Passion at Work: Working on IBM TryTracker for the Six Nations Championships

As we wrap up this year’s Royal Bank of Scotland Six Nations Tournament,  Ross Cooper, a graduate of the University of Birmingham, provides insight into what went on behind-the-scenes during the build-up and running of IBM TryTracker.

By Ross Cooper

I applied to IBM due to the wide range of potential projects available. Coming from a mathematical background, I wanted a job which allowed me to use my skills in meaningful work which I was interested in. I have worked across a number of different sectors, including two projects of work with England Rugby. This allowed me to combine my interest in data and analytics, with my passion of Rugby.

ross.jpgAs a Data Scientist within IBM’s Advanced Analytics practice, I am part of the team which created IBM TryTracker, an analytics solution that provides real-time insights into the game, including information about individual performance by players.

In the case of the Six Nations Championships, IBM TryTracker helps players, pundits and punters get a better understanding of England Rugby’s performance. This second-screen experience is available on the England Rugby website and aims to engage fans, whether they are new to rugby or are experienced. Insights generated by TryTracker enhance conversations about the game – before, during, and after.

About IBM TryTracker
TryTracker has three main features: Keys to the Game, Momentum, and Player Influence.

The Keys to the Game tell us which three things a team needs to do well, in order to stand a better chance of winning. Examples include:

  • Make at least 5 line breaks
  • Make 6 meters per carry
  • Make 92% of tackles

The Keys are calculated from historical data spanning back eight years, looking at head-to-head information and also when a team has played other teams of a similar style to their opponent. They are specifically generated for each match so will vary with opposition playing styles.

Momentum helps us understand which way the game is going i.e. does England or France have the momentum of play at any one time? Momentum is calculated by looking at the events that have occurred on the pitch for each team in the last 10 minutes.

Player Influence tells us who is having the most impact on the game – similar to a man of the match league table during the game. It examines how well a player is doing their particular job on the pitch.

tt analytics.png

The statistical number crunching is hosted on IBM Softlayer and runs in SPSS Modeler, where the data is manipulated to provide the insights as required. On match days, our data supplier OPTA, a sports data company, employs analysts to watch the match and record every detail in real-time; from every pass and tackle, to every metre run. This data is fed into the live SPSS stream, operated by IBM Data Scientists. We normally have two Data Scientists involved, running and monitoring the streams. These are run continuously throughout the game, updating the output statistics. We ensure that the models are running smoothly and displaying results as expected. The outputs are passed through to the England Rugby website where they’re displayed in a set of appealing visualisations.

tt milestoes

Tracking Player Milestones

Player milestones are tracked throughout the game, such that if a record or momentous moment occurs, this can be communicated out to the fans via social media. A milestone occurs if a player reaches a prominent number of tackles/passes/metres gained/points, 100 tackles for example. The all-time leader board is also tracked (since February 2007), alerting the public if a player advances up the table, for example Tom Wood moving to 3rd in all time tackles.

The main aim for TryTracker is to increase fan engagement, drawing more people into the sport of Rugby. With the significant facts displayed in an easily digestible form, visitors to the site can quickly gain a view of how the game is progressing. This further enhances the viewer’s experience, especially when combined with watching the match on TV and via other mediums.

Not a lot of people can say they develop and use their skills while working on projects they are passionate about, and joining IBM as a fresh graduate, I couldn’t be more proud to be part of a company that allows me to do just that.

I personally use TryTracker to provide further insight into the match I am watching, allowing me to identify areas that England need to focus on to win the game. I also like to look back at it as a reflective tool to re-live the moments.

Not a lot of people can say they develop and use their skills while working on projects they are passionate about, and joining IBM as a fresh graduate, I couldn’t be more proud to be part of a company that allows me to do just that.


Ross Cooper is a Strategic Analytics Consultant in IBM UK and is a graduate from the University of Birmingham.

* The Six Nations Championship is an annual international rugby union competition involving six European sides: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. It is sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland. (Source: Wikipedia)

Find out more about IBM, Rugby and the technology behind TryTracker:

https://www-01.ibm.com/software/uk/business-analytics/case-study-showcase/rugby-football-union/

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