analytics Career

I have really built off of the R programming portion of [Northeastern’s analytics program] for use on a daily basis. Those skills have helped me to automate more of my workflow and do things more efficiently. Furthermore, I am still using Tableau for some data visualization and SQL for database work. Both of which were covered during my time at Northeastern.

I would advise those aspiring to work in sports analytics to build upon their technical skills. For a quick solution, a short-term program like Northeastern’s Graduate Certificate in Analytics is a great way to jump-start those skills. For people looking to get into sports data, in particular, starting a blog (or even just a Twitter account) is a great way to network and get your name out. The sports industry is extremely competitive, but also an exciting industry. High-level technical skills in conjunction with good networking are necessary to advance in the field.

Follow Jordan on Twitter at @hoopvision68.

To learn how a graduate certificate or degree in analytics from Northeastern can help you jumpstart your career, download our free guide below.

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