Each year, the brightest minds in sports analytics attend the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference presented by ESPN. Sports analytics has gained popularity in recent years and is a rapidly growing industry. The conference includes workshops, panels, speakers, and events dedicated to exploring the theories and strategies of sports analytics, and how data can be used to promote and improve performance in professional sports. Last February, the conference had a large impact on one student in particular.
Bailey Mitchell, a student at the William & Mary School of Business at the time working on an M.S. in Business Analytics, was fortunate enough to attend this conference and take part in an exciting event; a Hackathon competition. This Hackathon took place the day before the official start of the conference. Mitchell competed against students from other highly ranked schools, including Harvard University, Davidson University, and North Carolina State University.
“Going into the hackathon, not only was I the only participant from William & Mary, I was also one of only three females competing, and it was my first hackathon I had ever participated in so I was a bit nervous,” says Mitchell. “Then to get to the hackathon and find out I was going up against students from schools with well-known data programs like Harvard, Davidson, and NC State really just added to the pressure.”
Luckily, Bailey was prepared. “What I quickly realized, was my skill set and work ethic developed at William & Mary was quite applicable to the problem that was presented.” The Hackathon focused on NBA tracking data, competitors tasked with analyzing tracking data from fifteen games in a way that could be utilized by sportscaster for a specific NBA game. Since the Hackathon was presented by Ticketmaster and ESPN, the students’ presentations were judged on the potential to be applicable in a real scenario.
By the end of the day, Mitchell succeeded in becoming one of the top three finalists in the Hackathon, which is no small task. “The conference/hackathon was an unbelievable experience. Because I was a finalist in the hackathon I got the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with the ESPN Stats and Info team who are in charge of all content that ESPN uses on all platforms.” Mitchel received a rare opportunity to network with leaders in the sports analytics industry for the remainder of the conference. “Completing the hackathon with a product I was proud of, finding out I was a finalist, and then presenting to the entire conference a few days later really solidified this feeling that my abilities were on par with those from the neighboring institutions and that the education I was getting from William & Mary very prestigious in itself.“
When asked what advice she would give to current students interested in this opportunity or one similar, her top advice is to just go for it. Mitchell mentions that since the event, the conference and the Hackathon is always a topic she can highlight while networking or in job interviews. The opportunity to be surrounded by so many top players in this field is so beneficial to anyone interested in sports analytics. But also, Mitchel’s advice is to prepare as much as possible to take advantage of events like the Hackathon, or any event where a student could display their talents.
Since graduating, Mitchel accepted a position with CapTech in Richmond where she is a data analyst consultant. Her participation and achievements at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference proved to be an important stepping stone in her career. “One of the biggest things I gained from the conference was confidence in my skills I had learned at William & Mary. Despite being the only participant from W&M, I was able to take the challenge and use a lot of the programming and presenting skills I had learned through the MSBA program to create a product that not only I was proud of, but was impressive enough to make me a finalist.”