What Does a Sports Analyst Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Technology is changing the way sports teams work. Learn what a sports analyst does and how they use data science in their work.

[Featured Image] A sports analyst speaks into a microphone and reports on a major athletic event for a podcast.

In the early 2000s, the Oakland A’s became one of the first professional sports teams to use machine learning (ML) to evaluate players and make team decisions. Sometimes referred to as the dawn of AI in sports, this experience was more than a successful move for the A's. It helped spark greater use of data and statistics to evaluate players, support game officials, review actions on the field, rehabilitate injured players, and enhance the fan experience. 

Technology, including wearables, computer vision, and machine learning, makes data collection more efficient today. This allows for real-time analysis of rule violations, better decisions by officials, and greater safety for players. As a sports analyst, your job is to collect, analyze, and share this data with coaches, athletes, broadcasters, fans, and other sports professionals.

If you love sports and have a passion for data, you may enjoy working in this action-packed career. Read on to learn what a sports analyst is, their day-to-day tasks, the skills they possess, the expected salary, and some career paths you can take to enter the field. 

What is a sports analyst?

A sports analyst uses data analytics to advise players and coaches on performance. They leverage tools like tactical assessment, movement analysis, video, and statistical modeling to present their research to players and coaches. They use various technology and software to track player performance and analyze data to help them communicate with coaches. 

Historically, sports analytics focused on improving player performance and meeting team or positional needs. Teams now use data to improve marketing efforts, enhance sports medicine, and aid injury assessment. 

Types of sports analysts

Sports analysts work in various environments, such as offices, studios, and sidelines. Where you work and what you do typically depends on your skills, expertise, and role in the organization. For example, suppose you work as a reporter for a local newspaper. In that case, you may need to attend games in person to see the action for yourself and find opportunities to talk to players and coaches about the team's performance.

Let’s take a look at jobs that require sports analysis skills and what you might do in these roles:

  • Broadcast sports analysts provide commentary and analysis during and after games for TV networks like NBC, ESPN, or CBS. Sometimes, they are former players with an in-depth understanding of the game.  

  • Sports journalists write about sports for newspapers or websites. In this role, you may write recaps of games, share commentary about a relevant issue in the world of sports, or provide in-depth analysis of decisions made by team personnel.

  • Sports data analysts collect, analyze, and interpret data. As a sports data analyst, your job is to visualize and communicate the data and insights derived from it to coaches and managers so they can use it to make decisions. You also may work on the team's business side, examining data about fans, marketing practices, and engagement. 

  • Sports performance analysts rely on data to create training programs to help players improve their performance in the game and prevent injuries. Your job can include analyzing what players do during games and practice sessions and developing routines to help players improve their weaknesses.  

  • Sports marketing analysts focus their data collection on what happens off the field. You may collect and analyze data on fan interactions and sports marketing trends to create marketing campaigns to garner more interest in a sports organization or team and increase engagement between a team and its fan base. 

  • Sports business analysts work with data on the business side of the team. As a sports business analyst, you may examine finances (including revenue streams) and analyze local and global markets so managers and owners can make business decisions about team resources and future plans.

  • Sports entrepreneurs rely on data to pinpoint business opportunities in the sports world. For example, you may look for opportunities to solve a problem or better meet the needs of players, team owners, or fans. This could include developing software, introducing new merchandise for fans, or offering services for coaches. 

The emergence of advanced data collection led to new ways of analyzing sports. As a result, sports analysts may work in scouting, game tactics, research, technical development, or specialize in player injury prevention and awareness. 

Sports analyst tasks and responsibilities

The work you do as a sports analyst will vary, depending on your role within the organization—a sports performance analyst may need to spend time reviewing game film. Still, a sports marketing analyst may review social media engagement numbers. You may need to travel for games in some positions, while others keep you closer to the home office. Common tasks and responsibilities include the following:

  • Watch game film.

  • Scout opponents and form game analyses.

  • Maintain and create statistical databases.

