WNBA to use optical tracking to enhance player analysis

FILE - Commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks at the WNBA basketball draft Monday, April 10, 2023, in New York. The WNBA Draft will have a new home this year and for the first time in eight seasons have the space for 1,000 fans to attend. “We are focused on creating elevated events that WNBA fans won’t want to miss, at a time when the energy for the WNBA has never been higher,” Engelbert said.(AP Photo/Adam Hunger, File)

FILE – Commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks at the WNBA basketball draft Monday, April 10, 2023, in New York. The WNBA Draft will have a new home this year and for the first time in eight seasons have the space for 1,000 fans to attend. “We are focused on creating elevated events that WNBA fans won’t want to miss, at a time when the energy for the WNBA has never been higher,” Engelbert said.(AP Photo/Adam Hunger, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The WNBA will become the first women’s professional sports league in the U.S. to have league-wide optical tracking after entering a multi-year deal with Second Spectrum, a Genius Sports technology solution.

With this deal, the WNBA will have access to 3D tracking data that will allow teams to use real-time advance stats that can measure categories such as shot quality, shooter impact and paint touches. It can also gauge a player’s maximum speed and total distance covered in a game.

“Technology continues to fundamentally change the sports landscape,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “Deploying state-of-the-art optical tracking technology through Genius Sports will deliver rich data to our teams that they can leverage to enhance player performance while informing in-game strategy and enable a new wave of insights and media elements for fans.”

There will be an array of cameras at each of the WNBA arenas that will help collect the data. Nearly half of the WNBA teams play in NBA arenas where the technology is already installed.

“We are delighted to partner with the WNBA to help them unlock the next generation of data analytics through our revolutionary optical tracking capabilities,” Genius Sports chief commercial officer Jack Davison said. “For the first time ever, every WNBA team will have access to our groundbreaking suite of analytics, video production tools and our advanced tracking system that underpins the basketball ecosystem.”

WNBA Head of League Operations Bethany Donaphin said in a phone interview that the league had discussions with their NBA counterparts, who have used the technology for more than a decade, to understand how valuable it could be.

“They have been working with us to bring this to life,” she said.

The league will help educate teams on how to use the technology.

“It is really exciting that our league is adopting this type of technology,” New York Liberty General Manager Jonathan Kolb said. “The system capabilities are far more comprehensive than anything before seen in the WNBA and will greatly enhance strategic planning across the league.”

Donaphin, who played with the New York Liberty for a season, said it would have been really helpful to have the technology when she was a player.

“I would have loved to have more of this data available to me to have a more robust understanding of my performance,” she said. “There are things that this data can unlock that our analysis couldn’t before.”

Down the road, the data could potentially be used to enhance TV broadcasts or even given directly to fans.

“I don’t think we’re there yet,” Donaphin said. “We have an eye to the future, but are most focused right now on making the technology available to our teams.”

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AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball

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