Why Programming Matters in Sports Science

This is a guest post written by FC Python. You can find them on Twitter FC Python or visit their website here.

There has never been a more important time for Sports Science students to take responsibility for their own development through learning programming skills. With over 10,000 students (and growing) graduating from sports-related courses every year, the problems facing job seekers are well-documented. Taking the time to learn is by far the best investment that you can make to ensure that you’ll be towards the top of the application pile.

Having programming skills in addition to domain knowledge will save your future colleagues hours each week

The working week of analysis and sports science teams are irregular. Evening fixtures and data processing times are just two things that will keep you in the office outside of a typical working day. But what if you have the skills and portfolio to automate a team’s report creation and even their video clipping? Demonstrating that you can save the analyst from their 6am start makes you a lot more desirable!

If you can stop the analyst having to manually snip ugly images straight out of their analysis software, because you calculate and visualise them yourself with the exact detail the coaches have asked for, you become an invaluable part of the analysis department.

Gifting an analyst an extra 8 hours a week because you can automate the repetitive tasks is a pretty compelling proposition!

Help to revolutionise a team’s approach with the tools you build

Teams are increasingly turning to technology to help them get any advantage – from Hoffenheim’s videowall, to Barcelona using apps to communicate with players and collect biometric data. Innovative teams are leveraging their players’ propensity to communicate and understand through technology.

Hoffenheim’s Videowall will be used in training sessions to show players how and where to improve instantly. © TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Unlike the aforementioned teams, not all clubs will have the budget to outsource app or database development. Having the skills to build similar tools on your CV and a portfolio of attractive projects that the club can benefit from is an achievable goal for anyone aiming to work in the industry.

Makes you REALLY employable outside of sport too!

If you become disillusioned with your goal of working in sports science or analysis, aptitude in programming will allow you to take advantage of an industry currently suffering from a skills shortages. Talent supply is the #1 issue facing tech companies in the UK – by putting the time in now, you open up doors to all sorts of opportunities in a few years’ time. Do future you a favour – this isn’t about becoming an expert right away, it is about showing your aptitude for learning new skills and creating a foundation to build on.

The benefits are clear, that hard part is sticking with it – but there is help!

Now, for all of these reasons for investing in yourself, that isn’t to say that it is easy. Learning these skills is a bumpy ride. You will feel frustrations and want to pack it all in.

To offset this, there has never been a better time for you to start learning. We are incredibly fortunate to be learning at a time with access to a community around programming education, free resources and accessible platforms for learning. All that is takes is jumping in with two feet by setting a realistic goal for what you want to achieve, then devoting a small amount of time of every day towards achieving it.

Getting Started

The first place to start is picking a language and getting comfortable with the fundamental concepts in programming. Quicker than you probably think right now, you’ll be able to apply these to personal projects and challenges to hone your skills.

Python is often a preferred language for new-learners as its vocabulary is very readable and has thousands of modules that put complex tasks into just a few lines of code – like creating a heat map from your 5-a-side data, or plotting an interactive chart to find value for your fantasy team.

When you’re ready to get started, take a look at FC Python’s fundamental tutorials series. This introductory course teaches the basics of Python through football; this way, new skills are presented in a familiar context with practical examples that are easy to understand.

Follow FC Python on Twitter to keep up with the latest tutorials on programming, data science and visualisation with Python.



Rob Carroll. Founder of The Video Analyst.com Performance Analyst. Always learning.