APIs and what they mean for sports science

Moneyball, in all its forms of data analysis and in all the different sports, is, I believe, a subset of Applied Sports Science. My feeling is that context matters, and every game or season statistic is attached to a player, a player who also happens to be a hard working human being with psychological and social makeup and working alongside a whole bunch of other psycho-social humans. To put Moneyball in its own box apart from Sports Science is to miss opportunities for useful insight based on combinations of game data and athlete health, fitness and work data.

Failing to integrate Moneyball-type data analysis is also a sign of a culture that doesn’t value skillful collaboration.Applied Sports Science sets up well for the data-heavy shared work across a sports team. Moneyball has, so far, been more of  singular pursuit carried out by individual analysts, something that limits the amount of data, work and, ultimately, insight that it can produce.

APIs, short for Application Programming Interfaces, are probably the most practical way for computers to work directly with other computers. APIs have a crucial role in computer-supported collaborations that involve data, but the subject is little discussed as something to do with Applied Sports Science.

Sports science collaboration is often the collaboration between a company (a product, usually) and a team, but success happens with human-computer-human interaction. APIs are the collaboration channels that lead to productive workflows, workflows that are enabled by computing, data and the Internet.

The outside-in perspective on APIs is that good APIs make for good workflows. The inside-out view is that APIs are a discipline, a way to wrangle process and data complexity for stakeholders. APIs that fill their collaborative objectives are signs of a healthy organization, one that is connected to and engaged with user communities.

One last point to make about APIs in general has to do whether they are open (open means easy to access and participate in) or closed (the reverse). Open APIs have a broader mandate. Everyone is a potential customer. Open APIs are a sign of a healthier organization and they are a path that leads to better, longer term technical quality, something that comes from the willingness to adapt and evolve, one aspect of designing something for all-comers.

I wouldn’t mention all of this without some news about APIs. Adidas announced this week that the miCoach product will have an API and that the company will look to build a community around developers who use the API. ESPN announced last week that the company’s public API services are shutting down.

This is the world we live in now. Sports science and APIs are both relatively young ideas and they fit together. The companies that put these things together are the ones that take them both seriously.

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