SXsports Session Spotlight: How Future Star Athletes Are Being Discovered

Written by Andrew McNeill | January 24, 2014

Hear Kai Sato talk about developing athletes at SXsports 2014

We have been covering what can registrants expect when they land in Austin for the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival this March for some time. But what about sessions in the new SXsports programming track, which is open to SXSW Interactive, Film, Gold and Platinum registrants? Today’s installment of the Session Spotlight features FieldLevel Co-Founder Kai Sato and his dual presentation titled “How Future Star Athletes Are Being Discovered.”. Follow him on Twitter at KaiDaywalker.

SXSW: In 100 words or less, what kinds of topics will you be covering in this session? Said another way, what is the description of your session (in 100 words or less)?
Sato: Nate Silver said that "drafting and developing talent properly still represents the greatest value-add to a sports organization." Mark Cuban agreed, saying “the top 10 guys are easier to spot. How do we improve in identifying the others?" For college and professional teams to identify star athletes, the process has shifted from regional to national and even international. Our session will discuss how the process has evolved and highlight the various technologies that are carrying the industry forward.

SXSW: Have you spoken on this topic before? If so, where and when and what kind of reaction did the session receive?
Sato: Yes, our company, FieldLevel, has helped evolve amateur scouting for several years. People always seem interested in things that can improve their favorite sport and/or team.

SXSW: What kinds of people will want to attend this session?
Sato: People who enjoyed the book Moneyball or shows like FOX Sport’s “Before the Bigs” that depict how athletes ascend and the key decisions that help them matriculate there.

SXSW: Why should SXSW registrants attend this session?
Sato: So they can drop some knowledge on their buddies and random people they meet at bars? As fans, they will better understand the processes through which their favorite teams may find their future star players. They will also be able to better guide any young aspiring athletes that they may know, like their children, nephews, or siblings.

SXSW: If a person attends your session, what will he / she know at the end of the session that he / she did not know at the beginning of the session?
Sato: Attendees will see the “guts” of scouting and how credible information is reaching decision-makers more rapidly, helping teams find athletes not just across the country but increasingly across the globe. They’ll better understand how scouting varies significantly based on the sport and competition level but also learn what common denominators exist.

SXSW: Tell us a little more about why you are qualified to talk on this particular session?
Sato: As a co-founder of FieldLevel, we’ve created one of the largest, most credible resources for college and professional teams to identify and recruit gifted athletes. For athletes, it provides an online gateway to successfully migrate from high school to college and even into professional sports. First launched in baseball, FieldLevel is now used by almost 90% of college teams and a variety of MLB scouting departments.

SXSW: What excites you most about this session?
Sato: Most sports fans see the finished “product” on the field, but few fans know exactly how the athletes arrived there. Everyday our world becomes better connected, and this has tremendous benefits to scouting athletes. When the right teams find the right players, peoples’ lives are changed and games are won.

SXSW: Aside from your own, which sessions at SXSW 2014 are you most excited about and why?
Sato: For SXsports, I always look forward to hearing from Nate Silver but am especially looking forward to Texas Tech head football coach Kliff Kingsbury, who is lauded as one of the game’s sharpest minds. I’m also excited for both Peter Guber and Mike Tollin; sports media investing is on the rise, and those two are near the forefront. For Interactive in general, there’s no way I’m missing Nas interview Ben Horowitz. I’ve followed Ben’s blog for years and even wrote a HuffPo article about the correlation between athletes, musicians, and entrepreneurs.

SXSW: What is your best / favorite strategy for networking and making new connections at an event like SXSW?
Sato: Quality over quantity, you should take time to actually get to know the people you meet. Last year, I met incredible people on the flight to Austin and while charging my phone at one of the AT&T sponsored stations; we’ve stayed in touch all year and still remain friends. SXSW is one of the friendliest events on the planet, but you have to be real with people and not just collect business cards.

SXSW: Who do you follow on Twitter and why?
Sato: I’m a terrible example, as I’ve only recently joined Twitter to better interact with people who have questions about things I’ve published. However, I follow Carl Icahn because he’s reached unprecedented prowess in the current investment world, and I’ve arbitrarily beaten him to a couple equity positions – albeit much smaller ones. So I like to know what he’s up to…

Watch this website for more installments of the 2014 SXSW Session Spotlight. Register now to attend “How Future Star Athletes Are Being Discovered” and other programming at SXSW 2014 and remember, all SXsports programming is open to SXSW Interactive, Film, Gold and Platinum badgeholders.