Archive for December, 2014

2014Dec 17

JMSM Sport Analytic Panel – “By the Numbers”

By Blog Contributor Alex Saunders

On November 6th, over 60 SPAD students attended the 2014 John Molson’s Sport Marketing (JMSM) Conference in Montréal, Quebec. The conference lasted several days and showcased many established sport business minds such as Montréal Canadiens’ GM, Marc Bergevin, and LA Dodgers former GM and current Senior Advisor, Ned Colletti.

One speaker panel in particular highlighted the growth and use of analytics in sport. This panel was appropriately titled “By The Numbers”, moderated by TSN Hockey Analytics Writer, Travis Yost. This panel featured both the aforementioned Ned Colletti and Alex Burwasser, Sports Analyst for Bloomberg Sports. While analytics have been prominently used within the MLB for many years now, analytics have only recently found their way into relevancy within the NBA and the NHL. This summer saw Kyle Dubas and SPAD graduate, Tyler Dellow, find employment within the NHL because of their analytical background within the sport. There has never been a greater opportunity for those looking to find an analytics position in sport than right now and it is safe to assume that the demand for such positions will continue to grow. Here are the key highlights of the panel’s discussion:

TSN's Travis Yost interviews both Alex Burwasser of Bloomberg Sports and former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.

TSN’s Travis Yost interviews both Alex Burwasser of Bloomberg Sports and former Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.

  1. Sports analytics are “not the be all and end all.”

The use of analytics to determine an athlete’s future success through past production or analyzed trends is just like any other form of evaluation. There must be a balance during evaluation to achieve success and using analytics is simply just one tool and not the entire toolbox. Colletti stressed the importance of an athlete’s character as another indicator of future success.
 

  1. “Simply tracking analytics is insufficient. A manager must know how to effectively use these numbers.”

While the idea of predicting your own team’s downfall before it eventually happens may be nice, it is far more important that one knows how to make the necessary changes to prevent said downfall through the analysis of advanced statistics.
 

  1. You can never remove luck from playing a factor within any sport.

The presence of luck within sport, or what analysts prefer to call “variance,” is the number one reason as to why sport analytics will never be an exact science. Burwasser brought up the example of Montréal Canadiens goalie, Carey Price, suffering an injury during the 2014 NHL playoffs against the New York Rangers leading to the eventual loss of the series. Colletti highlighted his own experience watching Matt Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals hitting three homeruns against Dodgers’ pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, in just five at-bats during their playoff series. Carpenter had only previously hit two homeruns against left-handed pitchers throughout the entire season. These events are impossible to predict and make-up what is so unique about sports and their unpredictability.

 

  1. “There is no shortage of information in (sport) but getting that information readily available and understandable in short segments is the key.”

Since the “Moneyball” era of the MLB, there has been an incredible amount of information gathered through the use of advanced analytics. Colletti preached the importance of knowing how to organize and formulate this information in a way that is concise and immediately addresses the issue(s) at hand. If on-field managers are unable to understand what you are trying to tell them, then the value of that information is diminished.

 

  1. Advanced analytics are now used to determine an athlete’s longevity and durability.

Colletti shared that the Dodgers analyze the release of their pitchers’ pitching motions to determine if there is a positive correlation with certain release points and injury or fatigue. Outside of baseball, Burwasser indicated that advanced analytics have determined that a running back in the NFL will likely see a large dip in production during their next season if they receive over 370 total carries on the previous season. Again, this is due to injury or fatigue.

 * * *

All in all, analytics are an invaluable tool in forecasting performance and determining what needs to be altered to ensure future success for sport organizations. However, it is important to operate with a balance. The growing trend of analytics in sport exists because they have proven to be an effective tool, but they are just one of many tools to be considered.

2014Dec 15

SPAD Speaker Series – Andrew Baker (Canadian Olympic Committee)

By Blog Contributor David Maika

The Olympics are a global spectacle that brings the world together every two years to marvel at world-class talent. The Olympics also require immeasurable behind the scenes preparation from Olympic Committees across the world. For 2005 SPAD Grad Andrew Baker, the passion for the Olympics has been burning for the past 9 years, as he is currently the Director of Games for the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC).

 

SPAD students were given the opportunity to network with Baker, as he took the time out of his busy schedule to come to Sudbury. Baker has been involved with 4 Olympics and 2 Pan American Games and was adamant on how students need to “create your own luck.”  Baker knows what it takes to reach the top and he wanted to share his journey working with the COC with current SPAD students.Even during his time in SPAD, Baker was passionate about being involved with the Olympics. He expressed his interest to professors and even reached out to a former SPAD graduate for an internship opportunity. Though he did not get hired for the position, he created his own luck. He showed his passion and was offered a job with the COC upon graduating in 2005. Though it was only a five-month contract, Baker worked hard, created his own luck and was offered another contract.

