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  • Writer's pictureLJ VP LAFIURA

How can the AI revolution affect college sports?

Since OpenAI’s ChatGPT made it big last November, the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution has hit a frenzy, making an instant impact on a multitude of industries. Industries that are data heavy like athletics, and by extension, college athletics are candidates to be significantly affected by this new technology.

Senior corporate finance major Adam Davenport defined artificial intelligence as, “Computer systems that are capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence.” Davenport is currently teaching a class at the Village called Chat GPT: Friend or Foe of Student Learning. This makes artificial intelligence programs a powerful ally to many types of work as they can do their tasks far more independently than programs that came before.

“It's crucial to acknowledge that AI operates on data, which has become an incredibly valuable asset, doubling almost yearly. Despite the abundance of existing data, its analysis remains pivotal, especially in fields like sports where insights derived can significantly benefit athletes and coaches,” Davenport said. “However, it's vital to ensure that AI augments rather than replaces human expertise, empowering coaches and staff to wield more influence and value than ever before.”

While Cross Country and Track and Field Coach Ben Biello is intrigued by finding ways to use artificial intelligence to improve his team from a strategic and training standpoint, dependence on artificial intelligence cannot go too far. “It can definitely provide/track a lot of different data points, but I think it will be very easy to become too focused on hitting certain metrics that may not actually translate to on-field/court/track success,” Biello said.

Junior men’s basketball forward Aidan Morin shared a similar sentiment, feeling a computer cannot see the full picture. “[Sports is] a very personal process, like how you feel as a player emotionally, physically. It can't really account for your emotions or for how you feel physically,” Morin said. “I think it can be attributed to just improvement from a numbers perspective.”

Morin’s men’s basketball team uses the program Synergy Sports for much of their statistics tracking. Synergy uses motion-based artificial intelligence technology to take game film and output a wide variety of niche and complex statistics sortable by a variety of situations on both a player and team level. This allows teams like the Lasers to know themselves better and have high-level research on opponents in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference and beyond.

“When it gets to this level, you have to have an understanding of the numbers and where your team stands,” Morin said. “If a team is lacking in transition defense or transition offense, we use these different apps that allow us to kind of compare ourselves to others we play against or like just see where we stand in the country and then that allows us to work on certain things in practice.”

Artificial intelligence is also playing a role in medicine, and by extension, sports medicine. “I get a lot of treatment and I always am finding or trying to find new ways to better myself and better my body. I think if AI is utilized the right way, I think it could definitely be valuable,” Morin said.

These technologies have already made a breakthrough in the field of scouting. AIScout is a soccer-specific scouting program that’s already partnered with clubs Chelsea, Burnley, and the entirety of Major League Soccer with the potential to expand the technology to other sports, a clear possibility. The program allows young soccer players across the globe to record themselves doing a series of physical and technical drills that artificial intelligence then judges and grades. This gives partnered clubs access to a wider scouting network than before in a fraction of the time.

“When I was going through my recruiting process, it was obviously during COVID. So I had to rely solely on the internet and just kind of technology itself. But had that been around only a few years before, I think I definitely would have benefited,” Morin said. “It can be very helpful just in finding players whether or not even if they're players who don't score the ball a ton. There's still other ways that people can be effective on a basketball court, and these numbers can definitely show that.”

When discussing innovation such as this, where to start is always a challenge. Morin believes the marketing benefits of artificial intelligence may be the best stepping stone for athletics to enter this frontier. “It's challenging, finding resources, finding donors, finding sponsors, and I think in terms of funding if there was ways AI can help, that'd be very, very beneficial,” Morin said.


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