August 16, 2018

Webster sports analytics club creates opportunities for students

Alexis LaMarsh, a sophomore at Webster, created the Sports Media and Analytics Club last semester. This club provides workshops, goes to sporting events, brings speakers and creates opportunities for students to attend and present at conferences to further their goals of working in either the sports media or analytics fields.

“There are a lot of people who want to work in sports but don’t know what opportunities are out there,” LaMarsh said.

For LaMarsh, this club was important for her to find people with the same interests.

“When I was a freshman living on campus, I struggled getting involved with other sports fans since I didn’t actively play on a team,” LaMarsh said. “That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to explore the idea of creating a club.”

The club has directly led to LaMarsh being able to achieve her goal of presenting at a sports conference. She was able to attend the Midwest Analytics Conference last November in Iowa. She also attended an analytics conference in Phoenix in March. At these conferences, she was able to network and get her name known to media professionals. 

LaMarsh was thrilled at the opportunity to be in the same place as people she has always looked up to, such as Eduardo Perez, Brian Kenny and Eno Sarris.

“Just being there and getting to know the people in baseball is helpful for getting a future job,” LaMarsh said. “They may remember my name and remember me presenting at these conferences. This makes my chances of landing a job interview greatly increase.”

Sean Forman, the President of Baseball Reference, sat down with LaMarsh for dinner after a conference and inspired her current research project. They talked about a popular theory in football. The theory states that the more attractive the football player, the better they will perform in the game. LaMarsh went home that night and wondered about how that theory would apply to baseball. She used this brainstorming to create her current project.

Her project involved a survey sent out to over 1,000 people. The survey had 62 baseball players randomly picked from over 600 current players in Major League Baseball (MLB) and paired them up against each other. Survey takers chose which player they thought was more attractive. LaMarsh will take the results of the survey and create a presentation to present in June for the Society for American Baseball Research. She hopes to then take her presentation and present again at SABR Seminar in Boston, Massachusetts in August.

SABR is LaMarsh’s main goal because of her interest in baseball. However, there are also sports conferences and events that students interested in other sports can attend through the club.

For football fans, there is the possibility of going to the NFL Scouting Combine. For hockey fans, there are multiple conferences they can present at. The club also plays to attend events hosted by the STL Sports Commission. For this upcoming fall, there is going to be a research conference hosted by the club. Current treasurer of the club, Austin Nation spoke positively of the group.

“This club has so much potential,” Nation said. “The people leading the club and members of the club are all great and fun people.”

The club does not just offer opportunities for students to compete at conferences. The club also attends sporting events. In March, the club sent members to a St. Louis Blues hockey game.

For Antoine Bass, a student at Webster, this hockey game was the first he has ever gone to. He was thankful the club gave him the chance to go.

“The atmosphere was great,” Bass said.  “I had a lot of fun with the club. It was a great experience and I’d be down to go again.”

The club has also held a National Basketball Association (NBA) 2K18 tournament for sports fans who take their fandom online and play video games. Freshman Justin Tarplin won the event, and advocated for how much fun the group had.

“As a competitive athlete, it was great to bring my basketball skills off the court and onto the screen,” Tarplin said. “I had a lot of fun. It was great to see everyone come together to play a game that we all enjoy.”

The club is catching the attention from students of a variety of majors. Tom Shutzman, a business administration major, is interested in the business side of sports.

“I never thought about how much business is used in sports, Shutzman said. “I didn’t think that my hobby could potentially turn into a job.”

Shutzman learned about the club from his sports communication professor Allison Levin.

“The club provides opportunities for sports fans to meet other fans and watch games, play sports video games, compete at conferences and network in the sports career atmosphere,” Levin said. “The club is meant to bring fans together.”

Webster University Sports Communication professor Scott Jensen hopes that next year the club will expand even more and become vital to the sports communication major.

“An important part of any major is a co-curricular extension,” Jensen said. “Valuable programs allow for professional experiences, so the experience doesn’t just stay in the classroom. That’s the great thing about this new sports club.”

Jensen also talked about the importance of the club, and how it will impact sports as a whole.

“Sports are more than something you play and watch,” Jensen said. “It’s an important academic discipline. It can offer limitless possibilities for students.”

LaMarsh is glad the club has expanded greatly in its first year. She hopes to see more members join in the future.

“I’m excited for next year,” LaMarsh said. “It will be a year full of going to sporting events, finding more fans of the game and making long lasting friendships.”

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