Science and tech help Creighton athletes soar
Creighton cross-country runner Anika Nettekoven competes wearing the Nike high-performance shoes.
Ultimately, athletes must sink the basket, get on base and run the miles. Although that never changes, Creighton University support staff are developing ever more scientific methods to help them succeed.
From computer chips in basketballs gathering data from devices attached to players’ shoes, to specially crafted shoes that help cross-country athletes run better and recover quicker, to teams of student analysts conducting baseball analytics so thoroughly that their services were recruited by the NCAA Men’s College World Series, Creighton is exploring new frontiers in sports science.
Creighton’s cross-country program has benefited from donor generosity that has made possible the purchase of Nike “super shoes” that feature high-performance upgrades shown to reduce injury, speed recovery and boost performance.
“These items have had a profound impact on our program and elevated our performance,” says cross-country head coach Chris Gannon. “Because of our donors, we are continuing to provide our student-athletes with the tools they need to perform at their best, and we’re building a program that gets better every year.”
Creighton basketball players, for their part, are charging the basket with charged-up basketballs. The computer chips embedded in the balls enable vast data collection that lets coaches assess the strengths and weaknesses of players as well as the effectiveness, or not, of shots from various distances and parts of the court.
As Greg McDermott, men’s basketball head coach, told Omaha television station KETV, “It’s one thing as a coach to tell a guy what I think I see. It’s a little bit better when I have the data to back it up.”
Students on the Creighton Baseball Analytics Team (CBAT) know all about data.
CBAT is a prolific source of stats for Creighton’s baseball coaches, assisting scouting and baseball theory. With 15 members gathering data, crunching numbers and making numerical sense of what happens on the field, this Heider College of Business-associated group has made analytics an important part of the baseball program.
So effective have they been that the NCAA Men’s College World Series came calling in 2022, asking CBAT to handle analytics for the tournament.
“Our program started with one guy and a notebook at Creighton games,” says Rourke Jensen, student director of CBAT. “Three years later, we have a team of 15 being asked to work the (College) World Series.”