Sports data skills: mind the gap

Sports data skills: mind the gap

Last week the Pace Insights team headed down to the Motorsport Industry Association (@miamotorsport) careers fair on the search for new staff members for our growing business.

We’re in a unique space, connecting two industries: sport and technology. Most of our customers are British sports teams, but our background is in motorsport, bridging the gap between very different sporting disciplines.

Using data to form insights to drive better performance and decision making is nothing new to motorsport and particularly Formula One. The way the sport has been funded alongside the heavy engineering focus in innovation has meant that teams are constantly looking for ways to innovate.

In a sense, when it comes to using technology wider sport organisations are consumers, whereas motorsport is a producer. Like how we operate, if someone in motorsport finds a problem, they don’t try and buy a solution, they build it. If you were to head down to visit any Formula One team, they’ll be developing or running some new exciting prototype every weekend.

As we’ve seen wider sport receive evermore investment, we’re actually seeing a skills gap emerge and grow. With the exception of a few, sports have traditionally used little technology as part of training regimes. This has been exacerbated in the past due to typically low levels of investment, making embracing technology and engineering principles within training regimes relatively uncharted territory.

The result of this is that we have coaches and trainers who understand that technology and data can bring value, but don’t have the skills to firstly implement it, or draw out the insights. Much has been promised but often the reality comes up short. For us, it is frustrating to see given what we know can be done. The data skills gap is therefore not just about technology startups, but we’re seeing it in sport as well.

There are a lot of positives that can be learnt from motorsport and the professionals working within it, which is why we find it so interesting to attend careers fairs like the one organised by the MIA. Combining the skills of existing non-technical trainers with motorsport engineering talent is an ideal combination for success.

If I’m really critical of motorsport, the real opportunity for them is dealing with human beings – working with an individual is much more difficult than engineering a vehicle. Generating useful insight within an organisation is about more than technology but the whole picture of a sportsperson, from diet through to psychology.

Pace Insights looks to bridge these industries and deliver both technical and practical expertise. Let’s remove the skills gap and fully embrace data within sports teams.