Our roots in stories

In sport, we are awash with data. A fundamental challenge for us is how we deal with these data in our everyday practice. We are trying to make sense of exabytes of data to provide a service.

I think an answer may lie in our roots as story receivers and tellers. In analytics, our relationships with coaches, players and other support staff requires us to share stories about performance. Neil Lanham (2013) points out “stories, in their natural setting, are vitally important to human understanding because they are the tools of wisdom”. He adds that the “naturally formed mindset is acutely observational, it sees metaphoric story in almost every happening, and has the language to form and relate it” (2013: 152).

Neil is an analyst and an oral historian. The combination of both domains has enabled him to think carefully about how we share and record messages. Like Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson (2015), Neil has looked carefully at individuals at work and “to see how work connects with other aspects of their lives”.

Our roots in stories enable us to connect with others and establishes trust. Through our story abilities, we are able to connect practice with the innovation and transformation that is going on in the world of sport.

With experience we build our stories with thick description. In doing so, we engage in ethnographic, qualitative activities in which stories unfold. This enables us to make more permanent our analysis and allows us to discuss how we do share and the impact we have as analysts.

Clifford Geertz sees this thick description as an interpretive act in search of meaning. His approach resonates strongly with Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann’s view that reality is socially constructed and that the sociology of knowledge must analyse the process in which this occurs (link).

I see this qualitative dimension as vital as we seek to employ more and more Insights scientists (link). Particularly when we encourage them to produce compelling, insightful reports that can and might be triggered by data visualisations. This is where ‘science’ meets story telling and the impact we have is defined by the ways in which we share.

It is a time when we as analysts become autoethnographers and we are able to link our biographies with the insights we are sharing. As John Tetnowski and Jack Damisco (2014) (link) suggest, it is a methodology “that gets at the inner feelings and interpretations of someone involved in the phenomenon being studied”.

It enables us to transform our practice by celebrating our qualitative roots in stories.

Photo Credit

Appears Backward (Brian Talbot, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Hill and slope (Marco Forno, Unspash)

The Second Ashes Cricket Test 2019

The Second Cricket Ashes Test has concluded as a draw (link).

During the test match, Australia had to respond to two England scores of 258 in each innings.

My estimate was that England was required to take a wicket every 26 runs in each innings to win the game and level the test series. My record:

First Innings (Rate 26 Runs per wicket)

Australia were bowled out for 250 runs.

Second Innings (Rate 26 Runs per wicket)

The game ended with an Australian score of 154 for 6 wickets (link).

A Comparison of Both Innings

(Using the gridExtra package)

Winning First

The first Ashes Test was completed at Edgebaston in Birmingham on 5 August (link). Australia won on the final day of the test by 251 runs.

Australia scored 487 runs in their second innings. England required 398 runs to win the game on the final day.

Throughout this cricket summer in England, I have wondered if we can predict the outcome of games early in their play after a team has set a target in an innings.

In this test match, I used Australia’s second innings total as a guide to what England needed to do to bat through the final day. I made the assumption that each partnership for England needed to be 49 runs. I was mindful that England was unlikely to score 496 runs in the day but I did have this linear relationship as a check:

The actual profile on Day 5 was:

These data left me thinking about training and competition and how both teams might prepare for the second test at the Lord’s Cricket Ground in a week’s time.

More generally, the result encouraged me to think about the importance of winning first in a series or a tournament.

Photo Credit

Edgebaston (Craig Stevenson, Twitter)