At Boston’s annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, the main focus is on U.S. sports. But people come from all over the sporting world, and the globe, to exchange ideas and learn about what’s happening in the major U.S. sports. This was important enough for FC Bayern Munich, one of the best practitioners of the most popular sport on the planet in the middle of its season, to have its head of match analysis, Michael Niemeyer, come to Sloan — and catch a Celtics game in between sessions.
He came by our booth at Sloan to talk to us about how Bayern and its recent coaches, especially current boss Pep Guardiola, are embracing analytics even as some U.S. coaches are free to ignore it as a sideshow. Listen to or download the interview via the player above. And read highlights from the conversation below.
On the difference between Bayern and U.S. teams
Our job is seen differently in the U.S. You have data people who are not sitting out in the coaching office. … I think that you have to be in the coaching office. If you sit somewhere else, you never get it on the pitch. It won’t work. The only way it works is you have to sit right next to the coach.
On Pep Guardiola
As he came to Bayern, the first thing he said was: “The match analysis department is the most important department for me.” The second thing was: “I see a big part of my work in the auditorium.” The auditorium is the place where he has video sessions. If you want to bring your ideas to the pitch, you have to use these technologies and you have to use match analysis.
[Players] have laptops or iPads where they can see — we have an online platform similar to Facebook where they can discuss. And it’s an exchange platform.
On NBA fan engagement
I was yesterday at the Boston Celtics game, and there was a lot going on besides the pitch. There were a lot of gadgets and bling bling. And it was good. I liked it.
On in-game analytics-driven coaching
Niemeyer: For me, the one thing that really has to come is the exchange from the analytics under the roof, the exchange between us with the bench. It’s not allowed in soccer.
Carl Bialik: During the game.
Niemeyer: During a game.
Bialik: To say, hey, we picked up on this tendency.
Niemeyer: Yeah. We can do it in halftime, and we do, but you’re not allowed to exchange during the game.
Bialik: And if you could, that makes your department a lot more valuable.
Niemeyer: Yeah, of course, of course.