“How did you get your job offer from ESPN?” was one of the questions at the end of the MCSP Conversation Series “Stat Crew and Sports Analytics.” Taylor Ferebee has leveraged her sports research and Stat Crew experience into a summer internship and a nice job offer from ESPN. She was one of four students who did summer research in sports analytics. Taylor, Sky Weber, Abby Hobby, and Connor Sampson discussed their experiences on October 27 in Massengill Auditorium.
Stat Crew has many aspects. It is students collecting and analyzing data for Roanoke College sports teams, so it is a service project. It is also an excellent collaboration between academics and athletics. For many students, it can be an important step into an exciting job market.
Connor Sampson and Taylor Ferebee had summer internships with the Atlanta Blaze of Major League Lacrosse. A connection was made at the Carolina Sports Analytics Meeting, attended by Taylor and other Stat Crew members. The Stat Crew talk at the meeting included work done by the Crew in lacrosse, which caught the attention of the head of analytics for the Blaze. A conversation and a couple of emails later, Taylor and Connor had internships. They watched game films of the Blaze and other MLL teams and created visualizations of passing and shot patterns for the coaches. This gave the coaches a detailed scouting report of each team and player in the league.
Abby Hobby took her work with the Stat Crew in a different direction. Abby is captain of the women’s soccer team at Roanoke, and she helped adapt the computer app used for lacrosse to soccer. She developed a project that was chosen as one of Roanoke College’s Summer Scholar projects, comparing results and strategies in men’s and women’s soccer. She found several differences, including higher rates of scoring from corner kicks and shots on goal in general in the women’s game. Her data also allows her to evaluate the likelihood that a shot will score from a given distance and angle and location of defenders. Abby is a psychology major, who plans to go to graduate school in statistics.
Sky Weber interned with the Cape Cod Summer Baseball League. She compiled various high-level baseball statistics for the league. For example, she computed park factors, which measure the influence of the different sizes and shapes of the parks in the league. The smallest park in the league is the easiest to hit home runs in; Sky can tell you exactly by how much, and how to correct players’ home run totals to make fair comparisons. Parks have similar effects on hits, runs, strikeouts, and so on. Sky also computed WRC+ values for each hitter; this is a metric that measures the total offensive production of a player, corrected for the influences of the player’s home park. Sky is a mathematics major, who also plans to go to graduate school in statistics.
Among the commonalities of the students’ work is the necessity to program. As Connor emphasized, the programming does not have to be sophisticated, but when dealing with massive amounts of data you do not want to work by hand. The most common programming language used was R, an open source statistics analysis program.
Part of the answer to how you get that ESPN job offer is having experience in sports analysis, and having a portfolio showing off your work. Taylor has created nice visualizations for Stat Crew and for her own research, and has a website to dazzle recruiters. Stat Crew gives its members experience with many of the issues that concern media and sports teams, and the output looks pretty good!
To join Stat Crew, get in touch with Dr. Minton at firstname.lastname@example.org.