SFU alumni levelling the playing field with new Sports Analytics Award for Indigenous Students in Science

June 28, 2022

A new award founded by SFU Statistics alumni is creating opportunities for Indigenous students interested in pursuing Sports Analytics at Simon Fraser University.

When Dani Chu, Matthew Reyers, Meyappan Subbaiah and Lucas Wu placed as finalists in the National Football League’s 2021 Big Data Bowl, they knew they wanted to use their $15,000 prize to create opportunities for underrepresented groups to participate in the field of sports analytics.

“A saying that we've shamelessly adopted has been 'to always build as you climb,'” says Matthew Reyers, spokesperson for the group. “As we have continued our careers in sports analytics we made it a point to not forget the opportunities that got us to these spots.”

While there is often diversity on sports teams, the top positions and management of these teams is overwhelmingly white. In the field of sports analytics unpaid internships and excessive hours are the norm, and unfair hiring practices serve to exclude people who do not have the means or connections to get ahead.

Dani Chu, Matthew Reyers, Meyappan Subbaiah and Lucas Wu

“Where was sports analytics letting exceptional candidates slip through the cracks?” Reyers asks. “We didn't have the answer so we attended conferences and presentations while also reaching out to those in the community that had already begun to foster these changes.

“What we learned was that we were losing many of these exceptional candidates earlier in the process than we thought. Lower division undergraduates from underrepresented groups were not finding their way into the typical streams that lead to sports analytics careers.”

The group worked closely with SFU to create the Sports Analytics Award for Indigenous Students in Science. The award will provide financial support Indigenous students studying full-time at SFU. In the future they hope to expand the award to provide support for students from other underrepresented groups.

“The past few years we’ve seen people from non-traditional backgrounds finding their way into sports analytics,” Reyers says. “Open source code and data has been a life blood for new candidates to get their work noticed in public and in teams, sprouting what has felt like a near renaissance in the field. When the doors of sports analytics are opened, we see great things happen. Let's open them even more.”

Learn more about the award and how you can help here.