Catapult Sports is an Australian based analytics company that is moving quickly into the US professional and collegiate sports market by providing unique performance data on athletes. The data is captured by wearable devices tucked into the athletes’ jerseys and transmitted to nodes placed throughout stadiums, then sent immediately to data visualization interfaces to be evaluated by coaches and players. The performance statistics being tracked are not just basic information like heart rate, speed and distance but also acceleration speed, deceleration, change of direction, collision impact and force using accelerometers and gyroscopes. This information is providing the needed edge in player evaluation, injury prevention and speaks directly to the ‘Moneyball’ analytics strategy quickly being implemented into sports. Of the major professional sports in the US, the NHL remains hesitant to embrace analytics and lags behind the NFL and NBA.
We recently spoke to Boden Westover, Media and Marketing Relations Manager for Catapult Sports, on why the NHL is slow to implement analytics into their organizations.
You list 8 NFL teams, 5 NBA teams but only 1 NHL team, the Philadelphia Flyers, as clients. Why do you think that Professional Hockey has been slower to embrace analytics?
“Firstly, there are varying levels of analytics and, while many see baseball as innovators in the field of analytics due to ‘Moneyball’, the NHL is by far behind every other US sport in collecting relevant athlete performance which Catapult enables. There isn’t really a right answer to why the NHL is behind the NBA and NFL in embracing analytics, but I’d say it’s a combination of the free-flowing style of ice hockey whereby possession of the puck is not as sacred as football and basketball. Because turnovers are a large part of the game and the differences between winning and losing are generally the effectiveness of shots on goal and the ability of the goalie, physical performance is probably less relevant in the NHL. I would also say ice hockey is more of a ‘pure’ sport, like soccer, in that they like to think of their game as an old-fashioned game played on a frozen pond - meaning they’ve been slower to embrace technology. Shorter staff numbers and lower budgets would also play a part.”
Do you see colleges moving more quickly to implement analytics into their hockey programs since they are realizing the benefits in their other sports?
“College sport is our biggest growth market, irrelevant of sport. There is the obvious trickle-down effect from working with NBA, NFL and NHL teams, but colleges have the additional benefit of being able to share the technology across sports - which we’re starting to see a lot of at some of our bigger NCAA clients.”
The Australia Men’s and Women’s Hockey teams use your products. What are a few unique variables that they use to evaluate player performance?
“With the Australian hockey teams using Catapult, they are field hockey and use it in a similar manner to lacrosse, soccer and both rugby codes – monitor physical loads, map athlete effectiveness in certain parts of the field, and assess risk and readiness for avoiding preventable injuries leading up to competition.”
Catapult Sports has been combining sport and science since 2004 and has caught the attention of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. The Mavericks are a customer and Mark Cuban invested into the company in March of this year. Catapult Sports has offices on 3 continents and has customers in over 30 countries ranging in sports from soccer, football, hockey, field hockey, rugby and basketball to cricket, handball, rowing and even waterskiing.