Statistics in Sports Symposium Draws Enthusiasm
Submitted by Scott Evans and Mark Glickman
The 2011 New England Symposium on Statistics in Sports (NESSIS) was held on September 24, 2011, at the Harvard University Science Center. It drew an international crowd of approximately 150, including attendees from Australia, England, The Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Canada, and Iran. Additionally, there was a representative from a third of NBA teams.
The symposium format was a mixture of invited talks, a poster session, and a panel discussion. The highlight was a talk by J.P. Ricciardi, special assistant to the New York Mets and former general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. NESSIS also featured a panel consisting of Sam Hinkie, executive vice-president of basketball operations for the Houston Rockets; Roland Beech, director of basketball analytics for the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks; Kenny Atkinson, assistant coach of the New York Knicks; and Zach Lowe, moderator and NBA writer for SI.com. Other featured talks included a presentation by Sarah Rudd of On Football Research and Consulting, who was the recipient of the StatDNA Soccer Analytics Research Competition.
NESSIS was established by Mark Glickman and Scott Evans to enhance the communication and collaboration between statisticians and quantitative analysts connected with sports teams, sports media, and universities. The first NESSIS was held in 2007 and drew more than 100 registrants. Enthusiasm for the 2007 NESSIS inspired a second NESSIS that was held in 2009. Continued enthusiasm inspired the 2011 NESSIS, and the symposium is intended to be held biannually.
The reasons for running a sports statistics symposium are predicated on the need for advanced analytic methods in games and sports. The use of statistical methods in sports applications is growing rapidly. Sports teams use statistical analyses to evaluate players and game strategies, and sports associations develop ranking and ratings systems of players and teams. The evolution of the application of statistics to sports continues to be enhanced with extensive collaboration and interaction between sports analysts and professional statisticians.
Unfortunately, opportunities for this collaboration are still relatively uncommon, as academic statisticians often work in isolation to develop statistical methods for sports applications and sports organizations often do not have access to well-trained statistical expertise and cutting-edge statistical tools for analyzing sports data. The main goal of NESSIS is to bridge this gap.
NESSIS was sponsored by the Statistics in Sports Section, Boston Chapter, Harvard University Department of Statistics, ESPN, StatDNA, SmartOdds, Salford Systems, and Sports Data Hub. Sony/Columbia Pictures also provided movie passes for an advance screening of Moneyball to local NESSIS participants.
Proceedings of NESSIS will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports. Technical talk videos, photographs, and presentation slides from the event are available on the NESSIS website.