Syracuse University’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA) was recently created through a merger of the Office of Institutional Research and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment. The streamlined operation, located at 400 Ostrom Avenue, serves all members…
A Winning Team: Sport Analytics Students Partnering With Syracuse Athletics to Prevent Injuries, Improve Performance
As the associate athletic trainer for the Syracuse University men’s basketball team, Mike Mangano says he’d much rather spend his time preventing injuries than treating them.
That’s why Mangano has fully embraced the partnership between the University’s Athletics Department and the Department of Sport Management in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics that’s allowing nearly 50 students majoring in sport analytics to provide real-world data to assist the coaching and athletic performance staffs of 11 of Syracuse’s men’s and women’s athletic teams.
The specifics vary from sport to sport, but in general, most students are collecting performance data from the student-athletes’ wearable devices, analyzing that data from training, practices and games, and interpreting that data to provide insights to coaches and staff.
When Mangano was an assistant athletic trainer for the men’s soccer team, he says that kind of data helped coaches determine the optimum workload for each player. Once the players started maintaining that weekly goal, soft tissue injuries decreased. “So, for me, it’s great. I don’t have to do as much work,” Mangano says, laughing. “But at the same time, my philosophy is, do the work on the front end. If you can prevent injuries–and obviously you can’t prevent them all–but if you can prevent most of the injuries and add that kind of education for the student-athletes and coaches, then (the analytics) are working for us.”
The genesis of this partnership between athletics and analytics can be traced to Mangano’s interest in analytics and sport performance and conversations he had with Francesco Riverso, the program manager for the Sport Analytics program and a former soccer standout at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. Riverso encouraged Mangano to earn his Certificate of Advanced Study in sport analytics, which Mangano did last year, and they arranged for sport analytics students to start collecting, analyzing and interpreting data for the men’s soccer team in 2022.
Sport analytics students also started working with the women’s lacrosse team last season. The men’s soccer team won the 2022 Division I national championship, while the women’s lacrosse team reached the 2023 Division I Final Four.
“The role of our student analysts has been integral to our program’s success,” says Ian McIntyre, men’s soccer head coach. “The student analysts are responsible for collecting and interpreting all GPS data and providing detailed post-match and post-training reports. These reports are presented to the coaching staff with concise information that enables us to make objective decisions around training load and managing student-athletes’ minutes in games. “In addition to the GPS data, the student analysts provide half-time and post-match reports of pre-determined categories that allow us to see how we are playing, and how we can make the necessary adjustments,” says McIntyre.
The partnership expanded this academic year to include the following teams: women’s and men’s basketball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, women’s and men’s lacrosse, women’s and men’s soccer, softball and track and field.
“The coaches were open to having students who were passionate about working with this type of data metrics and analysis, and this was a perfect opportunity to start utilizing my knowledge and applying what I learned in the classroom,” says second-year student Danielle Napierski, who is one of seven sport analytics students working for the women’s basketball team.
Tommy Powell, assistant provost for student-athlete academic development at Syracuse, says the sport analytics students are available to all athletic teams and the athletic department plans to make this a long-term arrangement with the sport analytics program.
“This collaboration represents an exciting opportunity to merge the worlds of athletics and data analysis, further enhancing our ability to make informed decisions and drive success both on and off the field,” says Syracuse Director of Athletics John Wildhack. “Together, we will harness the power of analytics to gain a competitive edge and propel our student-athletes and teams to new heights.”
Rodney Paul, director of the sport analytics program and a professor in the Department of Sport Management, says the partnership provides sport analytics students with a one-of-a-kind opportunity to apply the data analytics skills they’re learning in class. “It not only provides the students with real-world experience in sports but gives them the chance to see it applied directly to the University sports teams they already love and support,” Paul says.
Second-year student Dan Griffiths says when he first toured the campus, his guide said the sport analytics program partnered with some of the teams, and Griffiths figured it was only the football and basketball teams. But now, two years later, Griffiths is working with his favorite sport, track and field.
“This is exactly why I came to Syracuse,” Griffiths says. “After my first year, I was very committed to being a part of the team, and I saw that I could have this opportunity as long as I had the initiative to take it on myself.”
To get a better understanding of this partnership, we talked to sport analytics students Griffiths, Napierski and Caden Lippie about their roles with the athletics department. Visit the Falk College website to read more about their experiences.