Scouting has never been more important in sport, as fierce competition means every team is out there searching for the next big thing. With today’s top stars demanding lucrative contracts, spotting talent early and nurturing it, is a profitable and cost-effective way of improving team performance.
In years gone by, finding talent often came down to gut the instinct of the talent scout, But Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics Baseball club, famously changed all that. By using applied statistical analysis, (known as sabermetrics) he transformed how baseball evaluated players and created a seismic shift in the scouting of talent in all sports.
Advances in technology in recent years have allowed teams to collect unbelievable amounts of data on players. Through studying video footage and personalized player monitors that track in game performance, teams can create a comprehensive analysis of players that will enable them to make the right choice.
In the high stakes, cash rich, English Premier League, soccer clubs leave no stone unturned when it comes to player recruitment. Their modern scouting operations are spread across the world with a global network of talent spotters sending huge amounts of data and video back to teams of analysts. The analytics team then sift through all the information looking for that undiscovered gold nugget.
Soccer, more than any other sport, benefits from using technology to enhance talent spotting capabilities because acquiring super star players requires paying substantial transfer fees if the player is under contract. The record transfer ever paid was €222m for Brazilian superstar Neymar when he left Barcelona to go to Paris Saint Germain, which highlights the savings teams can make by spotting that talent earlier.
English Premier League club, Burnley F.C are using AI technology in their search for top talent. They have launched an open global talent search, to find players above the age of 14 who could join its Category 1 Premier League Academy.
The AiSCOUT’s app enables footballers over the age of 14 to try out for the Burnley Academy by performing specific drills that can be done wherever they live. They simply film these tests on their mobile phones and then upload them to the app.
The AiSCOUT artificial intelligence will then analyze, score, rate, benchmark and identify players’ technical, athletic, cognitive and psychometric ability through their performance of the set drills. Players identified as performing to a high level, will be invited to attend a formal academy trial, with the chance to earn a much sought-after place in the youth system.
The NFL has always embraced technology, from improving the way games are officiated, to wireless team communication, and command centers that give coaches the necessary tools to create and adjust their game plans on the fly. Technology in football provides players with electronic playbooks and as the game develops, coaches can dissect their opponent’s offense and defense on their tablets.
It should come as no surprise therefore, that the NFL is now using cutting edge technology to transform the way it scouts players. In a change that was accelerated due to the pandemic restricting scout movements, teams were left to rely on TV coverage alone. But that meant that many small school players or those that were out injured, didn’t get a look in through a lack of data.
That’s where Sportlogiq comes in, who along with their partner Telemetry Sports, use their computer vision technology to retroactively generate player tracking data from footage of college football games. This, coupled with GPS data tracking players in game performance, provides scouts with masses of data to help make their decisions.
According to the latest NFL draft betting, the Michigan Wolverines Defensive End, Aidan Hutchinson, is expected to be the number one draft pick on April 28th. You can be sure that all his games have been micro analyzed by talent spotters who cannot afford to make a mistake.
Baseball has long used statistics to evaluate players potential but they also relied on a scout’s gut feelings too. Now teams are beginning to use AI to analyze a wealth of data that includes throwing speed and spin, video tracking of players on field movements, swing speed and also swing mechanics – thanks to sensors in their bats.
Every action and piece of data that happens on the field is now collected to provide player insights that no one would have previously thought possible. It’s Billy Beane’s sabermetrics taken to another level, and it continues to revolutionize player recruitment.
It’s a similar story in the NBA and NHL as more and more sports turn to tech to spot the future stars that scouts might otherwise have missed. However, all this information is used to help talent spotters, so no matter how sophisticated AI becomes, the role of humans in the process will not be ending any time soon.