 

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Andrew Baker speaks to SPAD students from all four years about his experiences at various Olympics and PanAm games, including Vancouver 2010.

In 2006, Baker was promoted to the Team Operations Coordinator, where he coordinated the logistics for the 2007 Pan Am games in Rio de Janeiro and the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Baker talked about how these events helped him develop the skills required for the job and how he “learned to work in a pressure cooker environment.” Baker was again promoted, this time to Project Manager in 2008. His responsibilities included implementing the logistics plans for the Canadian team at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Vancouver Games was Baker’s favourite experience to this date, where he lived and worked in the Olympic village and was able to share and experience the excitement of Canada’s national pride being displayed. Baker then worked as the Manger of Logisticsfrom January 2012 to February 2013 before being promoted to Director of Games. Baker is currently working on the Pan American Games that are to be held in Toronto next summer, where he wants to help host one of the most successful Pan Am Games to date.

 

After laying out the timeline of his career, Baker explained his thoughts and what current SPAD students can do now to make their mark. Baker stressed the importance of networking, adding value to every task and always striving to learn. Learn by asking questions, listening, not being afraid to make mistakes and by writing your learning experiences down.

 

SPAD students were given a tremendous opportunity to listen to an industry professional and learn from the experiences he shared. Students were also given a question period, where Baker offered insightful answers. On behalf of all SPAD students, we would like to thank Andrew Baker for speaking to SPAD students and we wish him all the best at the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games!

2014Dec 9

JMSM Sport Marketing Panel – “Decision Makers”

By Blog Contributor Tyler Fitch

At the John Molson Sport Marketing Conference in Montreal, students were given the opportunity to listen to two “decision makers” in the professional hockey industry. The panel was hosted  by TSN’s Darren Dreger, and featured Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin, as well as the Assistant General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Julien BriseBois. Much of the discussion went into how NHL teams operate, and how organizations make their decisions.

While Bergevin and BriseBois spent time talking about the everyday decisions they are required to make in regards to assembling a competitive team on the ice, they also gave a great amount of advice to students looking to enter any field in sport, whether on the hockey operations side or elsewhere. Here are the biggest learning points discovered via the panel discussion:

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Darren Dreger (TSN), interviews Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin and Tampa Bay Lightning Assistant General Manager Julien BriseBois.

  1. “Never get too high, and never get too low.”

Bergevin stressed on the importance of keeping a level head. He leaves his job at the rink, and tries his best to keep his work out of his family life. When there’s reason to be overly excited, he tries to act like he’s “been there before.”

 

  1. “If you work for your salary you look forward to your pay checks on Friday. If you work for your passion, you look forward to Monday morning.”

Both Bergevin and BriseBois touched on the importance of pursuing a job that you are passionate about. They are both in love with what they do. BriseBois touched on the importance of having a solid work-life balance, but also pursuing something that genuinely interests you is vital in order to have a successful and enjoyable career.

 

  1. When there is a big decision to be made, make a hard decision, then move forward.

Few jobs face more scrutiny than being in charge of assembling the roster for a pro sports team. Bergevin touched on the importance of making a tough decision to the best of your ability, and then moving forward. Hindsight is 20/20, and it isn’t healthy to let decisions that don’t pan out overwhelm you or negatively affect you in future decisions

 

  1. Character is “how badly you want it.”

Dreger asked both Bergevin and BriseBois to classify what “character” was to them. BriseBois answered that, to him, it was how bad someone wanted it. According to BriseBois, it’s paramount to put your full effort into what you do if you want to get somewhere that is competitive. For him, there are only 30 General Manager positions in the world, and if he wants one of them, he knows he has to give it everything he has.

 

  1. Character is “the way you face adversity.”

Bergevin’s response to the Dreger question was a little cliché, but still incredibly valuable. How you handle yourself when facing adversity is the separating and deciding factor, according to Bergevin, on who makes it far in their career and who doesn’t.

 

Stay tuned for more articles from keynote industry speakers from the JMSM Conference in Montreal.

 

2014Dec 2

GameDay 2014 – The Experience of a Lifetime

By Blog Contributor Tyler Fitch

Having three hours of class on Thursday night, and then three more on Friday morning can be tiring, especially when it’s the same subject. It’s not like there are breaks either, the full three hours get used. But Professor Tom Blake’s Championship Selling class is, in my opinion, an experience that truly prepares every student for life. It’s incredibly valuable, regardless if you go into sales or not, regardless if you pursue a career in sports or not. It affects every conversation you will have, whether it’s with your parents or your spouse or your coworkers.

