SSAC ’17 Day One Recap

DAY 1 RECAP: Co-Founders Jessica Gelman and Daryl Morey, along with Co-Leads Sam Ebb and Erin Golden kicked off the conference with a warm welcome to all attendees, sponsors, and organizers. They highlighted the conference’s theme of Elevating the Game through analytics, particularly given the unpredictable year in sports. While it’s the statistically improbable events that make sports so great, analytics is at the forefront of determining anomaly from cause.

We started the morning hearing from the Titans of the Sports Industry (Jessica Gelman, Michael Rubin, Jared Smith, Michael Spillane, and Casey Wasserman) as they discussed their respective success in the increasingly competitive world of sports. Casey Wasserman summed up the impact of analytics, saying “Use data as an equalizer. Don’t argue about facts, argue about how to use them.”

The morning continued as panelists revealed their thoughts on the array of components that now frame sports, including eSports, streaming as a media model, the international market, and how medicine and minds are shaping player performance.

There was no post-lunch slump for SSAC attendees, as the afternoon brought together another all-star panel of Bob Bowman, Bobby Kotick, Jonathan Kraft, Abe Madkour, and Jason Robins to discuss how disruptive innovations have changed the field over the past five years.

In the vein of disruptive technologies, the afternoon’s panels highlighted the increasing usage of science and analytics such as marathon data, competitive advantages created by soccer analytics, and VR/AR fan experiences as the next big revenue generator.

The Competitive Advantage talks covered everything from avoiding Tommy John to the 2017 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. In particular, the CAs discussing The Science of Sleep and Truths and Myths of the Three Point Revolution drew packed crowds. Similarly, it was no surprise to see attendees drawn to many of the workshop and research paper rooms, with standing room only in the BodyShots – Analyzing Shooting Styles in the NBA presentation!

Another notable highlight from the afternoon touched on the more qualitative side of analytics, as Billy Beane, Sam Hinkie, Cade Massey, Daryl Morey and Farhan Zaidi touched on the inherent cognitive bias that exists in every decision, despite the ever increasing about of data.

LIVE FROM SSAC: For those not at the conference, we hope you caught Facebook’s live stream of the Silver Asks Silver panel as two of the most influential voices in the NBA tackled the issues. The live stream reached over 275,000 people!

INTERACTIVE EVENTS: There was no shortage of ways for attendees to engage with conference content. The crowd stood captive as chess Grandmaster Susan Polgar knocked out 10 opponents in under 50 minutes during the Beat the GM: Chess Simul. A special shout out to co-founder Daryl Morey (and team) for being the last man standing! The Startup Competition & Trade Show showcased 24 startups whose devices, products, and ideas are sure to dramatically impact the future of sports analytics. Tune in tomorrow to see who will win across the three tracks!

FOLLOW ALONG: Don’t forget to keep tagging your tweets – #SSAC17. And follow us @SloanSportsConf on Twitter and Instagram!

WE’RE ON TO SATURDAY: Tomorrow’s highlights include the Fox vs. Shark panel, where Mark Cuban and Nate Silver discuss the role of forecasting across sports, politics and business, the first ever drone demonstration at SSAC, the deluge of fan data, and what it means to engage the modern fan.
We’ll end #SSAC17 with closing remarks from our leaders, Jessica Gelman and Daryl Morey, as they close out with the Alpha Awards.