The Reality of Ever-Changing Careers


Do you want to find a career in sports? Sports lovers who can’t play sport professionally can still participate in the sports arena.  Janine breaks down how maths, business and IT can be your ticket to having a career in sport.

Discover Leadership

The Discovery Leadership Summit happens once a year.  As the name implies, it is themed around Leadership.  This conference is all about bringing together some of the world’s most amazing minds to share their knowledge.  The insight that comes from this event contributes to inspiring global leadership in business and society.  So this summit involves trading knowledge that has a ripple effect, globally.  How cool is that?

Be Inspired

This year’s topic was ‘Inspiring Minds’ — pretty awesome theme choice right there. The list of speakers was super impressive. Names like Adrian Gore, Adriana Huffington, Jack Walsh and, the ever appealing, David Beckham caught my eye. 

BUT what I got from the afternoon session with Simon Kuper (author of Soccernomics) was, perhaps, the most enlightening for future careers.

Simon Kuper is an economist, specializing in Football. His knowledge blew me away. The changes in football are effecting career paths hugely and all in a good way.  These changes are opening positions and giving someone at the tip of Africa a chance to be a part of this change. The only catch: you have to keep pace with the trends and changes.

The introduction and use of big data has changed, and is changing, football hugely: heard of the club, Leicester?  So, all of you studying statistics and mathematics, we salute you.

So the term Big Data is bandied around a lot today. The simple fact is that business has a huge amount of data coming in each day, and ‘big data’ refers to the use of analyzing and computing this data to reveal patterns for strategic use and decision making.

The story of Leicester in a nutshell: the club was able to use big data to ‘catch’ an unknown 2nd league player from France. This helped to change the face of football.  Cool story. 

Seriously though, using data assists big time.  Of course, big data searches will result in all the well known, top players coming up in a specific search. However, it helps to isolate unknown players in foreign leagues or teams.  These are the guys who can be snatched up and make a difference in a club.

Coaches are using use data to study matches, and improve games, advise players on how often a goalie catches to the right and how to ‘read’ him. Although this is not new, the extent and use of micro-data is literally taking players to ‘superhuman’ results levels. The German National team uses this data effectively. They use this to advise players to stay and run with an opposition player until the ball is dead and doesn’t following follow the ball.  This goes against regular coaching practices.  Other useful pointers include finding out that an in-curved corner shot is more effective than an outward-curving corner shot.

In this way, the club manager’s role is no longer as important as it was in the past. No more Sir Alex Fergusons!

The manager will be replaceable as he no longer can rely on his ‘gut’ feeling and own analysis. Managers will merely be the press face of football and an expendable scapegoat if the team fails. So, it is not the best job in the world.  Almost no manager has tenureship, as Sir Ferguson did in the past.

You will also see football getting smarter. Not so much with dramatic scoring and fancy moves, but more with what will slip past our eyes — the seamless free goal shooting, the well positioned corner shots, and defence players sticking with their opposite team members.  So anyone going into coaching, needs to have knowledge of data, analysis and human behaviour.

We all know about the huge fees players get paid and heard that it’s a bubble about to burst. But as clubs have accessed global markets, perhaps this is not true.

So for the entrepreneurs out there, remember that a global audience means that someone who has never left South Africa can still follow his Manchester United club hero on social media, have seen all the games and owns his favorite player’s shirt. In other words, a loyal and committed fan living thousands of kilometers away.

As football accesses global audiences,clubs have access to greater money. The earnings at club level has curved up exponentially on the graph and, in turn, given more power to individual players.

But it doesn’t stop there — thanks to social media. So take note future communications specialists, advertising future executives and sports people.  Receiving a big following doesn’t just make you popular. Top sports personalities have had endorsements and increased their earnings hugely. Of course, that is not news. The changes in data-use, however,  can now target individuals like you.  The ordinary South Africans, who follow a sports hero on social media can be directly targeted from anywhere in the world and thus opens the market to a small car dealership in Voetsackville to target a local.

Game Changing Careers

Virtual Reality is about to change things further and even more dramatically.  Although our phones are the biggest threat to football, we can now access highlights or keep tabs on a game.  People no longer have to watch a 90 minute game in full.

LIVE sport will lose popularity in the future. Goodbye television.

However, with the use of virtual reality, a crowd of mates will be able to socialize, each taking turns to watch the most exciting snippets without being bored for the majority of the game. This will actually increase the ‘wow’ factor of live sport, tv shows, etc.

Gamers, software developers, publicists and electronic engineers out there, this will open your career path wider!  Believe it or not, this trend has already picked up in Europe over the last 2 months.

EduConnect 2Cents

The most significant thing I learnt is the importance of maths for most sports-oriented careers!  These days being a ‘nerd’ means that you actually get to participate in sport.  Without the literal blood, sweat and tears.

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