GameDay, for those unaware, is the culminating project in the third year Championship Selling course.  Students are put into groups, and paired with a company and industry professional. My group had the pleasure of being paired with Paul Tepperman, the Managing Director of Bacardi Canada. Our task was to find a way to increase rum sales for the LCBO in Ontario. For a few weeks, our group met and tried to think of ways to tackle this issue. We surveyed a hundred students around campus, and even stood in an LCBO for an hour observing customers, the displays, and promotions going on. We came up with our solution, created samples, and finalized our presentation.

Thursday night, we had the opportunity to attend a networking event at a local restaurant, giving us the chance to meet the industry professionals that would be taking part in GameDay. This gave us the chance to get to know our client, but also the clients for other groups. It was undoubtedly a great experience.

The next morning, students, clients, faculty, and special guests packed into Alumni Hall for GameDay. The sales call between students and clients was divided into two roughly half an hour meetings. During the first meeting, students applied the skills learned in the course by asking questions, “playing catch”, and gathering information on their clients and the situations they were in. They then had thirty minutes to prepare a solution to the problem, and re-convened with their clients.

It was amazing to be able to take the concepts learned in class and apply them practically. Sales has the same group element that other SPAD classes have, but differentiates itself based on the fact that GameDay isn’t about having a presentation, it’s about having an open conversation, reacting to the customers needs, and thinking on the fly. It isn’t rehearsed.

At the conclusion of GameDay, winners were announced, and everyone had the pleasure of listening to SPAD Grad and Optime CEO Hugues Gibeault give a talk, summarizing the day and providing great advice. When Hugues probed the students to share their “aha” moment over the course, each and every student came to the front to share something they learned. All the responses weren’t based off course concepts, but on internal attributes that they learned, such as the ability to show confidence, step out of the comfort zone, and the importance of listening.

I know that I speak for the entirety of SPAD students that participated in GameDay when I say that it was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I’d like to thank both personally, as well as on behalf of the entire program the following companies who sacrificed some of their valuable time to participate:

–          Bacardi Canada

–          American Standard

–          Bell

–          Canadian Paralympic Committee

–          Great-West Life

–          Pepsico

–          Proctor & Gamble

–          Sprout Wellness Solutions

–          Toronto Blue Jays

–          Twentyten Group

–          Optimé

In addition, I’d like to congratulate Premier Sports Business on winning GameDay 2014, and thank Tom Blake and Jennifer Taylor for making the course happen, as well as the entire Sports Administration faculty for putting the course on.

2014Dec 1

SPAD Speaks #1 – NHL Expansion

By Blog Contributor Tyler Fitch

It is always interesting to see the stance that students take on issues that affect the industry that many hope to one day be a part of. In the first installment of the “SPAD Speaks” series, students were polled on whether or not they supported the NHL expanding to more than 30 teams. The results were very interesting, with the first years having a different opinion than students in second year and older.

SPAD SPEAKS

Isolating the poll into second years and above, the result becomes almost too close to call, with 48.8% supporting expansion past 30 teams, and 51.2% against it. The second years have just completed their Sport Marketing project on the topic of NHL Expansion, potentially making them more enlightened on the topic than others. A lot of upper years elaborated on their answers, saying that they’d prefer the NHL to explore relocation from struggling markets to more attractive ones (Seattle, Quebec City), rather than through expansion. Other rationale provided by students included dilution of talent, including the process of going through an expansion draft and each team having to give up players.

On the supportive side, by far and away the most popular rationale was summed up by first year Grant Trayner, who said “NHL expansion would be good as it could add a balance to the Eastern and Western Conferences”. The first years were overwhelmingly in favour of expansion, with 69.6% in favour of having more than 30 NHL teams.

Third year Jon Nelsons took a more in-depth look with his opinion on the future of the NHL. “I think the NHL will definitely expand to 32 teams, though relocation will occur first. The NHL ranks last of the big 4 in revenues, and with studies showing Canada is capable of supporting up to 12 teams, the league must strongly consider additional expansion to the north.”

Fourth year Alex Buchanan added “there is a lot of buried talent in the AHL and juniors that are drafted and could play for weaker teams. If they have markets that can support teams once they fix markets like Florida, then I’d agree (with) it.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently downplayed the NHL and expansion saying “even if we decided tomorrow (to add teams), it wouldn’t happen for two or three years”. Even though media has fervently speculated as to where the NHL will expand, it appears that there are no changes imminent. SPAD students as a whole, however, seem to support the notion of expanding to more than 30 teams. Of course, students may just be supportive of expansion due to the hundreds of jobs it would create in the sports industry.

This is the first installment of the SPAD Speaks series. If you have any suggestions for future topics, please e-mail them to tfitch@laurentian.ca .