  • Communicate research analyses to players, coaches, and management.

  • Use statistical and data analysis to produce models on players, teams, and opponents.

  • Make predictions on game strategy. 

  • Learn current sports trends and technologies implemented in sports analytics.

  • Research ways to increase the accuracy of sports analytics models.

Sports analyst skills

Sports analysts need various skills ranging from mathematics and programming to in-depth knowledge of sports and communication skills. Let’s take a closer look at sports analysts' technical and workplace skills. 

Technical skills

Sports analysts need a range of technical skills to analyze and communicate data they collect on the motion, health, and strategy of players and the team. Data analysis, collection, and visualization skills help sports analysts communicate potential strategies to coaches and players. Having skills in data programming languages, math, and statistics helps you create compelling data visualizations. A list of technical skills sports analysts need includes:

  • Data analysis

  • Statistical analysis

  • Data visualization

  • Data programming languages like R, Python, and SQL

  • Game film

  • Play-by-play

Workplace skills

Sports analysts also come into contact with many different kinds of people, from coaches and managers to players, making interpersonal skills and relationship-building a key part of their workplace. A list of workplace  skills for sports analysts includes:

  • Stamina for long work days and tight deadlines

  • Knowledge and strategic understanding of sports you want to work in 

  • Communication of complex topics in an easy-to-understand manner

  • Writing skills

Sports analyst salary

The salary of a sports analyst depends on various factors, such as the organization you work for, your experience, education, and job responsibilities. Let’s take a look at some job titles within the field of sports analytics and their median salary:

  • Sports analyst: $64,658 per year [1

  • Sports journalist: $57,386 per year [2]

  • Sports broadcaster: $52,834 per year [3]

  • Sports marketer: $76,919 per year [4]

With an increase in technology to capture and generate different kinds of data in sports, sports analysts must organize, analyze, and visualize that data for coaches, players, and team managers. 

Sports analyst career path and job outlook

The first step to becoming a sports analyst is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Since the field of sports analysis is so varied, the exact degree you choose will likely depend on the type of position you want. For example, if you want to work as a sports broadcast analyst, you may consider a sports journalism or communications degree. If you want to work as a sports business analyst, earning a degree in sports management, statistics, or finance may be more beneficial. 

During college, you can gain experience by participating in collegiate sports as a player, trainer, student manager, or volunteer. This gives you an opportunity to learn about how teams operate, study the physical demands of a sport, and practice problem-solving. Taking advantage of internships, clubs, and volunteer positions, and networking opportunities with professors can help build your resume and provide hands-on experience.

Sports analytics is a multi-disciplinary field with a variety of entry-level positions. You may accept a job as a research associate where you can develop and practice data collection and analysis skills. Some entry-level positions to consider include scouting assistant, videographer, video editor, assistant coach, and production assistant. 

Job outlook

Technology and AI in sports are rapidly changing the sports industry and creating new opportunities for jobs. In particular, the sports technology market was worth more than $13 billion in 2022 and should continue expanding through 2030 [5]. Much of the growth in this market stems from wearable technology that provides volumes of data about players on and off the field and platforms that connect teams to fans.

Education and training

According to Zippia, 87 percent of sports analysts have a bachelor’s degree, making it the most common degree in the field [6]. Some universities offer a degree major in sports analytics. You also may consider a degree in a related major, such as sports business management, sportscasting, sports marketing, journalism, statistics, or communications. A program with marketing, business, and economics courses can help you develop valuable skills to use in your work as a sports analyst. If you plan to move into a senior management or administrative position, you may need a master’s degree. 

Getting started with Coursera

Take the next steps toward a career in sports analytics by exploring predictive modeling and data analysis through the Sports Performance Analytics Specialization from the University of Michigan, found on Coursera. You can work with real sports data as you practice skills like data analysis and Python. 

Article sources


Glassdoor. “How much does a sports analyst make? https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-sports-analyst-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,17.htm.” Accessed March 4, 2024.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.