Working at ESPN is a dream job for sports aficionados like Noel Nash. As senior vice president of statistics and information, he leads the team responsible for providing fans with the fastest, most accurate and insightful statistics, scores, news and analytics across every ESPN platform.
Nash shared his insights on sports analytics, what the future holds for the industry and tips for getting a foot in the door at ESPN at UNC Kenan-Flagler’s 2016 Basketball Analytics Summit.
Here are his top four tips for breaking into the sports analytics industry.
Nash spent the beginning of his career working at different newspaper outlets across the U.S. Towards the end of that chapter in his career, he sensed that the industry was changing and shifted his focus to digital.
Convincing others to follow suit wasn’t easy. As the managing editor of a newspaper, Nash couldn’t convince his sports writers to integrate data into their analysis. Instead, they remained loyal to “old school” scouting methods.
“People were very opposed and resistant to thinking about analytics,” he says.
Nash jumped at the opportunity to join ESPN’s data group, which launched with just over 40 employees in 2007. Now called the Statistics and Information Group, the unit includes more than 200 employees and boasts one of the biggest sports data newsrooms in the world.
Be a storyteller
Being able to tell a relevant and interesting story is key when working with statistics, says Nash.
In fact, the ability to gather and translate insights from data is critical for Nash and his team, who might incorporate an interesting note or statistic into a story for ESPN.com or share it as an infographic on Twitter.
“It’s not about the data – it’s about the stories that you can tell with the data,” he says. “Content is still king.”
Adapt and innovate
Nash and the Statistics and Information Group must continuously adapt how they engage with their audiences while also trying to anticipate the future. Improving player tracking, creating advanced metrics and incorporating personalization and customization options are just a few of the projects the team is working on. Their ultimate goal: deliver the very best access and user experience possible.
Know the business
ESPN hires professionals from various academic and professional backgrounds – from journalism to finance and business. The common denominators for every job are a passion for sports and knowledge of the industry.
Hoping to land your dream job at ESPN? Nash recommends reading up on ESPN’s analytics blog and Twitter feed, as well as staying up-to-date on the latest sports and industry news. And no matter which department you apply to, make sure you emphasize your ability to translate information into compelling stories.
“We’re storytellers. I can’t say that enough,” he says.