A student-run sports analytics club will be hosting the inaugural Vancouver Sports Analytics Symposium and Hackathon (VanSASH), a two-day event running from July 8–9 at Harbour Centre.

The event is currently sold out as students from SFU, UBC, BCIT, the University of Toronto, and the United States seized the opportunity to display their analytical skills.

Sports analytics is a growing field that combines the fields of computer science and sports, according to SFU Sports Analytics Club president Dani Chu.

“A lot of my classmates are coders and die-hard sport fans, but they don’t know that these two passions can be merged into a profession. In fact, they don’t know that sports analytics is a field that they can specialize in post-graduation,” said Chu.

For the symposium, there will be six guest speakers presenting a wide variety of topics including sports gambling, sports strategy, team building, and the physiology of sports. At the following sessions, the attendees will be given the opportunity to do hands-on research using data provided by the Vancouver Canucks and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

This is the first time that the undergraduate club has taken on the organization of this type of event. The idea was spurred to develop a student-focused hackathon, according to Chu.

At other hackathons “it has always been about professors and professionals, and students have been neglected,” he said.

The organizers hope that by attending VanSASH, the participants can display their skills and network with potential employers, develop foundational analyses, and get their foot in the door of sports analytics.

With the current job market, there are few jobs offered in the sports analytics field. “Just submitting a resume is not enough nowadays,” said Chu. He said that the mentality that inspired the event was that the “best thing you can do is to do something.”

“Our aim with this event is to offer students the opportunity [to] show what they can do with the data presented to them. We want the students to show the scouts what we’re capable of — it is not just the professors and professionals who have talent,” explained Chu.  

A hackathon refers to the writing of codes in a composition setting. While some hackathons are about developing apps or software, at VanSASH participants will be writing codes to explain and summarize sports data.

“VanSASH is purely data-driven and about building analyses,” stated Chu. The project that the attendees will work on is open-ended, and the organizers plan to keep it that way.

Teams will be able to analyze hockey, soccer, and basketball data sets and the problems they may be assigned will include injury prediction, player performance assessment, match prediction, and predicting the future performance of athletes.

Participants will not only be developing codes for predictive power, but also analyzing if the players and the match line-up are efficient.

The winners will take away cash prizes and the opportunity to connect with professionals and researchers in the field.

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